At the University of New Hampshire, the Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise department hosts an internship called “The Social Innovation Internship.” Social innovation starts by seeking socially responsible, environmentally responsible, as well as sustainable solutions to real-world problems.

UNH’s high impact Social Innovation Internship gives enthusiastic, high-achieving students an opportunity to broaden and apply their academic understanding and interests in a real-world setting. The 9-week, rigorous internship gives the students experience both at the host organization and with the cohort at UNH. The cohort consists of other students going through the program with other internship sites. Getting together bi-weekly encourages reflection and discussion, and direction from the facilitators can help improve on individual experiences.

ReVision Energy has had the good fortune to host Tia Floyd as a Social Innovation Intern for two summers in a row. The summer of 2017 was our first experience partnering with the summer Social Innovation Internship, and we were so pleased that Tia quickly became a part of our ever-growing family. She was hired to become a member of the Marketing and Events team in our Brentwood, NH office, and quickly found her niche within Educational and Community Outreach. One of her favorite projects happened during her first summer: Tia created a fun activity booklet for young children to learn about renewable energy – and we’re still using it today! 

Tia also hosted many events with the company, talking with folks who were interested in learning more about solar. She organized with different summer camps to create solar activities, and led a project that partnered with the all-girls STEM Engineerista summer camp at the University of New Hampshire, where she taught the young women how to solder electrical wires for a solar panel lantern alongside other women of ReVision.

“I loved the experience so much; the social innovation internship opened so many doors for me, I even had the opportunity to come back to ReVision for a second summer as part of their team in Brentwood! It’s been a great first-hand experience to start using my Communication and EcoGastronomy degree I’m working towards,” Tia attested. “Beyond learning about the field of renewable energy, I learned how a business runs efficiently and effectively on a daily basis. I value the skills that ReVision has taught me and continues to teach me. I also appreciate that the people here don’t just talk the talk. They have made these two summers infinitely better than what I had anticipated, and showed me that working for a company you love and believe in can truly make a difference in life.”

Giovanni Guglielmi, Tia’s Social Innovation Internship successor with ReVision, has also been a valuable asset to our Brentwood office this summer. Both Tia and Giovanni have said that our B Corp values are a big reason why they chose to apply for our internship. This was “G’s” first internship, and we were lucky to have him. Giovanni’s work focused more on the logistical needs of our Events and Marketing team. 

Giovanni also worked closely with Director of Marketing Development Dan Weeks on policy work involving our current congressional candidates, as well as thoroughly learning first-hand about our install process for solar through site visits, evaluations, and installations. He has even created a resolution plan to help us work toward becoming a more sustainable office.

“Although I am on the Marketing team as an environmental engineer, Revision has given me great experience with the Engineering team, as well,” Giovanni said. “I have been fortunate to observe site visits and see ReVision specialists calculate the shading and sunlight a client’s roof would receive annually, as well as service calls and the solar install process. Being part of an employee-owned B Corp that enabled me to schedule and attend local events, work with and teach congressional candidates about the importance of renewable energy, and find solutions to track and improve on the company’s environmental impact has been an unforgettable experience. I hope to find a company that mirrors the values of Revision’s team, where I can work for sustainability or green building design, which all use renewable energy for their solutions.”

We caught up with UNH’s Social Innovation Internship coordinators Faina Bukher and Dr. Fiona Wilson to ask them a couple questions about this impactful experience.

RE: What was the inspiration behind the Social Innovation Internship?

Faina: “The SII was motivated by a number of factors. First, higher education is rapidly coming to understand the power of experiential, or hands-on, learning. Not to replace the traditional classroom and the importance of giving students a strong grounding in their relevant fields, but to supplement the classroom with opportunities for students to apply what they have learned in real world settings.”

“In a recent study, UNH found that alumni who had engaged in multiple forms of this type of “high impact learning” while in college had career outcomes 2.4 times greater than those who hadn’t. In other words, high impact learning, like an internship, can be transformative when structured in the right way. The SII was also motivated by our students, who we know are demanding new models of education, and by employers, who are looking to hire graduates that have practical, as well as theoretical knowledge.”

“Lastly, it was motivated by this generation’s desire to be social activists and to work collaboratively with other towards solutions to some society’s most pressing challenges. The SII was started to connect our students with regional organizations (for-profits and non-profits) doing this work.”

RE:  From your perspective, Fiona, how have you seen the students grow during this 9-week, high-impact adventure?

Fiona: “9 weeks is a short time, but we have seen it have transformative results. For some students it has led to job offers and career opportunity. In a recent study, we found that over 50% of SIIs over the last 7 years are now working in a career that is in or uses social innovation concepts. A number of our former students have been hired by the place where they interned. For example, Zack Angelini was offered a full time position as Environmental Stewardship Manager at Timberland after his summer internship with the company in 2016. Keegan Smith is now Field Sustainability Coordinator at Coca-Cola of Northern New England after interning there in 2015, and Conor McFarland was hired by ROC NH the year following his summer internship with the non-profit.”

“More than career advancement, we’ve seen the internship help our students build their self-confidence that they are able to apply what they have learned in the classroom, build their professional networks, and build a greater sense of clarity about their future educational and career path. I think these outcomes are driven by the “scaffolding” of our program, which doesn’t just match interns with placements, but also the reflection we guide students through, helping them reflect on what they are learning and experiencing, and the training days we offer throughout the 9 weeks, focused on helping our students learn more in general about the field of social innovation, and visiting/meeting with leaders from a number of different mission driven business and nonprofits.”