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