Environmental luncheon opens doors for students

Ellie Phillips

About 30 people gathered Friday in the Kirkhof Center for the first annual Environmental Employers Luncheon sponsored by the Environmental Studies department at Grand Valley State University.

Representatives from 20 different employers in the field were in attendance, as well as GVSU faculty members and students.

“The goal of this event is to bring GVSU seniors interested in environmental careers and faculty with prospective employers to build stronger partnerships and help students to integrate in the professional world,” said Elena Lioubimtseva, director of the Environmental Studies program at GVSU. “We’re trying to match student skills to employer needs.”

The 11 students at the luncheon were from diverse majors, but they all were minoring in environmental studies. Part of the purpose behind the luncheon was to show the students that there are jobs and careers in the field of environmental studies that involve their majors, from geographical information systems to marketing and biology.

“Environmental studies is for everyone,” said Janet Vail, associate research scientist at GVSU’s Annis Water Resources Institute. “It’s a very diverse group, and everybody in my class (Environmental Studies 201) feels comfortable sharing their opinion.”

The event also served to help students learn about internship and job opportunities that they may not have been aware of, as well as giving them a boost toward improving themselves.

“One of your colleagues, Dr. Craig Benjamin, likes to say, ‘You owe it to yourself to see what your potential is,’ and that’s what we’re doing here,” said Bart Merkle, dean of students and vice provost for Student Affairs. “We’re working to help students become good critical thinkers, communicators, leaders and team workers.”

Norman Christopher, the executive director for GVSU’s Sustainable Community Development Initiative, agreed.

“How you look at the future shapes who you will be in the future,” he said.

The luncheon wasn’t just for the students, though; the employers got something out of it, too. They were able to sit and brainstorm with the students and other employers about various difficulties related to working with students and recent graduates.

The luncheon also acted as a networking event, creating connections for the attending individuals to make use of later in their lives and careers.

“One person can’t do it alone,” said Melanie Manion, a natural resources management supervisor at Ottawa County Parks. “We all have to work together to solve the problems we have today.”