Experience and reflection
Danelle Finney has always been interested in an environmental career, but the fourth-year Bachelor of Environmental Studies student isn’t exactly sure where her path will lead.
“I have many career goals, a lot of passion and interests.”
Turning those passions and interests into a specific career path is exactly the purpose of the Environmental Studies Internship (ENV 3010) course. The course provides students with opportunities to develop, integrate, and apply their knowledge of environmental issues and theory through internship experiences with government and non-governmental environmental organizations. Students also share their experiences with peers, reflect on readings and written work, attend guest speaker presentations, and create an ePortfolio with the goal of identifying specific environmental career options.
Danelle worked with Phil Ferraro and the PEI Adapt Council, identifying and interviewing young PEI farmers about innovative and sustainable farming practices. Not only did she find the work interesting, she found it fit exactly with her career goals.
“Phil does a lot of environmental sciences work, and once told his parents he wanted to do some farming. It’s led him to helping agriculture businesses thrive,” she says. “He’s into organics, but understands the conventional side of farming. I have things I want to go into, especially with sustainability, organic growing, efficiency in energy systems.”
Third-year student Angela Costello worked with Parks Canada to create website content about species at risk and resource conservation initiatives on PEI.
“I had to write about different endangered species, what Parks Canada is doing to help the species, and what the general public can also do to help,” she says.
In addition to the practical experience she gained through technical writing and her research into species at risk, Angela gained a better understanding of Parks Canada and the diverse careers within the organization.
“It was very interesting learning about what Parks Canada does, because I didn’t really know and reading the detailed information about what they do and how they collect their information was neat,” she says. “There were so many different types of jobs in the one environmental organization, web content and social media officer, public relations, and the people actually doing the research work.”
Dr. Carolyn Peach Brown is Director of the Environmental Studies program and the instructor of the ENV 3010 course. She leads the reflection and classroom discussion components of the course, helping students focus their placement work.
“I post a question that is intended to help them integrate what they are learning in their internship with various concepts that are covered in class,” she says. “Sometimes they are exclusively focused on the internship. For example, I will ask them: What was one challenge they had during their internship and how they addressed it and what they might do differently next time.”
UPEI’s Career Services department also provides support through career exploration exercises and resume building as part of the students’ career portfolio. Kylah Hennessey is UPEI’s career counsellor.
“We help students integrate the skills and competencies into their resumes, so they can communicate to employers that they’ve gained relevant experience during their degree,” she says.
One of many courses at UPEI with an experiential education component, the ENV 3010 internship course offers students more than engaging classroom discussion and lectures. It allows students to actively shape their career objectives through hands-on, real-world learning.
Angela describes her internship experience as extremely valuable.
“It gave me a better perspective on the jobs I could look into after the program. I knew I was interested in the environment when I started the program, but when people asked what I would do after, I couldn’t; really tell them,” she says. “People on other internships presented their experience to the class, and it really opened my eyes to the different kinds of jobs and a whole variety of careers.”
“I don’t know a single person [the internship course] hasn’t helped or wasn’t beneficial for, it has so many different ways of teaching, and that’s real-world,” she says. “It’s such a practical course, but the academic part we had to do in class, the reflections, were also an interesting touch because we reflect on our own experiences and internalize it to show us what we value and what we don’t.”