Students interested in sustainability will have a chance to mingle with professionals and make community connections at the University of Idaho President’s Sustainability Symposium, March 19 and 20 at North Idaho College and the College of Southern Idaho.
Adria Mead, UI Sustainability Center director, said there are increasing trends among employers — such as Hewlett Packard, The Boeing Company and Sodexo at UI — to hire leaders for positions in sustainability. The symposium is free for students and the entire first day is dedicated to sessions, presentations and building professional networking skills to help students prepare for such work after school.
“We want to make this as beneficial to students as possible,” Mead said. “We want them to get connected to these opportunities, and to know that there are impactful jobs out there for them.”
Part of the preparation will involve a mingling session with representatives from various agencies, private industries, non-profit organizations and other groups, she said. Students will get the chance to interact with sustainability professionals and practice the networking concepts learned in the sessions.
Debbie Gray, Office of Community Partnerships program coordinator, said the representatives are sympathetic to students.
“They understand the students just went through this 30-minute networking boot camp, so they won’t be critiquing every move,” she said. “(This) will be less imposing than a company dinner, and it should be more fun.”
Gray said there is a broader range of possibilities in sustainability careers than some may imagine. Professionals with backgrounds in marketing, art and education will be available to speak with participants. One presentation will involve sculptures created to visualize the microbial agents used to process water in Coeur d’Alene. Gray said another speaker will highlight her work to help public K-6 students grasp concepts about recycling and solid waste management.
“There’s a home for any career or educational background within the broad field of sustainability,” Gray said.
These and other “ignite” sessions will be done in succinct fashion, Mead said, as students from each of the three represented campuses — UI, NIC and CSI — will join community group members to exhibit five-minute, 20-slide presentations about their internships, projects and research in sustainability, with their struggles and successes.
Mead said it can be hard for UI students to find work in southern Idaho, and they don’t always have time to drop in for a particular workshop or session of this nature at other conferences. The two campuses will be video-linked live online, she said, so travel time for participants from each community will also be reduced.
“We wanted to make it affordable to attend, and as easy as possible to connect these communities that are dealing with the same issues,” Mead said. “It will change the conversation to the state-wide issues, and the ways we can come together to address them.”
Matt Maw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org