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Sustainability Student Assistants' Exit Interview

Published December 10, 2019

The Office of Sustainability on campus is the home of the university's sustainability programs and initiatives, from our efforts around climate action and zero waste to our annual Earth Day celebrations each spring. With only two full-time staff members, the Office relies heavily on the help and skills of Student Assistants, interns, and volunteers who come to us from a variety of majors and disciplines to support various aspects of campus sustainability programs.  As the Sustainability Coordinator, I have had the pleasure of working with so many talented and passionate CSULB students over the past 5 years, including two of our most recent Student Assistants Amanda Nazareno and Valerie Palacios. I have seen both of these fine young ladies grow and develop their professional skills during their time with us, and as they prepare to leave our office soon, I thought it would be a good time to conduct an "exit interview" with them to provide an opportunity for them to share a bit about their experience. 

Amanda Nazareno 

Graphic Design Major

Amanda is pursuing a BFA degree in graphic design and will be graduating in May 2020. Her responsibilities in our office consist of graphic design work for our event flyers, program reports, online content, social media graphics, promotional materials, educational signage and other outreach materials. She is an extremely talented designer and her skills have elevated the look and branding of our sustainability outreach materials to a high level! 


1. When did you start working with the Office of Sustainability?


"I began as an unpaid student assistant in August of 2018. I applied for the 'graphic design internship.'"


2. What originally attracted you to your position?


"I have worked in everything from restaurants to fast food to retail. While I have learned many valuable lessons from each, school often makes it difficult to keep up with a 20+ hour work week including commute time. I am in the BFA program for Graphic Design and unlike other majors, my studio classes are around 3 hours twice a week. Therefore, as a full-time student, I’m in class for up to 20 hours a week and this doesn’t include the time I need to work on my projects outside of class. It was a struggle working all day or taking overnight shifts over the weekend while trying to balance school work.

This position was the best of both worlds. I could finally work my first design job and get office experience that we don’t learn in school. I get to work on campus, cutting commute time, and I only work during the week leaving my weekends free for homework. It was a no brainer for me to apply for this position!"


3. What have you enjoyed most about working here? What skills do you feel you gained or improved through the experience?


"My favorite part of my job is the people I am surrounded with. While students come and go as new opportunities arise, it always feels like a family. Your supervisors and bosses care about your well being and want to make sure you are just as much a part of the work as they are. I appreciate the office culture they have cultivated here at the Office of Sustainability. Everyone treats each other with respect and empowers one another.

I think the biggest takeaway I have gained from this position is the ability to work with non-designers. My entire program is working with fellow peers and professors who are immersed into the design world. We understand the programs like the back of our hands. The work ethic and method of design is somewhat similar. But when you collaborate, you have to assimilate to the pace of a different mindset. I have had the chance to work with students studying marketing, film, engineering, design, etc. I appreciated the various perspectives which contributed to my work and ultimately my strength as a designer."


4. Do you think that your understanding of sustainability issues and solutions has changed during your time with us? If so, how?


"10000%! Truthfully, coming into this position I didn’t know much at all about sustainability. I could briefly explain recycling, but I wasn’t aware of the extent the campus does to promote better practices. By creating flyers, posters and social media graphics for events or just educational pieces for students, I have learned an overwhelming amount about sustainability issues on campus, within the city and on a global aspect. This position also includes participating in events such as tabling or attending seminars and this contributes to your education as a student assistant at the Office of Sustainability. The more I talked to other students about sustainability, the more I began to understand the concepts and solutions! I have definitely integrated these ideals and practices into my everyday life. I am conscious about where I purchase from, how much waste I create and ways to help educate family or friends!"


5. Do you foresee sustainability being a part of your future career? If so, how?


"Absolutely, while my ultimate goal is to end up in packaging for spirits and alcohol. I have genuinely considered working in the sustainable fashion industry as a graphic designer in marketing or packaging. This position has shown me so many ways to better integrate ethical practices in a pedestrian setting like an office. So even if I don't end up in a career involved with sustainability I am definitely going to help educate my future work cohorts on how to be better humans to our planet!"Valerie


Valerie Rose Palacios

Psychology Major, Marketing  & Photography Minors

Valerie is responsible for developing and maintaining our social media content, producing our monthly newsletter, and creating content for our website. Valerie's work ethic, passion, quality of work and dedication are impressive and we have been fortunate to have her on our team for two years now! She has improved our outreach and communications program and efforts tremendously during that time and, like Amanda, we know she will go far! 

1.   When did you start working with the Office of Sustainability?

"I started working at the Office of Sustainability in January 2017 as the Communications and Outreach Student Assistant."

2.   What originally attracted you to your position?

"I was thrilled to learn about an on-campus opportunity to work in the career field I want to go into. I am a full time student with a long commute, so I was also attracted to the flexibility and proximity of this job."

3.   What have you enjoyed most about working here? What skills do you feel you gained or improved through the experience?

"Without a doubt, the people I have met. The Office of Sustainability is a very comfortable, diverse and collaborative work environment. From the start, I felt like my voice and opinions mattered and this helped me to gain the confidence and skill set to stand out in future jobs. My supervisors, bosses and coworkers set the bar high for future employers and work environments. They all care about your mental wellbeing and make the effort to get to know you professionally and personally. I also enjoyed having the opportunity to spread positive messages through the CSULB Sustainability platform. This experience taught me the importance of community connectivity and outreach.

During this internship, I was able to strengthen my marketing and communications skills. Compared to when I first started off, I feel much more prepared and confident in my ability to take on more roles and responsibilities in my career field. One of the biggest skills I built on is creating relationships with partners. I had the opportunity to collaborate with many community partners and members whose goals aligned with ours in terms of creating a more resilient environment. Learning about all these individuals who are doing great things was such an inspiration and was part of what made me excited to go to work."

4.   Do you think that your understanding of sustainability issues and solutions has changed during your time with us? If so, how?

"A huge YES! To be honest, I did not know too much about sustainability when I first started the job (as compared to now). My psychology, marketing and photography courses taught me many skills that I use in the day to day job now, but I knew that to effectively communicate information about sustainability and advocate sustainable lifestyles, habits, policies, practices, etc. that I would have to learn more about the topic. Engaging in conversations and being involved with environmental-related problems taught me a lot about how sustainability applies to every facet of life. 

The biggest takeaway for me is that the solutions exist and we, as a society, have so much potential to put these solutions to play. It’s easy to feel down thinking about all the environmental issues and threats looming over our heads and to feel helpless thinking that I alone can’t do anything about it. However, there are so many ways to be a part of something bigger and create a healthier environment."

5.   Do you foresee sustainability being a part of your future career? If so, how?

"Without a doubt! Having a role that involves sustainability is very important to me. I see myself taking on roles to help companies adopt more sustainable practices. As I have learned during the internship, there are countless ways to do this!"



Our Office of Sustainability is like a little family and we are always sad to see our Student Assistants go! But every one of them that have passed through our office have gone on to do great things and we have no doubt these ladies will also continue to make us proud!