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MFJS Students Tackle Environmental Issues Through Sustainability-Focused Internships

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Media, Film & Journalism Studies

Article  •

Edited By Hannah Kipersztok, first-year MA student in international studies

With all of the current talk about climate change and its negative impacts, the Department of Media, Film & Journalism Studies is proud to see two of its graduate students pursuing sustainability-focused internships. Ryan Kistler is a second-year graduate student studying media and public communication (MEPC), and he interns with the Colorado Water Trust. Daniel Estes is also a second-year MEPC graduate student and interns for The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Keep reading to hear directly from Ryan and Daniel about their valuable internship experiences!

Restoring Colorado's Rivers

Ryan Kistler

By Ryan Kistler

When I started at Colorado Water Trust last month as the Communications and Development Intern, I really had no idea what I was getting into. I thought, restoring flows to! Sounds pretty straightforward. Turns out that there is a lot more to it than I realized.

Colorado Water Trust's mission is to restore flows to Colorado's rivers in need. Having adequate water flowing through our rivers is essential and affects all of us. Whether you're preserving habitats for various species of wildlife, enjoying a lazy-river, beer-drinking afternoon, or doing any other fun river-related activities, you're going to need water.

The work done by the Colorado Water Trust requires time and a significant amount of relationship building. Because water is so scarce and there is a long history of conflict over water rights in Colorado, solutions need to be creative and win-win for everyone involved. Every person at the organization plays an important role in finding these solutions.

At Colorado Water Trust, I primarily assist with developing content for different communication channels, event planning, and finding clear and concise ways to communicate Colorado Water Trust's impact. Because the work is so complex, how we communicate about it is super important. Trying to find a middle ground between giving too little information and over-explaining things has proven to be challenging. However, by using the skills and knowledge I have gained in my MEPC courses, I have been able to work through the challenges. Not only has the internship given me some great hands-on experience, but it has also made me excited about doing this type of work full time once I graduate.

I still have so much to learn about the Colorado water system and river conservation, but this internship has helped me understand the importance of this work as well as how vital it is to get people involved. I'm excited to continue merging the knowledge and experience I have gained at DU with my work at the Colorado Water Trust.

It really is possible to make the world a better place – My time at The Nature Conservancy

Daniel Estes

By Daniel Estes

When I began my coursework in the MEPC program, my goal was to develop the communication skill-set necessary to make the world a better place. I recognize that the phrase "make the world a better place" sounds like a tireless cliché to most. Yet instead of being brought down to earth by my studies, my time in the MEPC program has only strengthened my resolve that this is both a worthwhile and attainable goal.

As my time in the program nears its end, I have been given the opportunity to apply what I have learned in the classroom within a Marketing and Media Relations Internship with The Nature Conservancy (TNC). As a renowned global nonprofit focused on environmental protection and sustainability, TNC is at the front lines of the battle to protect our planet. From creating water funds in South America to establishing nature preserves in Africa, the organization employs a vast network of dedicated professionals who share the common goal of conscious sustainability. Needless to say, I was beyond ecstatic when my internship advisor, Associate Professor Erika Polson, helped me land the position.

My role at TNC is multifaceted and dynamic. Reporting to the Marketing Manager for the Colorado chapter, I have been tasked with interviewing the leadership teams of various projects and writing feature stories on their work for the organization's website and magazine. This has proven to be a one-of-a-kind experience for two reasons. First, it has allowed me to gain strategic writing experience in a professional setting. Second, it has afforded me the opportunity to learn about the inner workings of a globally impactful nonprofit directly from the organization's management – a level of access that not many interns are lucky enough to enjoy.

While many internships are stereotypically wrought with latte-pickups for the boss and negligible 'real' work, my experience at TNC has been just the opposite. Apart from the writing assignments, I have also assisted on video shoots with local partners around the issue of climate change and have sat in on meetings where multimillion-dollar land protection deals were being discussed.

My time at TNC has reaffirmed what my classes already established: it really is possible to do meaningful work and improve the world through applied communication. Without question, my internship experience will inform any work I do going forward, and I could not be more grateful for the opportunity.