In our “Where Are They Now?” series, current student interns interview former interns about their experience at the Office of Sustainability, particularly how that experience has helped them since graduation. In the following entry, Emma Erickson relates her conversation with Kylie Thomasen.
Kylie Thomasen served as a student intern with the Office of Sustainability (OS) from the summer of 2021 until her graduation from UW–Madison in the spring of 2022. Kylie received an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and Life Sciences Communication. As an OS intern, Kylie was actively involved with the podcast, communications, and merchandise teams.
In August 2023, Kylie received a Master of Science from the Nelson Institute’s Environmental Conservation (EC) program. Kylie pointed to the collaboration and teamwork skills she gained as an OS intern as essential for her success in graduate school.
“From working on the podcast with my co-host to planning Earth Week events and designing the OS t-shirt, everything I did involved collaboration and teamwork,” Kylie said. “It is so important to consider new and different perspectives because everyone has unique backgrounds, knowledge, and skills, which leads to greater creativity and outcomes that I wouldn’t have achieved on my own.”
Kylie highlighted how the EC program’s emphasis on teamwork and group projects allowed her to continue improving the skills she started to build as an OS intern. During her final semester in the EC program, Kylie worked with the Sierra Club for her graduate student capstone project to create a dataset for the public to learn about local conservation needs.
Kylie has also recently completed her role with the Clean Lakes Alliance as a publications intern. She recalled how many of the skills she developed on the OS’s communications and merchandise teams applied to her intern position with the Clean Lakes Alliance. As a publications intern, Kylie spent most of her time creating graphic designs and taking pictures for the Clean Lakes Alliance Lake Guide.
Kylie is actively applying for jobs in environmental communications and hopes to one day direct environmental campaigns.
I asked Kylie to reflect on the empowering moments she experienced as an OS intern, and she immediately recalled the opportunity she had to interview Dr. Barbara Hendrie, the Regional Director for the UN Environment Programme’s North America Office, for the SustainUW Podcast. Kylie acknowledged how she constantly reminds herself of the advice Dr. Hendrie gave her during their podcast interview: “just get your hands dirty” and “don’t be afraid to make big decisions.” Kylie said she left that interview feeling inspired and driven to continue doing environmental work.
In Kylie’s closing remarks, she urged anyone going into the Student Intern Program to “take advantage of as many of the great and valuable opportunities that the OS provides.”
“I wish I had taken a more active role in the OS certification teams, social sustainability coalition, and planning Earth Week events,” Kylie said, “because even though I knew as an intern my experience with the OS would be important for my career, I didn’t anticipate how significantly the opportunities provided by the OS could set me up for success after college.”