Student Stories: Monika Mann
Monika Mann is an up-and-coming junior studying Environmental Science, Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. This summer she joined the Southeast Como Improvement Association (SECIA) as their Environment Committee Intern. She recently sat down with me to share her experience as an intern thus far.
What is SECIA?:
SECIA is a neighborhood association that was created for the Como Neighborhood in 1994. SECIA’s mission is to maintain and enhance the physical, social, and economic environment of the neighborhood. They strive to do so through programs that serve the community’s present and future needs, through communication, stewardship, and citizen involvement. They strive to foster a sense of community and to promote the neighborhood as a vibrant place to live and work.
How did you come across this internship opportunity?
I first heard about the internship opportunity at the Environmental Career Fair at the University of Minnesota. I saw the booth and got to hear about about SECIA and it sparked my interest for working for them. The most interesting part about the opportunity to me was the community garden that they had. I think urban agriculture is such a great way to improve community involvement as well as an easy way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by eating local.
What are your tasks or duties as an intern at SECIA?
As an intern at SECIA, my duties involve being an assistant to Cody Olson, the head of the organization and the Environmental Committee as well as working in the community garden. Not only do I spend a couple hours a week working in the community garden, but I also help plan the monthly garden events that are open to the public.
What kind of skills are you gaining from your internship?
My internship has allowed me to gain a wide variety of skills. I have learned about plants as well as general gardening practices. Learning how to build a bread oven has definitely been the coolest part of my internship so far. I have also learned about what it’s like to work for a non-profit and how that is different from a for-profit business. Interning with SECIA, I have realized that the organization is focused on serving the community, without money being the motivator. Many of the events that are put together happen because of a team effort, everyone brings what they can to the table to make it happen.
How do you see yourself applying this internship to your future career or life as a student working in sustainability?
After my internship is over, I know I’ll become a strong advocate for community gardens. I see the importance and value that comes from sourcing your food locally. There’s something incredible about growing and knowing where the food you eat or buy comes from. In my future career, I hope to get businesses to move towards a zero-waste model by using decomposable utensils and take out containers as well as composting instead of throwing food out. This internship experience is allowing me to see how you can transform and create an initiative, such as a community garden, sustainably. As a student, I can encourage my peers to participate in community gardens, and hopefully help them see its value.
What are you most excited about working with SECIA?
I am most excited to get to be a part of a neighborhood committee because of the wide variety of people that it will allow me to interact and serve with. I’ve gotten to meet so many amazing people from different backgrounds and walks of life, and am seeing how making these connections creates a positive and enjoyable working environment.
Is there anything that you didn’t expect coming into the internship that you now know and realize?
I didn’t realize how independent my internship was going to be and the position of influence that I would be put in. I kind of thought that someone was going to hold my hand through the process. The internship has been very much the opposite because of the changes in the organization. Because of this, I feel a lot more confident working on projects independently and figuring out other jobs to keep myself busy when there are no’t projects that need to be immediately done.
What has been the biggest takeaway you’ve learned/want to learn with the internship?
The biggest take away I have had from this internship aside from my new gardening/bread oven making skills is understanding how important it is to be flexible. SECIA has gone through some staff and location changes this summer which has led my internship to be less structured than I originally thought. These changesd have not stopped SECIA from working hard to improve the neighborhood. The changes have taught me how important it is to be able to roll with the punches, so I can provide support for an organization.
How can students and others get involved with SECIA?
You can email SECIA to find more ways to get involved. We are always looking for more gardeners!
Are there any events happening soon?
Yes! We have monthly events at the garden. Our big pizza event is on July 9th from 5-8 PM. We are opening our bread oven to the public and there will be free pizza! All of the toppings will be from the garden. If you wish to come please RSVP on Facebook so we can provide enough pizza for everyone!