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Learn From Me: Pour Your Passion into Lehigh

Based on the true student story of Matthew, IDEAS (Biomaterials, Art & Product Design), Class of 2020

Recently, I completed an extremely rewarding internship experience. During the summer of 2018, I earned an internship working on a cutting edge data project for Lehigh University’s campus. The OSIsoft Campus Metabolism Project aims to track Lehigh University’s resource usage (water, electricity, natural gas, waste) to both increase campus efficiency and educate students on their individual environmental footprints. Hopefully launching soon, students, faculty, and staff will be able to internally access the information to see and interact with data for specific buildings or residence halls. Through this internship, I significantly increased my communication skills by working with a team across organizations and timezones and built strong relationships with the individuals with and for which I worked. Most importantly, this internship taught me a great deal both about data and about my personal work goals, which I will continue to apply to my education and career.

Even though my internship experience was a journey in and of itself, the journey to the first day of the summer is arguably a more important journey to consider, involving key personal development and relationship building. To understand these ideas is to understand how you can achieve your own professional success as a Lehigh student.

Find something you feel passionate about on campus (a club, an organization, a class, an idea) and pour your energy and love into it. For me, the most empowering experiences on campus have been those which I love the most. Some of us know very strongly what we love. Some of us don’t, and that is okay. All of us discover new passions as we grow and explore. As a first year student, I became an Eco-Rep because I have a love for the Earth, a passion for sustainability, and a curiosity to learn more. Since that first Wednesday of freshman year, I started volunteering and later working for the Office of Sustainability. Becoming involved is simple. Show up. Be there. Be an active participant in that activity, and the people around you will become active participants in your life. With hundreds of student clubs, organizations and offices on campus (and an infinite number of ideas), every student should compliment their education with involvement of some sort. Review your campus involvement options, but truly connect to what captures your interest, passion, and desire for impact.

Once you’re involved with what you love, connect to the faculty, staff, and students you work with. The only reason I even interviewed for my internship last summer was because of my connection with the Office of Sustainability. The reference I received for the internship came because I joined Eco-Reps and did more than just attend the meetings. I assisted with events, took on more responsibilities each semester, and established relationships with the people there. I built a reputation which demonstrated my passion for the organization and its goals and demonstrated my ability to communicate and live up to my commitments. Because of this commitment, when my boss in the Office of Sustainability was asked to identify particular students for the internship opportunity, she offered my name (among others) to the company. I couldn't have imagined that following my environmental passions on such a simple level would connect me to such a rewarding internship experience through the relationships I formed with staff members at Lehigh.

It was important to establish a reputation with my Director, who shared “As part of the Eco-Rep Leadership Program, Matthew is responsible for engaging peers in understanding complex topics while identifying simple everyday behavior changes that make an impact. In his leadership role within the Office of Sustainability, he demonstrated how to successfully personalize these topics and what messages and information was going to resonate with his audience. These communication, public speaking, marketing and data visualization skills have been key to his success in the office. In addition, he showed us that he had a great work ethic and a real growth mindset. When OSIsoft asked for a student that could imagine the user experience and design an interface for a campus metabolism dashboard, as well as think creatively about how to illustrate technical data, I thought of Matthew. Through the position with the Office of Sustainability, he had already demonstrated how he was leveraging his coursework with his passion for sustainability to make a difference on campus. I believed these skills could translate to the internship with OSIsoft.” References can be critical, and it was through my on campus position that I established relationships and referrals which made a difference in my internship application.

Lastly, be open to the unexpected. I almost didn’t apply to this internship. I am a designer and biomaterials engineer interested in textiles, wearable technology, and the human body. In my mind those interests and a software company did not connect. What I did not realize at the time was that the company was looking for precisely someone who had no coding, software, or computer experience to bring a fresh, non-technical perspective to the project. Only because I was open to exploring the option and asking questions was I able to benefit from the unexpected opportunity.

Learn from me

The Campus Metabolism project is ongoing, and one of the questions we continue to ask is how can we use Lehigh resource usage data to affect behavior change? I challenge you to do the same with my story and find a behavioral change you can make when it comes to preparing for your career.

  • How can you apply your passion to Lehigh?

  • How can you develop relationships with the Lehigh community?

  • And how can you embrace something new?

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