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Center Spotlight: Final Takeaways from an Impactful Internship

Working for the Center for the Business of Sustainability started as finding a job for some extra cash and serving as a resume cushion to show I remained committed to my major and future career path during the school year. I never anticipated a part-time job to provide not only some of the best mentors and supervisors I’ve worked with but also fellow interns that are committed to the success of sustainable solutions. The Center truly has it all. 

Sustainability had always been an interest area of mine, especially since taking Sustainability200 with Dr. Lucy McClain my sophomore year at Penn State, but it was never a focal point of my life or free time. I understood the importance of protecting the environment in a broad sense and fell into the group of individuals that heard “sustainability” and only thought about climate change. Since joining the Center team, however, my view of and motivation toward propelling sustainable development has matured. 

Senior Ruby Forsyth, the Salesforce Data Management Specialist within the Center’s intern cohort, remarks, “Working for the Center has changed my outlook on the business school as a whole. Seeing the efforts made behind the scenes to promote and prioritize sustainability in Smeal’s day to day operations is inspiring.” 

To me, sustainability is now about human impact. It’s about the interactions between underserved communities and access to medicines (something I learned about while interviewing Dr. Dan Cahoy).  

Sustainability is about how businesses consider circular economy and integrate best practices within supply chain management (a credit to Erik Foley, Center director from its inception until 2023, who highlighted businesses on the Center’s Instagram that aligned their core values with SDGs).  

Sustainability is about being excited to integrate the best opportunities for growth and advancement for not just a company, but also the surrounding communities who are not only direct consumers, but also those that are immediately impacted by a company’s consideration for ESG.  

Master’s student, Esther Lee, has worked as the Business Impact Careers Research intern at the Center for the past two years. Speaking on her experience with the Center, Esther says, “Working with the Center has been an enriching journey that has transformed my Penn State experience in profound ways personally and professionally. From collaborating with esteemed mentors in the Impact Careers Project to engaging with various departments within Smeal, every interaction has been an opportunity for growth and development. Whether it was participating in the Annual Smeal Corporate Partners Advisory Board at Beaver Stadium, contributing to the Sustainability Advisory Board Meeting to see my idea spark through a PSU 6 course, or representing the Center in a case competition, each experience has left an indelible mark on me. I am deeply grateful for the invaluable connections, meaningful insights, and impactful projects that have shaped my journey.  

As I reflect on my time with the Center, my main takeaway is the importance of collaboration, mentorship, and the pursuit of meaningful work. These experiences have not only enriched my academic pursuits but have also prepared me for the future challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. I am truly grateful for the lessons learned and the connections made, and I look forward to carrying these experiences with me as I continue my journey.” 

Much like Esther’s experience, my outlook on sustainability’s importance and influence has altered throughout this internship, much to the credit of those I interacted with. Where I used to see doom and gloom and nearly impossible changes needed to make a difference, I now see the potential in every role to make a contribution to advancing SDGs.  

Tracey Mariner, my current supervisor, and Suvrat Dhanorkar, Center director, have continued to reinforce the importance of a storytelling role; after all, how can people be involved in the fight if they aren't aware of the issue.  

Angela Lam-Li, my co-marketing intern, pushes the envelope of our expectations. She drives conversations forward and looks for overlaps between personal interest areas and sustainability issues to turn every possible opportunity into a passion project. 

The value that I always knew existed in sustainability but didn’t quite know how to grasp has grown into a full-fledged staple of my life. My experience with the Center wasn’t just a job. My experience with the Center was a highlight of my undergraduate experience. 


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