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Exploring the role of internships with the Mitchell Center

On Monday, Oct. 3, the Mitchell Center hosted a talk on the next generation of sustainability leadership and the important role that internships play in training new leaders to solve complex issues that may be related to climate change, public health, sustainability, conservation and other increasingly crucial concepts in the modern world.

The Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, located in Norman Smith Hall on the University of Maine campus, has trained close to 300 graduate students as well as more than 600 undergraduate students over the past 13 years.

The Mitchell Center recognizes the necessity of increasing internship opportunities for young adults because they are the passionate leaders of tomorrow who will have the ability to make great strides in critical fields of study, including climate change mitigation and more.

The center conducted a pilot internship this past summer, which consisted of 11 interns, five projects, five faculty members and six partners. The program was open to members of UMaine and the University of Maine at Machias. The goal of the internship aims to create relationships that will extend well beyond the set dates of the program.

Multiple interns from the pilot program presented their unique, sustainability-centered projects during the talk. The research teams were focused on tackling real-world problems in the state of Maine, and they received virtual facilitation training and a science communication workshop to become better prepared for working with their off-campus partnerships.

Rachel Pellis, an undergraduate student, worked with the municipalities of Bar Harbor and South Portland with the ultimate goal of creating a reusable takeout container system that would help to reduce waste. Ella Gurney, a master’s student, focused on the Maine Sea Grant and the Young Fisherman’s Development Act, which aims to fund training for the next generation of fishermen in Maine since the number of young adults entering the fishing industry has greatly decreased within the state.

Gurney mentored UMaine second-year Emma Brusie, who expressed the life-changing impact the internship has had on her personally and professionally. There were a variety of other projects presented throughout the talk, and all interns described the overwhelmingly positive impact that this internship opportunity has had on them as they continue with their research.

Jessica Jansujwicz, the assistant director of Research, Maine Sea Grant explained that the program’s goals for the near future include expanding its partnerships, as well as enhancing faculty participation. She also hopes that other internship programs will be willing to collaborate on upcoming projects.

To see more of the sustainability work happening through the Mitchell Center and how to get involved, visit

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