Two Great Locations, One Organization

Over the years hundreds of U-M students have turned their summers into a nature-centered learning experience as interns in our Nature Academy program. The students contribute to our organization in remarkable ways and in prodigious quantities, all while engaging every department here. The other side of the story reveals how much that experience impacts the interns and inspires their worldviews—even their career choices. We talked to four interns who took the Nature Academy experience with them into the next phase of their life and career. Here are their answers, in the interns’ own words.

Yousef RabhiYousef Rabhi
Yousef’s time at the Arb and Gardens began 10 years ago, in
2007, his first summer as an intern here. Yousef returned for four more summers, through 2011. In 2010 he was elected Washtenaw County Commissioner. And in 2014 he took the job of Matthaei-Nichols’ volunteer coordinator, leaving in December 2016 after he was elected as the Michigan state representative for the 53rd House District, which includes most of Ann Arbor.

Matthaei-Nichols (MN): What impact did Matthaei-Nichols have on the work you do now?

Yousef Rabhi (YR): When I started as an intern in 2007 I had the opportunity to take care of Nichols Arboretum. For me this was part of
an ethic of stewardship and helping to maintain the Arb for students, visitors, and the community at large. When I ran for county commissioner in 2010, a lot of the same issues that I encountered as an intern came into play. Even now, if I walk through the Arb and I see a tree I planted more than 10 years ago—it’s a reminder of the work I did as an intern. As a state legislator I feel the same desire to help steward the state for the people of Michigan.

MN: What are some of your environmental passions or plans and goals for the future?

YR: I’ve been working on a number of bills related to alternative energy. I’d like to make it easier to put solar panels on residential property. I’m working closely with a bipartisan group of legislators to push that through. I’ve also got a bill that is sort of idealistic. It would require that the state switch to 100% renewable energy by 2050. I’ve believe that it’s important to set big goals if we want to start moving in the right direction!

 

Meredith BurkeMeredith Burke
Meredith Burke was summer 2016 intern in the communications department at Matthaei-Nichols, where she worked on special projects and social media. Currently she works with the Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department as a program coordinator via AmeriCorps, where she coordinates and helps with several programs, including the department’s community garden, mobile food pantry, and special events.

Matthaei-Nichols (MN): What impact did Matthaei-Nichols have on the work you do now?

Meredith Burke (MB): As an intern I helped create the Grandmother Tree Walk, the Arb and Gardens’ activity for the U-M Bicentennial. That project allowed me to develop a growing appreciation for trees, how nature works, and how to creatively share that beauty with the world—from hardcore nature-lovers to just the average person who happens to find themselves in nature. Creatively and genuinely inviting all people to see the world from different perspectives is something that I took away from my time at Matthaei-Nichols and is very much a part of my every day work and life in Colorado.

MN: What are some of your environmental passions or plans and goals for the future?

MB: I finish my term with AmeriCorps in April and plan to transition to full-time employment in Colorado Springs. There are 2,000+ non-profits here, so hopefully I’ll land somewhere continuing the work I’m currently doing. After that I hope to attend grad school at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

Joel KlannJoél Reyes-Klann
Joél was an intern here in summer 2016 and ’17. In 2017 he worked as the Julie Norris Post Heathdale intern in Nichols Arboretum. In 2016 Joél was the intern in the volunteer department at the Arb and Gardens. Currently
he is a master’s candidate at the University of Michigan School of Social Work.

Matthaei-Nichols (MN): What impact did Matthaei-Nichols have on the work you do now?

Joél Klann (JK): Working at Matthaei-Nichols for the past few years has definitely impacted the lenses through which I view the world, and was a large part of how I got to do the work I do now. I started here as a work-study, simply another less well-to-do undergrad needing a job and some spending money, but soon finding solace away from the bustle of campus while sitting in the dirt, pulling weeds, and listening to podcasts or music, if not simply enjoying ambient sounds of the Arb. As someone charged with tending the land to create a more welcoming environment, my experience here made me more deliberate and careful in the way I carry myself, as I am more aware of the power I carry and the impact I can have in any space.

MN: What are some of your environmental passions or plans and goals for the future?

JK: Being the foundation for our existence, natural areas and natural life should have a prevalent presence in our lives, especially in community life. The greater environment and the perceptions we make of it, being the cradle of all natural life and experience, should be regarded with the utmost respect. If we can lend credence to the idea that a strong, healthy environment is the platform from which life may thrive, I think the next step is working to create a coherent framework to get working to create that world.

Citralina HaruoCitralina Haruo
Citralina Haruo was a Sarah Duke Scholar and summer ‘17 intern at Matthaei-Nichols. She worked for Associate Curator David Michener on the Heritage Seed Project, whose goal is to re-matriate maize daughter seeds currently in the U-M collections back to their original communities. Citralina is an interdisciplinary specialist intern for the US Forest Service in Washburn, Wisc.

Matthaei-Nichols (MN): What impact did Matthaei-Nichols have on the work you do now?

Citralina Haruo (CH): My confidence in my capacity to be a helper at the same time that I can serve as a learner is what
changed the most from my experiences working with David. I was granted many opportunities to explore different corridors of professionalism, politics, academia, and indigeneity. Those learning and teaching moments all came at times during my internship in which I was encouraged to be autonomous and to be genuinely myself. That is what I continue to carry with me as I move through my daily routines and future planning.

MN: What are some of your environmental passions or plans and goals for the future?

CH: My dream is to work with indigenous/marginalized communities that need help creating an action plan to manage their natural resources in the face of climate change. That plan would include identifying, mitigating, and adapting to current and projected climate change impacts.

 

 

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