One powerful way to gain experience and increase one’s knowledge base about sustainability during college is to pursue an internship. The Chicago region abounds with sustainability-related internship opportunities offered by non-profit organizations, museums, scientific and educational institutions, companies, community and professional organizations, and more.

The past several years, students in RU’s Sustainability Studies program have completed internships in a variety of fields, including biodiversity research, environmental conservation, public policy, environmental education and outreach, and campus education — to name but a few. These internships provide a rich beyond-the-classroom learning experience for students, enable networking opportunities with sustainability professionals in a variety of fields, and enhance students’ resumés for graduate school and job searches.

Strategies and Resources for Finding an Internship

Students are encouraged to start thinking about internship plans and options during their sophomore/junior years, and pursuing one or more internships during their junior/senior years. One of the best ways to start this process of generating ideas and practical options is through conversation with professors, advisors, fellow students, and outside contacts, as well as by stopping in at the Career Development office at RU. Since sustainability is such a broad and multifaceted area of study, key things to consider include one’s particular career goals and aspirations; academic background and strengths; geographic and time constraints; and the weekly demands of school, work, and family.

The following sites and organizations offer internship and/or volunteering opportunities for students and citizens related to various aspects of sustainability. Internships may be either paid or unpaid, depending upon the organization and its available funds. Those noted with an asterisk (*) have previously hosted SUST student interns. Others (denoted by **) have partnered with the SUST Program on service learning projects. While internship openings at a given organization may be limited or filled, there are almost always opportunities for volunteering, which can often lead to a future internship position.

Chicago-based Sustainability Internship Opportunities

Suburban-based Sustainability Internship Opportunities

Beyond the Chicago Region

SUST Student Symposium: A Showcase for Internships

Since the Fall of 2013, the Sustainability Studies Program has hosted a biannual symposium for students to give public presentations on their internship, research fellowship, study abroad, and/or volunteer work related to sustainability. Attending a Symposium or reading the synopses of past symposia on the SUST Blog is a great way to learn about what students are doing, how they found their internships, and how they benefitted from those experiences.

Several of these students (*) also wrote about their internship experiences for the SUST at RU blog prior to their symposium presentations. See the Contributors page of the blog for more info.

  • Symposium 1.1 (Fall 2013): Allison Breeding*, Kyle Huff, Ron Taylor
  • Symposium 1.2 (Spring 2014): Colleen Dennis*, Jordan Ewbank*, MaryBeth Radeck*
  • Symposium 2.1 (Spring 2015): Melanie Blume*, Rebecca Quesnell*, Mary Rasic, Emily Rhea*
  • Symposium 2.2 (Fall 2015): Shannon Conway*, Karen Craig, Laura Miller Hill*
  • Symposium 3.1 (Spring 2016): SUST 390 Sustainable Campus project teams, Cassidy Avent*, Tiffany Mucci*, Lacy Reyna, Lindsey Sharp*
  • Symposium 4.1 (Spring 2017): ACP/SUST 250 Sustainable University project teams; Dr. Anthony Zaragoza, Evergreen State College – Tacoma
  • Symposium 5.1 (Spring 2018): ACP/SUST 250 Sustainable University project teams; Yessenia Balcazar, Melissa Ruby, Claire Wilson

Sustainability Internships and Academic Credit at RU

The SUST 395 Sustainability Internship course is a means by which undergraduate students may earn 1-6 hours of academic credit through an internship experience related to the interdisciplinary field of Sustainability Studies. Students may perform work at a sustainability-related organization, on a relevant project, and/or for a sustainability professional; the possible options here are both many and various.

Proposed internships by students or sponsoring individuals/organizations must first be approved by the SUST Program Director, who will provide course registration information to the student. Internships may be paid or unpaid; either is acceptable for SUST 395 course credit, provided the work required is relevant and substantial.

  • SUST 395 Internship Guidelines (pdf, updated Fall 2015)
  • SUST 395 Student Contract (pdf , updated Fall 2015)
  • SUST 395 Reflection Essay Guidelines (pdf)