Motivated senior lands internships with environmental companies

By Ryan Kilgore

Katie Best

Photo by Ryan Kilgore

Katie Best, a senior natural resources and environmental science major from Floyds Knobs, Ind., has a goal to help protect the environment. She enjoys explaining what the data means more than gathering the data. ​Full-size image (431 KB)

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Katie Best wants to protect the environment while still allowing human development. But the senior natural resources and environmental science major from Floyds Knobs, Ind., has an unconventional way of landing internships with firms that help other companies comply with environmental laws.

"I sent resumés and cover letters to companies and explained why they needed an intern," said Best.

After her sophomore year, Best said she knew she wanted to intern for an environmental consulting company in southern California, but didn't know whom to contact. So she looked up a dozen companies in the Yellow Pages and sent them her resumé. After a couple weeks she didn't hear from any of them, so she started sending emails.

"California is a great place for my strengths because it is the state that has the most environmental regulations, which requires the most explaining of data," she said.

She received positive feedback, but only one company could hire an intern.

"I would call and they would be really nice, but most of them didn't have enough work to hire an intern," said Best.

Eventually, she got an internship with a small environmental consulting company. She photographed endangered desert tortoises and burrowing owls and made sure work crews didn't disturb habitats. But by the end of the summer, the company ran out of tasks for her.

"I ended up being the boss' personal assistant," said Best. "I had to call appliance repair guys and license her car with the BMV. It wasn't all bad — I did get field experience."

The experience also helped her find another internship. While working at the first company, she encountered other environmental consultants. The next summer, she refined her search and contacted six companies.

"I found a list of preferred consultants during my other internship — that helped," she said.

She landed an internship the next summer with a larger company that had plenty of work for her. She worked hard and managed to complete a lot of her tasks ahead of schedule. But instead of being the boss' personal assistant, Best was given more responsibilities.

"I wrote drafts of environmental impact reports for regulatory agencies that relayed the findings that were in the company's scientists' reports," she said.

The reports are at the core of what she enjoys about the work, she said, because they help protect the environment while still encouraging human development. The experience was also good for Best's employer.

"They did invite me to visit while I am in California during winter break," said Best. "I found working for this company incredibly rewarding, and educational and it will be a great starting point for my career."