Today, a fortunate group of sustainability minded students and I got the opportunity to visit three major environmental organizations in Chicago. Over the course of the day, we met with members of the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), and the Great Lakes National Program of the EPA. Additionally, we were able to meet with several other leading conservationists and environmentalists based in Chicago at a casual networking lunch.
The entire experience was incredibly rewarding. Every employee that we met with was engaging, more than welcoming, and very interested in each of us. The three different organizations taught us something unique about the environmental industry. The ELPC was largely policy based and represented an activism driven company. We were able to ask both a lawyer and policy director a multitude of questions ranging from how to choose a graduate school, what environmental policy entails, and what the greatest challenges of their job are. The NPCA was advocacy centered, and focused on conservation through advocates of the National Parks. We learned about the scope of types of National Parks that the NPCA advocates for and how that is both rewarding and daunting at times. Finally, the EPA relied more on scientific data collection and analysis to reach their organization goals. We toured the lab facility and observed the dozens of water, air, and soil quality tests that occur in the lab. As a student group made up of many different majors and interests, the breadth of the three companies allowed all of us to identify with at least one role in the industry.
Midway through the trek, we had a delicious lunch at Pizano’s. During lunch, we were able to share a meal with Notre Dame alums who are leaders in the environmental and sustainability industry. Here, we were given the chance to not only ask questions in a more intimate setting, but update the alumni with on-campus happenings and get to know them as fellow Domers. This experience definitely raised my confidence in communicating with “high up” environmentalists.
Overall, today was an invaluable learning experience. I now have a much more tailored idea of an organization where I would thrive after graduation. Thank you so much to Karen and the Center for Career Development for supporting our career aspirations and setting up the trek!