Lindsay Freeman wins “Make it REAL” Challenge Grant

Lindsay Freeman ENVS advisor wins REAL Challenge Award

Environmental Studies Undergraduate Academic Advisor Lindsay Freeman was recently awarded one of the VCU Relevant Experiential and Applied Learning (REAL) 2019-2020 inaugural Challenge Grants. This inaugural competition was fierce! The Challenge Grant committee received requests for over $380,000 for the available $25,000 and only 13% of projects receiving funding.  Congratulations, Lindsay!

The Center for Environmental Studies is committed to offering REAL experiences to all of our majors and minors.  While internships are a common REAL experience for our students and frequently a stepping stone to post-graduation employment, identifying a rewarding internship can be challenging.  Lindsay’s project, titled “Building a Pipeline for better Environmental Studies Internships & Careers” will couple an informal expert speaker series with a single credit “Paths to Internship” course to reduce barriers and increase access to these critical experiences. The project builds on the success of the Careers & Conversations (C&C) speaker series piloted in 2018 in taking advantage of VCU’s proximity to Virginia’s capital by bringing in a diverse set of speakers from state agencies as well as professionals from environmental consulting firms and NGOs.  By featuring representatives from public and private careers across the policy to science spectrum, we will expose our students early on to a wide range of internship opportunities and careers.

While the C&C speaker series will benefit students at all levels, it will also directly target early academic career students enrolled in “Introduction to Environmental Studies” and “Paths to Environmental Leadership”  – which is new for fall 2020. “Paths to Environmental Leadership” aims to help students starting university begin to cultivate concepts of personal leadership and a vision of their career path while developing peer review and grant writing skills as they develop an application for the Udall Undergraduate Scholarship. The Udall scholarship honors the legacies of Morris Udall and Stewart Udall, whose careers had a significant impact on the stewardship of public lands and natural resources. Students will attend all C&C events offered during the fall semester as part of their grade. Those who choose to continue to work on their scholarship application during the spring 2021 semester for the March 2021 deadline and/ or who want to focus on finding an internship will have the option to complete the new for spring 2021 “Paths to Internship” course in which they will attend all spring C&C events, conduct research on potential internship sites, and write up an internship idea and/or wordsmith and submit their Udall applications.  Ultimately, we aim to have 20% of ENVS students attend at least one C&C event in 2020-2021 and will collect student evaluations at the end of each event.  As an added benefit to the university, C&C will help to create a pipeline for environmental professionals who could potentially participate in career fairs organized by VCU Career Services.