End-of-year reflections from MN Greencorps member, Aaryn Wilson

2018-2019 was Augsburg’s second year hosting a MN Greencorps member in the Sabo Center. These positions have brought new perspectives and learning to us through the incredible young people who serve and have expanded Augsburg’s community as they go out into other professional experiences, taking what they’ve learned and who they’ve met here with them. We will especially miss Aaryn’s thoughtfulness around complex sustainability topics and ability to see areas for improvement with our waste systems.

students and staff perform waste audit
MN Greencorps member, Aaryn Wilson (left), finishes a waste audit with student intern Reiss Williams and graduate fellow Blongsha Hang

Hi, my name is Aaryn Wilson and this past year I served as Augsburg’s Minnesota GreenCorps member. The Minnesota GreenCorps program is affiliated with AmeriCorps. The program places AmeriCorps members with host organizations around the state to assist communities and local governments in addressing a variety of statewide needs, aiming to:

  • Reduce solid waste and increase recycling in Minnesota communities.
  • Reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) and other air pollutants.
  • Reduce water runoff and improve water quality.
  • Assist community members to take eco-friendly actions.
  • Increase community resilience and build local capacity to respond to the threats of climate change.
  • Train new environmental professionals.

During my time at Augsburg I mainly focused on reducing solid waste and increasing recycling efforts already in place. To do this I had a lot of help from the Environmental Stewardship interns, staff, faculty, and students on campus. Some highlights from the year include:

  • Showed the film Wasted! The Story of Food Waste in the fall semester of 2018.
  • Conducted three waste audits on 12/10/2018, 1/31/2019, and 8/6/2019. To learn about two of the waste audit’s we did feel free to read this article written by the Echo.
  • During the month of March, I participated in Nexuses Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement series. After the workshops I would share what I learned with students and staff at Augsburg.
  • Performed a number of waste sorts at the Commons just by simply standing near the three bin system and directing people as they through away their waste.
  • With our two Step-Up interns we waste mapped the three bin systems around campus. We noted where there were bins missing and were more could be added. This was done over the months of June and July. Overall only a couple areas on campus could be modified for more effective bin placement. Contact Allyson Green for full report.
  • Participated in a training with A’viands staff on 1/11/2019 to teach them how to do waste sorting, organic recycling, recycling, and trash correctly.
  • Led a training with Staff Senate folks about waste reduction on 12/19/2018
  • Led a training with Residence Life (RAs) about waste reduction on 1/7/2019
  • Conducted one-to-one meetings with students, staff, a custodian, and another volunteer member serving at Augsburg.

Overall my most memorable experiences from my service year was doing the waste audits along with having conversations with people about what they thought belonged in or didn’t belong in the organics, recycling, and trash receptacles. I had a great experience overall and will miss the awesome faculty, staff, and students here at Augsburg the most. Thank You for allowing me to serve.

Reflections on Leadership and Composting

This semester, Environmental Stewardship Education and Outreach Coordinator, Briana Mitchell, will be blogging about her experience with sustainability, choosing topics that have come up this year that warrant more research. She kicks off her blog series with a reflection on what this internship has meant for her and what she’s learned about composting from 1:1 conversations with students. Interested in the Environmental Stewardship Internships? Email environmentalstewardship@augsburg.edu to learn more!

By Briana Mitchel (’19)

What I learned:

This experience as an Environmental Stewardship Intern was something that I did not expect. I did not expect to get so close to my fellow interns, I did not expect to learn so much about composting, and I did not expect to learn how hard it is to define sustainability! I think that it is important for people to have an internship experience because it will give you a chance to explore different possible job occupations, as well as acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses. This internship really made me question what it meant to be a leader. I’m familiar with being a leader and have no problem doing so – my minor is Leadership Studies! However, I’ve been accustomed in other positions to receive a list of things to do when I got in with no chance of creativity. With this position my supervisor gave me three possible options for projects that I could work on throughout the semester. After selecting a project, I was able to work on it and adapt it to a way that showcased my skills.

The project I chose was understanding the knowledge people had about composting and sustainability then coming up with a way to show my findings. With this, I was put into a position where I had all creative freedom, something that I was not used to, and I realized I had to adapt my meaning of leadership to best fit my position. Something that helped me achieve this is placing bigger-picture meaning into my internship as well as the projects that I do. By doing this I was able to see and execute sustainability within my life and others.

This work was very meaningful to me because this was my first internship and I feel like I accomplished a lot that I’m proud of. I created something with the knowledge I got from my research methods class and was able to be creative about how I went about it. This was the first time I was able to be truly independent and I realized I enjoy independent work and maybe was too dependent on supervisors for guidance. I was aware of sustainability but didn’t know how to define it. Sustainability is different for everyone, and although it’s hard to describe, I came to truly understand its importance. I decided to push myself as well as my roommates to compost in our home and help them understand what should be in what bin. Through this internship I realized the amount of work that goes into composting correctly, and that while it is a difficult thing to understand, it takes little effort to actually do. Internships are a great way to learn about your abilities and what occupations could possibly maximize these abilities. Overall, this experience allowed me to create relationships and understand a lot more about my strengths and weaknesses. I learned to take leadership on projects through critical thinking and brainstorming which is something I was not used to doing.

What I did:

After selecting a project I was able to work on it and adapt it to a way that showcased my skills. The project I chose was understanding the knowledge people had about composting and sustainability then coming up with a way to show my findings. To gather the information, I thought about either choosing a survey or doing one-on-one relational meetings. I decided to choose one-on-one relational meetings because they’re more personable and I wanted more detailed answers as to their understanding of composting and sustainability. With these interviews I met with people for about 45 minutes, which allowed me to get background knowledge about what they see is sustainability, as well as how sustainability shows up in their lives in relation to Augsburg. I focused on five commuters and five people who live on campus, the drawback I found from one-on-one relational meetings is that you can’t do copious amounts by yourself in a short period of time. It’s also extremely difficult to get a time that works for yourself as well as other people, because to get the full effect of a relational meeting you should be communicating for about 45 minutes. From the information I gathered I was able to create a pamphlet that showed the information that I gathered. This is a project that I did independently and gathered the information independently as well which I was not used to. With previous position I was used to waiting on individuals so I can finish my part of a project and had to constantly work interdependently on others. Through these one-on-one relational meetings with students on and off campus it allowed me to create connections that I would not have done otherwise. With this pamphlet I wanted to make it simple enough to have it understandable. With this information I hope that it will help those within my department as well as those within other departments have an understanding as to what students see sustainability/composting as and its significance.

Read about Bri’s findings!

intern briana mitchell