At the University of Rhode Island, students with an interest in energy and sustainability have the opportunity to participate in a year-long paid internship known as the Energy Fellows program.
The program is built to give students an opportunity to gain real-world experience by working with an established company. In addition to the internship, there are multiple other factors that allow students to travel around Rhode Island for professional development purposes.
Kaylyn Keane, the program coordinator, explained the way professional development is added to the program.
“You can earn up to six credits in professional development,” Keane said. “The first course is in the spring, second in the fall. I teach everything from public speaking, to networking, how to run a meeting, business ethics. Things like that, that you don’t necessarily get in the classroom.”
Another part of the program includes summer site visits, in which students attend presentations and demonstrations at companies around the state.
Ryan Foley, a green markets, sustainability and general business student in the program, experienced the summer site visits.
“You get to go to some really cool places in the summer,” Foley said. “Usually every week or every other week you get to go to something related to energy. We went to the solar farm, National Grid, Office of Energy Resources, a place up in Boston where they test wind turbines.”
Foley is completing his internship with Green Development LLC, a private developer that works to place wind and solar farms on local land. He does multiple different jobs with them; finding the right land to use, organizing projects with the National Grid, receiving information about meetings and town news, dealing with requests for proposals and working with the pricing and billing of energy services.
“Wherever they need me I kind of work there,” Foley said. “I like it because you learn something new every day, do something different every day. So, it’s a lot of fun.”
Alexis Charpentier, an electrical engineering and Spanish major, is an intern at Rhode Islanders Saving Energy engineering, a company that works to evaluate efficiency measures. Charpentier assists engineers with creating projects, writing reports, checking specifications and research.
“I have an engineering mind, labs help me,” Charpentier said. “When I’m out there actually seeing how everything works, it helps a lot.”
The program was established in 2008 in an effort to bring young students into the growing energy business. Keane explained that there are numerous goals that the program advisers hope students will accomplish after completing the year.
“The fellows come out of the year really understanding how the energy industry works… they also come out of the year with a professional network of people they meet,” Keane said. “Essentially all the important people in the energy industry. The endgame is to get these students working in the energy industry.”
The application is on the Energy Fellows Program website, including information regarding recommendation letters and interviews. The program is competitive and looking for dedicated and eager students.
Charpentier found the program very beneficial to her success and wants others to apply regardless of their fears.
“Definitely do it, there are so many different moving parts in the industry, you just have to show an enthusiasm for the industry,” Charpentier said. “You have to be committed to it. It is a year-long program, but I think it’s definitely worth it.”
Charpentier also highlighted her experience with the Energy Fellows Program as a key component to her success.
“When I took a class, we went to a green development turbine, and at that point, it was like this really cool thing to do,” Charpentier said. “A year later I’m now working with them and the people that gave the presentation about it are now my bosses, now my coworkers. So, it was like a full circle type of moment. I was listening to them a year ago and now a year later I’m helping them with the presentation. I definitely learned a lot throughout the program and working with the company.”
The Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics and the URI Cooperative Extension are hosting an Alumni Panel on Thursday, Oct. 18 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. This panel will have alumni that have been through the Energy Fellows Program, talking about their current daily jobs and experiences after college.