When searching for a job, recent graduates who gained experience in their field through internships, fellowships or part-time work as a student have an advantage over their peers. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) strives to provide these meaningful experiences so that the young professionals who will one day be responsible for working with communities on Great Lakes issues will be prepared, knowledgeable and confident in their abilities. IISG’s most recent cohort of interns are wrapping up their summer of remote work and have completed professional development trainings as part of the internship program. Read about their experiences below.
Sandra Bjerga: Social Media and Communications Intern
Sandra Bjerga has been IISG’s Social Media and Communications Intern for the Red Oak Rain Garden (RORG), working closely with Eliana Brown, Layne Knoche and Kate Gardiner. She recently graduated from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign with a major in Communication and a dual minor in Public Relations and Psychology. This summer, she has been helping promote RORG on social media platforms and assisting with major projects such as Mulch Madness, a fun gardening twist on March Madness. Using social media and the RORG website, Sandra has worked on communication pieces for the 54 native plant species in the garden.
Fun fact: Sandra has never been to the ocean. “Crazy, right?!”
Kamryn Dehn: Youth Education Intern
Kamryn Dehn has been working with Megan Gunn as the Youth Education Intern. She has completed a variety of projects, including assigning standards to lesson plans in the Freedom Seekers curriculum, social media posting for the Purdue Research and Extension Experiential Learning for Undergraduates (REEU) – Diversity in Faces, Spaces and Places of Natural Resources Sciences program, and helping develop the new Lake Michigan One-Stop-Shop curriculum. Kamryn graduated this summer from Purdue University with a degree in Interdisciplinary Agriculture. She will be attending the University of Miami in the fall through their Master of Professional Science program focused on marine mammal science, with the hopes of narrowing down her career with interests in wildlife crime enforcement, environmental education, primatology and cetacean cognition. She is also passionate about environmental justice, especially for indigenous groups, and wants to advocate for the inclusion of more indigenous perspectives in science.
Fun fact: Kamryn almost decided on musical theatre as her major, but she loved science and marine biology way too much!
Amanda Heideman: Sustainable Communities Intern
Amanda Heideman has been the Sustainable Communities Intern working with Kara Salazar. This summer, she has been working on a variety of extension education and training materials, including an environmental planning course using Brightspace. Amanda will be a senior this fall at Purdue University, majoring in Natural Resources and Environmental Science with a minor in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. After she graduates in December, she hopes to do more work with communities and aquatic ecosystems.
Fun fact: In Amanda’s free time, she enjoys hiking, getting coffee and rock climbing!
Allison Milicia: Climate Communications Intern
Allison Milicia has been IISG’s Climate Communications Intern working with Veronica Fall. A native of Fairfield, Connecticut, Allison is a Junior at Purdue University, majoring in Biology with a minor in Psychology. She is excited she spent the summer internship combining her love for science with her interest in communication and outreach. Allison has been working to produce high-priority communication products identified during the Virtual Lake Levels Workshop that took place in October 2020. She has also been attending a variety of webinars and conferences this summer, including a facilitation training led by NOAA’s Office of Coastal Management.
Fun fact: Allison loves to read, bake and work out. She also enjoys watching sports and is a Buffalo Bills and New York Yankees fan.
Sean Welch: Water Quality Intern
Sean Welch has been working with Eliana Brown, Kate Gardiner and Illinois Extension as a Water Quality Intern, focusing on the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS). This summer, he created three teacher guides and a suggested pathway for the Land to Water: Nutrient Explorer along with providing work on appendices and editing for the NLRS Biennial Report. Sean will be a senior this fall studying Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications at the University of Illinois. After graduation, he plans on teaching high school agriculture in Illinois. He has experience with Water Quality Extension, and he recently presented at the UCOWR/NIWR Annual Water Resources Conference.
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a part of University of Illinois Extension and Purdue Extension.