January 25, 2024

Career Pathways: One Student. Two Alumni. One Renewable Energy Company.

Lena Essak BA ’24 spent her summer as a paid community relations intern in the Portland office of EDP Renewables. Thanks to the Bates Center Summer Sustainability Internship course, she was able to learn, grow, and gain hands-on experience while working alongside two supportive Lewis & Clark alumni.

By the year 2030, it’s projected that the United States could add more than 1.6 million new jobs in the clean energy sector, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. So how can Lewis & Clark students gain hands-on experience to prepare for these promising careers? Often through connections with L&C alumni who are already working in the green sector.

Lena Essak BA ’24 spent her summer as a paid community relations intern in the Portland office of EDP Renewables, an international company that constructs and operates wind farms and solar parks throughout North America. She worked alongside two L&C alumni, Project Developer Qwynci Bowman BA ’23 and Community Relations Manager Julia McPherson BA ’19.

Essak connected with EDP through the Bates Center Summer Sustainability Internship course, a joint venture of the Office of Sustainability and the Bates Center for Entrepreneurship and Leadership. The four-credit course includes an in-class component as well as an 8- to 12-week paid internship during the summer.

  • Sustainability prepares students for life after L&C because it forces us to think about the future implications of our actions and the communities they will affect.

    Qwynci Bowman BA ’23
    Austin, Texas
    More about Qwynci
  • L&C strives to be a responsible, accountable actor in terms of sustainability and overall impact. For an institution of this size, I’ve been really impressed with the commitments and innovative solutions pursued.

    Julia McPherson BA ’19
    Wilmington, North Carolina and Portland, Oregon
    More about Julia
  • I believe working in renewables is one of the most effective ways I can be involved in sustainability efforts that make a real difference.

    Lena Essak BA ’24
    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    More about Lena

Amy Dvorak, senior director of sustainability, teaches the course and helps students connect with an established network of Portland-area green employers, many of whom already employ Lewis & Clark graduates.

“Partnering with employers that have L&C alumni on staff, such as EDP Renewables, creates avenues for mentorship, guidance, and potential job opportunities,” says Dvorak. “Students gain workplace insights and skills while building their career network.”

McPherson, Bowman, and Essak have clearly benefited from their shared Lewis & Clark connections. As a student, Bowman interned under McPherson and was offered a full-time job at the company after graduation. Then Essak connected with Bowman and followed in her footsteps to become an EDP Renewables intern.

By creating a seamless transition from the classroom to the professional world, Lewis & Clark’s sustainability internship course is helping prepare graduates for the environmental careers of both today and tomorrow.

Summer Sustainability Internship Class Sustainability Bates Center for Entrepreneurship and Leadership