Cassandra Fowler

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh senior Cassandra Fowler, who is double-majoring in environmental studies and biology, has worked as a STEP intern in the Sustainability Office for nearly three years where she manages spreadsheets for sustainability efforts at UW Oshkosh.

In her role as sustainability reporter, Fowler said she has gained a lot of skills with working with data and making it usable, as well as improving her communication skills. STEP stands for Student Titan Employment Program; internships through the program are aimed at giving UW Oshkosh students high-impact, campus-based opportunities in their area of study.

“I’ve learn how to write an email and relay information in different ways to make things less confusing for people,” Fowler said. “It’s helped me bring people from different disciplines together for one goal.”

In her role in the Sustainability Office, Fowler compiles data for the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System(STARS), which is a framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. STARS is a program of the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. UW Oshkosh received a gold rating from STARS in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

“AASHE STARS measures water consumption, energy consumption, emissions levels, climate commitment and more,” Fowler said. “I started the process of collecting data for the reports, which were due in March, in August 2014. It’s a huge task to coordinate the data from so many sources around campus, but it has really helped me see the different aspects of sustainability and the infinite number of opportunities to get involved.”

The data Fowler compiles for STARS is also used in the Sierra Club Cool Schools List ranking. UW Oshkosh ranked No. 3 out of 153 schools in 2015, the highest ranking UW Oshkosh previously held was No. 14.

“Annual reporting of sustainability data involves collecting information from many units across campus. It’s a big job! Cassandra has been the Sustainability Office intern charged with leading the effort to coordinate the collection of these data,” Brian Kermath, sustainability director, said. “She’s done a stellar job and it shows in our national standing. ”

In addition to her internship in the Sustainability Office, Fowler works as a student employee in the Administrative Services office and is the Oshkosh Student Association (OSA) sustainability director.

“My internship has allowed me to take charge of my college experience, get more involved on campus and realize my own potential,” Fowler said. “I find myself taking what I am learning at my internship into the classroom, as well as taking what I am learning in the classroom and applying it at my internship.”

“Internships are important because they afford students the opportunity to apply what they learn formally through the curriculum in a hands-on setting,” Kermath said. “They also allow students to reflect on what they learn in the classroom by looking at how things play out in the real world.”