Danica Yu graduated from WashU in 2015 with majors in Environmental Policy and Anthropology: Global Health & Environment. She helped develop and grow the Green Office Program during her seven semesters as one of the first interns at the Office of Sustainability. In February, she traveled from California to attend the 2nd annual Green Carpet Awards, the ceremony recognizing Green Office participants and Sustainability Leadership awardees.
Cara Cook, a current Green Office intern, had the chance to interview her about her current position and time at WashU.
How did you become involved as an intern with the Office of Sustainability?
I started as a freshman when the Office of Sustainability first started the intern program. I remember I almost didn’t apply because everything was so new to me as a freshman, but in the end, I decided to. When I started, I worked on the launch of the Green Office program with another intern, a senior. It was part of a shift away from student and operational programs and toward a new focus on buildings and programs involving staff and faculty. I continued as an intern the next summer and had the chance to work on some other projects. I worked with the Office of Sustainability for all but one semester, when I went abroad to Cape Town.
What were some of your biggest challenges as an intern in the Green Office Program?
Because we were launching a new program, our biggest challenge was making the decisions about how it would work. We also worked hard to create buy-in from staff and to find champions willing to bring the program to their offices. We had some offices pilot the checklist, and in the end, we found it was so important to have those offices who supported the program at the beginning; they helped legitimize the program and made sure it would last. From a student perspective, I also had to learn how an office works. A major challenge for me was learning how to interact with staff and faculty, especially since I was a new intern and a freshman.
Having graduated three years ago, what changes do you notice in sustainability at WashU?
Coming back to WashU, the Office of Sustainability and its intern program are so robust. Looking back, I feel lucky to have been there when everything was new. There was a lot of growth in sustainability while I was a student; I was in the first class to have the Environmental Policy track in the Environmental Studies major, as well as the Global Health and Environment track in the Anthropology major. I also remember volunteering with the WashU Green Ambassador program sophomore year when it first started. Now, I think there’s a lot more student interest, staff, and funding dedicated to sustainability. Phil has also been instrumental in creating a clear vision, involving a robust set of stakeholders, and developing genuine relationships with students.
What are you doing now? Do you still work in sustainability?
I’m a Program Manager at Google for Google My Business. I act as a liaison for the engineering teams in the program, helping them to work with the other interdependent teams. I was hired by Google out of school to work in HR, and now I’m enjoying getting more experience on the engineering side. I wanted to stay connected to sustainability when I started at Google, so I did an internal directory search to find people within Google working in sustainability. I met a Program Manager who was using Google Earth to track climate change, and that’s where I got the idea to switch to program management. I worked with him on a side project for about two years while I worked in HR. While in HR, I completed a rotation on a diversity-focused team, and I really enjoyed that since I’m especially interested in environmental justice. Google also holds lots of talks for their employees, so I’ve been able to meet people interested in sustainability that way.
How have your experiences with the Office of Sustainability influenced your professional life?
My internship has had a major impact on my professional life. I learned how to work in an office and how to be professional, to send emails, to work with others in a professional setting. As a Green Office intern, I had meetings with a lot of staff from all different offices, and that’s helped me learn how to go into a meeting with authority. Especially as a program manager, I’m not the direct manager of any of the people I’m working with, so it’s helpful to have that confidence. I also gained a greater understanding of sustainability. In high school, I took AP Environmental Science and was in our environmental club, but at WashU, my view of sustainability expanded to include policy, social justice, public health, and more. The Office of Sustainability also helped connect me to the sustainability community at WashU; I ended up serving as the sustainability adviser in Student Union. My internship was one of the most significant parts of my college experience.