The ASUA Sustainability program had 15 regular volunteers at its conception last year.
With the start of a new sustainability internship program this year, there will be 53 students working regularly toward sustainability at the UA — and getting credit for it.
Sustainability Director Lesley Ash said she and Brendan Nuriddin, the associate director and architecture senior, developed the internship program over the summer in order to encourage more students to get involved with the program.
""To go from 15 volunteers to 53 regular workers is huge,"" said Ash, a veterinary sciences senior.
Many people couldn't make last year's completely volunteer-based program a top priority, Ash said, but now students are getting credit, which should encourage more consistent participation.
The interns are participating in the program through either independent study or educational leadership. They are receiving one credit per semester in the year-long internship, and are required to put in a minimum of four hours per week, Ash said. The four hours per week is a requirement from the independent study program.
The goals this year are to put the UA on the forefront of sustainability, and to provide the new interns with the tools they need to succeed in this program and life afterwards.
The original intent was to have up to 30 interns, Ash said, but when almost 70 applications for the internship came in, she and Nurridin decided to increase the number of students accepted. Eleven of the interns are returning from last year.
The group of interns includes engineering, biology, environmental science, business and even a few arts and physiology majors, Ash said.
At the first internship meeting of the year Wednesday night, the new interns were told what was expected from them for the program.
Ash asked the interns to say why they decided to join the program. The interns called out answers such as to make a difference, to learn about sustainability or to find green ways to save the UA money.
The interns split into different groups, or projects, that they will be working on for the year. The projects include solar dorms, Garden in the Desert, Compost Go-Live, Earth Day and general sustainability.
Miriam Frieden, a conservation biology senior on the Compost Go-Live team, said she wanted to be on this team because she is interested in learned about composting, but also wants to be able to teach other students.
Each project has a manager, some of whom are students returning to the program and some of whom are new. Ash said she and Nuriddin will be working side-by-side with the new people until they get the hang out of it. The managers had to apply for the position, and were chosen because they demonstrated leadership skills and knowledge, she said.
The interns will be working on their specific projects for the entire year, but are encouraged to go to workshops and help out with the other projects, Ash said.
""We do want to emphasize interdisciplinary education,"" she said.
Marcos Fernandez, an engineering management senior, said he chose to do the internship because he thought it would be a good way to learn more about sustainability, and to meet people who were also interested in it.
Each of the interns was asked to bring $20 for a participation fee to the first meeting. The fee will cover transportation and other expenses for educational trips the interns will be taking, including an October retreat to Biosphere 2.
The first day of the retreat will be a sustainability conference full of speakers and presentations. They will then spend the night for no cost, and volunteer their services the next day at Biosphere 2.