PSU Bookstore’s philanthropy funds full-year sustainability internships
Author: Christina Williams
Posted: January 28, 2015

A $40,000 gift from the Portland State University Bookstore will fund eight internships designed to augment academic studies and prepare students for a career in sustainability. 

The gift will support eight students for a full academic year through the Sustainability Internship Program. The students will be placed with organizations engaged in sustainability-related work, providing the opportunity to develop leadership skills, tackle complex issues, and make valuable professional connections.  

“This gift will allow us to significantly expand our program, which in turn enables students to take what they are learning in their academic programs of study and apply it in real-world settings,” said Mary Vance, a career counselor with Advising and Career Services. 

Vance manages the Sustainability Internship Program, which was launched by the Institute for Sustainable Solutions in 2009. The program has an impressive track record preparing students for employment after graduation. A recent survey of former interns found that 79 percent went on to work in sustainability-related careers after graduation. Another 5 percent are enrolled in graduate school in a sustainability-related field. 

Interns have worked in sectors including energy efficiency, clean technology, urban planning, and natural resources. Organizations that have hosted sustainability interns from PSU include Ecotrust, Oregon BEST, Sustainable Northwest, Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, and many others. Funding for
the program allows students to receive a stipend for their work during the internship. 

"I would not have been able to do an internship without the stipend. I depended upon it to pay rent,” said Cameron Herrington, a participant in the program who parlayed his internship into full-time employment as the anti-displacement coordinator for the Living Cully ecodistrict

The PSU Bookstore has been active in supporting student opportunities to get experience outside the classroom. Last year the bookstore contributed $15,000 to the Cleantech Challenge, supporting the development of prototypes of inventions that directly address resource constraints. The bookstore also contributed $12,000 to the PSU Library to support its Sustainable Organization Library database.