UT-TVA-ORNL Institute Hosts Environmental Interns

A University of Tennessee internship program is attracting college students from around the country for hands-on studies of environmental issues and policymaking.

Eleven graduate and undergraduate students are participating in a 10-week summer internship program through the Joint Institute for Energy and Environment of UT, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Tennessee Valley Authority.

JIEE Director Bob Shelton said the summer sessions, which began in June, provide real-world experience for students interested in environmental decisionmaking.

“It gives them opportunities to see the implementation and effects of environmental laws and policies, and the practical application of decision-making processes and techniques,” Shelton said. “It also helps us build and maintain partnerships within the institute-s three organizations and with other organizations.

Shelton said the students work with various municipal, state or federal agencies, industries and organizations involved in environmental decision making in East Tennessee.

This year’s interns are from UT, Skidmore College in New York, Mars Hill College in North Carolina, Washington and Lee in Virginia, Miami University of Ohio, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of California-Santa Barbara, Yale University and Texas A&M.

Robb Turner, executive director of the JIEE’s Southern Appalachian Man and the Biosphere Program, developed the internship offerings eight years ago.

This summer, interns are based in Chattanooga, the greater Knoxville area and the Smokies. They are involved in data collection, analysis and interpretation; policy planning and evaluation; resource management and planning and other activities.

“I have already learned a great deal from attending meetings with my mentor,” Angela Hemrick, a graduate student at UT’s School of Planning, said. “They’re a window into how planning is done in Chattanooga.”

Each intern hosts a seminar about an organization-s decision making. They recently participated in seminars by students working with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park-s cultural resources division, the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, UT’s new Baker Center for Public Policy.

“The seminars and visits to other organizations make this such a unique experience,” Paul Augustine of Yale University said. “This crossover learning is what opens participants’ eyes to new perspectives.”