Interns promote campus sustainability at national conference
By Darcy Schild
For Layne Marshall, interning with the UF Office of Sustainability has provided not only an outlet to promote sustainable living, but has also helped her break out of her shell.
Marshall, a natural resource conservation senior from Fort Myers, Florida, said when she began her UF Office of Sustainability internship as a sophomore, she never dreamed of speaking at a national conference.
Marshall recently presented about her role as a Greek community outreach intern at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference in Baltimore on October 10.
“I think everyone has their own passions,” Marshall said. “My position at the office has made me realize this is not just a hobby, but it’s something I want to pursue for graduate school.”
In her presentation, Marshall spoke about the Greek Eco Challenge, which encourages UF sororities and fraternities to implement sustainability initiatives, including composting at meals and removing Styrofoam from their houses.
Marshall said her audience consisted of college students around the nation looking to implement similar sustainability programs at their schools.
“Sustainability offices at other schools want to work with the Greeks, but they don’t always know how,” Marshall said. “During the question session, I could reflect on what I learned and help other people.”
Office of Sustainability interns Alyssa Towns and Rebecca Blazquez also presented at the AASHE Conference. Their presentation focused on the TailGator Gameday Recycling Program, a volunteer-based initiative that promotes proper recycling during home football games at UF.
Towns, a biology junior from Jacksonville, said she felt inspired after interacting with a community of sustainability minded college students.
“Sometimes, it feels alienating because other people don’t always care about recycling, so being at that conference and being with people who also care was really cool,” Towns said. “It definitely reinvigorated my interest in environmental studies.”
Blazquez, a natural resource conservation senior from Weston, Florida, said she enjoyed collaborating with students who plan to start or improve recycling programs at their schools.
“It’s important to see the experiences other students have had doing certain programs or working on different projects,” Blazquez said. “It’s great to see what they’ve done to learn from the mistakes or successes they’ve had.”
Blazquez said she was inspired by a presentation about a school that operates its own on-campus thrift store, and she left the conference with new ideas for the Office of Sustainability. “It was interesting to see what other schools are doing and how we can bring that to UF,” Blazquez said.
Allison Vitt, the outreach and communications coordinator at the Office of Sustainability, said the number of interns who present at the AASHE conference varies each year, but it is a valuable professional experience for those who attend.
“These interns are able to network with others students and professionals, which is a tremendously valuable component of conferences like AASHE,” Vitt said.
Vitt said if students are interested in opportunities to promote environmental initiatives on and off campus, they should take part in the various volunteer opportunities listed on the Office of Sustainability website and social media platforms (@SustainableUF) .