Emma Karsten ’18 and Olivia Shehan ’18 are staying close to campus this summer as they intern for Brian Hansen, Hamilton’s director of environmental protection safety and sustainability. The two are also working with Physical Plant’s grounds committee.
Karsten’s and Shehan’s projects are aimed at implementing sustainable practices on Hamilton’s campus. One of their main tasks is improving Cram and Scram, Hamilton’s reuse and recycle program. “We hope to incorporate more donations into the collection, and divert more waste from landfills while making the process more efficient,” said Shehan.
They’re also focusing on land management. “The goal for the land management project is to identify areas on campus that could be reforested, become managed forest, or turned into pollinator gardens or low-mow zones,” Shehan explained. “Creating these spaces could really help reduce Hamilton’s carbon footprint.”
The students, both environmental studies concentrators, also have on ongoing community project cleaning up Oriskany Creek in the village of Clinton.
Karsten explained why this internship is ideal for her. “I loved the idea of getting a chance to fully focus on sustainability at Hamilton, instead of splitting my time between everything else during the year.” Shehan added, “I was intrigued by the internship because it offered job experience while giving me the opportunity to make a difference at Hamilton.”
Both students have been impressed by their ability to work directly with Hamilton administrators. “Olivia and I get to work with Steve Bellona and Don Croft and others who are high up in the administration, and it’s been incredible to see how much they care and want to incorporate sustainability into the campus,” Karsten remarked. “It’s been really useful to learn more about how everything works. Before, I didn’t even notice when a lawn was being mowed, but now I can’t walk around campus without noticing the maintenance going on or wondering what species of trees we have planted and why.”
The students also appreciate that they are taken seriously in their roles. “We’ve reached out to all kinds of people, sustainability directors at other schools, professors, horticulturalists, and more, and everyone is so willing to meet with us, hear what we’re doing, and offer their insight,” Karsten said.
In addition to making Hamilton more environmentally friendly, the students hope their projects can help achieve the College’s commitment to the President’s Climate Action Plan and be carbon neutral by 2050. Karsten and Shehan have visited other campuses including Wesleyan University, Union College and Skidmore College to see what others are doing and determine if their projects could work at Hamilton.
“The number of projects that can be done on college campuses is endless and it takes motivation from the student body to accomplish them,” Shehan remarked. “ It’s been great to see so much support from the administration while conducting research, and the next step is to implement these projects and to get the community to embrace them. “
After Hamilton, Shehan wants to work in the field of environmental studies, possibly something with conservation. “This fall I’m doing SEA Semester’s Sustainability in the Polynesian Island Cultures and Ecosystems program and would love to incorporate the skills I have learned this summer to my time abroad,” she concluded. Karsten also hopes to work environmental studies, with a focus in climate change ecology. “Most of my classes are about the science side of environmental studies, so this internship is great to see how changes are actually implemented instead of just researched and proposed,” she said.
Olivia Shehan is a graduate of Deerfield Academy (Mass.); Emma Karsten graduated from Key School (Annapolis Md.).