Sustainable City

RC_Apr14_CityHall-3Recent graduate finds ways Lynchburg could save millions

The City of Lynchburg may not have had a job title for Julia Kim ’14, but it did have plenty of valuable work for her to do. Earlier this year, Kim took the initiative to create her own sustainability internship with the city. Just a few weeks later, she was knee-deep in several projects that city staff had wanted to pursue, but did not have the time to complete.

“She did what I want every city employee to do, which is embrace the project and go to work,” said Bonnie Svrcek, deputy city manager. “She executed as well as any professional working for the city.”

Kim majored in economics at Randolph, but she developed an interest in sustainability while testing water quality for an environmental studies class during her first year. “The more I do research on these things, the more I realize how important it is to minimize our impact on the environment,” she said.

RC_Apr14_CityHall-16That class also sparked a friendship with Karin Warren, the Herzog Family Chair in Environmental Studies. “She was always welcoming and approachable, so since then, I visited her whenever I was able just to chat,” Kim said. Warren became Kim’s advisor for her environmental studies minor.

Last fall, Kim asked Warren for advice on preparing for a career.

“She wanted experience that would use her economics background, but she was really passionate about environmental studies and research,” Warren recalled. She suggested that Kim pursue an internship in sustainable urban development. Later, Kim e-mailed city officials, who decided to create an internship for her.

Kim’s first task was to develop a brochure about city resources available for community gardens. Next, she analyzed records of the city’s health insurance expenditures and identified areas where the city could reduce prescription costs by helping employees live healthier lifestyles. Finally, she analyzed the city’s streetlight usage and discovered that the city could save millions of dollars by switching to LED street lamps.

Kim’s experience is a perfect example of how internships help students apply the skills that they learn in the classroom, Warren said. Like many Randolph professors, Warren encourages all of her students to think about internships that could help them explore careers. This is a growing part of the Randolph Plan, the College’s advising program.

Preparing students for careers is an important part of a liberal arts education, and it is entirely compatible with helping students develop communication skills, research acumen, critical thinking, and moral reasoning, according to Warren.

“This type of education helps prepare students for the demands of this job market,” she said. “That’s something we can embrace in a way that does not deny our liberal arts mission. In a way, that embraces our mission and helps the world see how valuable it is.”