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Action for a Sustainable Future

Student interns conduct research and collaborate on initiatives to advance sustainability on campus.

Portrait of Naomi Weinflash

Naomi Weinflash ’23 makes connections between hands-on sustainability research and her policy studies coursework.

When Naomi Weinflash ’23 was looking for a way to make a tangible impact on campus, she gravitated toward an internship with Syracuse University’s Sustainability Management team. “I liked the idea that I would be doing real work in my internship that would go to help the greater good on campus,” she says. Weinflash, a double major in policy studies and citizenship and civic engagement major in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, researched how the University can offset travel emissions produced by its vehicles, busses, vans and general fleets. “Getting to practice and apply what I learn about policy in Maxwell on a carbon pricing policy I genuinely care about in my internship with Sustainability Management is a great opportunity,” she says.

Sustainability Management’s for-credit internship program lets students pursue projects that complement their major and explore their interest in sustainability. “No matter what your major is, sustainability plays a part in it,” says sustainability coordinator Meg Lowe G’18, who manages the growing program. “Students in our office work on real-world projects that we need help completing, and every project is useful for the betterment of Syracuse University.”

Getting to practice and apply what I learn about policy in Maxwell on a carbon pricing policy I genuinely care about in my internship with Sustainability Management is a great opportunity.

—Naomi Weinflash ’23

The internship program is enhanced by Sustainability Management’s relationship with Facilities Services, which gives students opportunities to go behind the scenes in buildings and at the stadium. Past student-intern projects have focused on sourcing materials sustainably, fighting food insecurity, and marketing sustainability on campus.

Sustainability Management works with each student’s advisor to ensure the internship aligns with the student’s academic goals, and a single internship can offer the chance to become immersed in several aspects of sustainability. “Students are able to experiment with a sustainability subject they are passionate about and incorporate it into their major in a way they may not have thought possible,” Lowe says. “At the same time, we offer those who have a general interest in sustainability the opportunity to explore something new.”

Offsetting Carbon Emissions on Campus

A professor and student stand together in a garden outside

Sustainability coordinators Melissa Cadwell (left) and Meg Lowe G’18 mentor student-interns.

Weinflash’s research focused on recent legislation that was introduced in several states to begin taxing carbon emissions. She examined how the University could implement a similar tax based on a greenhouse gas inventory that includes all travel for faculty, staff and students to and from campus. The revenue generated by this tax would go toward the purchase and planting of trees on campus.

The connections between Weinflash’s hands-on research and her coursework resonated strongly for her. “Citizenship and civic engagement are about serving a community in its own way, because each community is different,” Weinflash says. “I knew that an internship with Sustainability Management would allow me to have an impact on the Syracuse campus.”

No matter what your major is, sustainability plays a part in it.

—Meg Lowe G’18, Sustainability Coordinator

Weinflash overcame each research obstacle she encountered during her spring 2021 internship. “The biggest challenge I faced in my research was finding a higher education institution with a carbon pricing policy in a similar climate—one that had proof of success so that I could model numbers and ideas after that policy,” she says. She was grateful for the advice provided by Lowe and her fellow sustainability coordinator Melissa Cadwell. “We had an open communication and they guided me through all challenges,” she says. “We conversed about aspects of the policy, and they honored points that I made. They are amazing mentors.”

Weinflash is continuing her role as a student intern this fall. “We have made progress toward a carbon pricing policy, which is a really positive outcome so far,” she says. “Policy takes a long time to curate and an even longer time to implement. Every step forward on this project is a positive.”

A Sustainability Plan for Athletics and the Stadium

Portrait of Ruby Liu in the stadium

Ruby Liu G’21 collaborated with stadium management to expand the current sustainability program.

Yuqi (Ruby) Liu G’21 decided to pursue an internship with Sustainability Management after attending a guest lecture on sustainability in the sport industry. “Sports teams and stadiums play a vital role in educating and encouraging people to be more aware of sustainable lifestyles and protect the planet for future generations,” says Liu, who graduated with a master’s degree in sport venue and event management from the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics.

As a student intern last spring, Liu collaborated with the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Sports sustainability team—sustainability and athletic staff and student-athletes across the 15 ACC schools—to help Syracuse Athletics and the stadium become more sustainable. Lowe, who has been working with the team since its inception in 2018, invited Liu to monthly meetings where she met her counterparts at the other universities and learned about the larger goals of the group.

Working hands-on with the sustainability office and the stadium during my internship, I learned skills like communication and collaboration, which are essential to leadership and that I can apply to my career.

—Yuqi (Ruby) Liu G’21

With the help of a fellow undergraduate intern, Liu created a sustainability strategic plan, which involved reaching out to other schools with active sports sustainability programs to determine the best approach for incorporating sustainability into Syracuse University Athletics.

Portrait of Ruby Liu

Ruby Liu G’21 helped expand the stadium’s current sustainability program to include composting waste from the concession stands.

Liu also collaborated with stadium management to expand the current sustainability program—which comprises composting food waste from the kitchen; recycling bottles, cans and cardboard; and donating leftover food to a local organization—to include composting waste from the concession stands. “The composting program needed many departments to collaborate and change their current system to make it happen," Liu says. She extended her internship with the stadium over the summer, working hard to begin the composting program in time for the first football game of the season. “We are trying to grow it as big as possible,” she says.

Liu cites planning, execution and accountability as some of the many abilities she honed during her student-internship experience. “Working hands-on with the sustainability office and the stadium during my internship, I learned skills like communication and collaboration, which are essential to leadership and that I can apply to my career.”

Lowe is impressed with Liu’s progress. “The work Ruby completed has become the groundwork for creating a sports sustainability program here at Syracuse. This plan is a roadmap that other Falk sport management students can continue to develop. When the plan is completed, it will serve as a guide for Syracuse and other ACC schools,” Lowe says, adding that she plans to build upon that foundation and create more integration between the Department of Athletics and Sustainability Management.

Our students have very diverse backgrounds and bring unique perspectives on solving problems and elevating our sustainability programs on campus.

—Meg Lowe G’18, Sustainability Coordinator

Liu says she especially enjoyed the teamwork she experienced throughout the internship. This speaks to the collaborative spirt the program aims to foster, says Lowe. “All students in the office are encouraged to work together and use their unique perspectives as an advantage to overcome challenges,” Lowe says. Many projects are a collaborative effort, as new interns offer a fresh take on projects from previous semesters.

“Students bring forth a refreshing amount of passion each semester, which helps fuel our office with projects in need of exploration,” Lowe says. “Our students have very diverse backgrounds and bring unique perspectives to solving problems and elevating our sustainability programs on campus.”

Shaina M. Hill

This story was published on .


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Also of Interest

  • Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs

    The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs is Syracuse University’s home for innovative, interdisciplinary teaching and research in the social sciences, public policy, public administration and international relations. It includes America’s #1 ranked graduate program in public affairs, offering highly regarded professional degrees alongside advanced scholarly degrees in the social sciences, and it is home to undergraduate programs across the full spectrum of social sciences.

  • The David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamic

    Social justice principles are at the foundation of programs in exercise science, food studies, human development and family science, marriage and family therapy, public health, nutrition, social work, sport analytics and sport management. Academics, service learning projects, internships, research opportunities, immersion travel and clubs connected to our majors prepare students for careers to make a difference in the communities where they will live and work.