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Emma Stewart '09 Creates Own Internship with Vermont Companies

By Lisbeth Redfield
Posted August 1, 2007
Internships are taking Hamilton students far afield this year, from urban India to rural Hardwick, Vermont, where Emma Stewart '09 (Colchester, Vt.) works as an intern for Vermont Soy and Vermont Natural Coatings, two local ventures based in Hardwick.

Stewart was one of more than 20 Hamiltonians who received college funding to participate in a summer internship. Work experience is becoming more and more necessary for college students but many opportunities are unpaid and require students to pay their own housing and living expenses as well as working for free.

Thanks to alumni and parent donations, Hamilton students can apply for funding to support them while they work in a field of interest with an organization that cannot pay them. Though Stewart works in an unpaid internship, she received a stipend from Hamilton's Joseph F. Anderson Internship Fund, given in honor of a 1944 Hamilton graduate who served the college for 18 years as vice president for communications and development. The fund in his name provides individual stipends to support full-time internships for students wishing to expand their educational horizons in preparation for potential careers after graduation.

Vermont Soy and Vermont Natural Coatings are two separate companies owned by Hardwick resident Andrew Meyer (he co-owns Vermont Soy). The first has the goal to make a product whose production is completely sustainable; the soymilk comes from local, organic beans and is sold in bottles made locally from recycled material. Stewart, one of three employees, bottles the milk and sells it at farmers markets around the state.

She spends more of her time at Vermont Natural Coatings, which makes environmentally safe wood finish from whey protein, a by-product of the cheese industry. One of the company's five employees, Stewart is responsible for advertising and selling to flooring contractors, furniture makers, and green builders. She also finishes samples and sells wood at the roadside table.

While most interns applied to existing positions, Stewart "kind of created this internship." She is related to company owner Meyer, and approached him about a position before applying for Hamilton funding. She enjoys her work and her position in such a new company although being a salesperson took some getting used to. "It's definitely a skill you have to develop."

Stewart is a biology and environmental studies major, and she said that her work with these companies had shown her that community activity could be very effective. "To me, the biggest benefit is my deeper understanding of environmentalism and learning that with an idea and the drive you can make something happen," she said. "I've developed a strong belief in the idea that if the people who have enough money to buy local foods and other products actually do, than small businesses can succeed and thrive."

To students considering an internship, Stewart spoke from experience and emphasized the importance of choosing something personal. "Don't feel like you need to apply only for internships that already exist… People love interest from college kids and are excited when they have young, impressionable and fresh minds to join their team."

On campus, Stewart is a member of the Outing club, an active participant in Alternative Spring Break and a Bonner Leader (a program which sets up eight students per class year with internships working for community development non-profits in Utica). This coming year, she will be an Adirondack Adventure leader and a member of the Woollcott Co-op.

-- by Lisbeth Redfield


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