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Working on a sustainable summer

Meet Tionge Nakazwe, this year’s summer undergraduate intern in the UMass Chan Office of Sustainability. She is a rising junior at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she is majoring in environmental and sustainability studies.

Nakazwe was born in Zambia and moved to Worcester with her family when she was five years old. She remembers being interested in biology and the natural world since she was very young. That interest crystalized into a career path while she was a student at Doherty Memorial High School in Worcester.

“In my sophomore year I joined the Envirothon Club and that was a great introduction to environmentalism and sustainability topics,” Nakazwe said.

The club participates in the Massachusetts Envirothon, an annual competition run by a network of scientists, educators, local officials and others seeking to foster the next generation of environmentally literate citizens. It is part the State Commission for the Conservation of Soil, Water and Related Resources.

Nakazwe said Doherty’s Envirothon Club advisor Stacey Hill (who is also an AP Biology teacher) was an impactful mentor.  “Mrs. Hill is great. We learned about soil, wildlife, water and many other issues,” Nakazwe said. “My top two interests right now are sustainable food systems and biodiversity. I hope to do research and also policy work that leads to changes that help people live healthier lives.”

Over the summer Nakazwe will be working with Kortni Wroten, UMass Chan’s sustainability and energy manager, on two main projects: inventorying the -80º freezers on campus to assess their energy usage and consider ways to improve efficiency; and promoting sustainable food practices used on campus by NexDine and Sodexo.

When she returns to WPI in the fall, Nakazwe will go Cape Town, South Africa to work on an Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP), one of WPI’s required project experiences. IQPs are planned and conducted by interdisciplinary teams of students and faculty working with local leaders, using science, engineering and community engagement to solve specific problems. In recent years, WPI’s Cape Town project center teams have completed projects on water quality, sanitation, housing provision, flood prevention, food security, and sustainable livelihoods among others.

“The Office of Sustainability is very pleased to work with Tionge this summer,” Wroten said. “Her knowledge, creativity, and passion for sustainability are engaging and I know will help her connect with the UMass Chan community as well as advance the goals set out in the University’s Sustainability and Climate Action Plan.”