by Kenzley Defler, Energy Justice Organizer for Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition
When reflecting on my personal engagement as a student at Auburn, I honestly don’t know quite where to begin. From running on the cross country and track team to volunteering with the Campus Kitchens Project to researching causes of a local cancer cluster to working at the Office of Sustainability; I kept very busy and did a little bit of everything!
At the time, the intense level of dedication needed to balance a packed extracurricular schedule with maintaining good grades and having a social life felt necessary. I felt pressure to figure out exactly what career I wanted, which was a difficult task considering my wide variety of sustainability related interests.
Looking back, none of my college engagements determined the “perfect career path” for me, however, each of those different involvements gave me a bit more insight into what I was looking for in future jobs. My on-campus involvements made me realize my need to work in an area I’m genuinely passionate about. I need to feel like my work is making a positive impact on the community and world around me. Through food security, community health, and sustainability related positions in college, I reinforced my desire to always work in a field fighting climate change and that addresses community and social concerns as well as the environmental aspects. From working with so many inspiring students, staff, and professors at Auburn, I realized the importance of the workplace environment and have since sought out jobs where I know my teams will be equally dedicated, passionate, and supportive of me. Being so heavily involved in such different activities as a student taught me that I’m most fulfilled by a work balance that includes a mix of leadership, planning, organizational, and hands-on tasks.
While I may have graduated without a long-term career plan, the lessons learned from on campus extracurricular engagement shaped my post-graduation plans more than I imagined. I gained so many insights about my job interests that have ultimately led me to where I am now – very happily working at the Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition where I organize community efforts around energy justice; on the Board of Directors for Green Star of Interior Alaska where I support the organization’s recycling efforts; and staying involved with Auburn through the Sustainability Auburn Alumni Affiliate.
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