Summering in Sustainability – My Internship

Cobb Hill Path

Path through Cobb Hill

For two months, I have followed the road past Cobb Hill’s cows and chickens and walked between abundant flowers on the trail up to Edie Farwell’s front door, the Director of Sustainability Leaders Network (SLN). I don’t think any other intern in the world has a more pleasant walk to work. When I stepped into the mudroom, Edie would welcome me in an ebullient voice, and I would set up my computer in our shared office.

Through the window, I looked out on a big tree’s leaves swaying back and forth in the lazy summer heat and onto Donella (Dana) Meadow’s legacy – the Cobb Hill ecovillage – nestled in the hills of Hartland. Dana was the co-founder of Cobb Hill, a professor at Dartmouth, an avid farmer, and the inspiration for the Fellows Program. From this vantage point, I set to work interning at SLN.

During my internship, I have worked on many different projects, from taking notes on calls to aiding in research for online seminars. One of my first tasks was to organize leadership and learning materials used by SLN. As I condensed numerous presentations and collected materials from the many Donella Meadows Leadership Fellows Workshops, I became very familiar with the ideas and issues that Fellows explored during their workshops. Ladders of inference and three legged stools became part of my language. Dana’s words echoed in my head.

I collaborated with Dominic Stucker and Jay Mead (Edie’s husband) on co-authoring an article, The Art of Sustainability: Creativity as a Tool for Social Change for the Society for Organizational Learning’s  (SoL’s) Reflections Journal, forthcoming in August. With my new knowledge of systems thinking, I interviewed and wrote about Jay’s experience in Brazil making giant puppets, his shadow puppetry play “The Turning,” and his ideas about how art can illuminate systems and deepen our understanding of the world around us.

Both Edie and Dominic have been working on online courses- a Daily Leadership Pracitce project in conjunction with Fellow Dayna Baumeister at Biomimicry 3.8 and Robert Gass at the Social Change Project, and a series of short online courses with LEAD International about visioning, learning leaders, reflective dialogue and more. The Daily Leadership Practice project was in its final days of preparation as I listened in to conference calls, taking notes on next steps and logistical information. I have now had a chance to watch what was created being put to use as Fellows receive daily leadership e-mails and engage in online webinars to deepen their leadership practice. Dominic has been creating curricula for the LEAD courses, and I have collected instructional materials and helped put the content in online form.

I have also corresponded with a few Fellows to support them in writing blog entries about their work around the world. As I helped in writing these pieces, I had the opportunity to learn about their personal achievements; how they have implemented the tools they have learned as a Fellow; and, how they are currently pursuing their vision. These projects and many more have led to a fun-filled and busy summer. But alas, my internship has now come to a close and I will be returning to Barnard College in New York City – where I am studying Environmental Policy and am a Scholar of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies – with renewed enthusiasm and insights.

I will miss Jay’s world-famous salad dressing at lunches shared with good company, and the energy-filled Skype chats with Dominic all the way from Brazil. My internship at SLN has introduced me to many Fellows and their personal stories in pursuing their visions, and has taught me even more about systems thinking and sustainability. This experience has reaffirmed my own vision to work in environmental education in the future, and I’m so thankful and grateful for that inspiration!

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