As we celebrate all Wake Forest graduates this spring, we want to give special recognition to the Sustainability Intern Class of 2024. Entering college during the heart of a global pandemic, the future of these students was shrouded in uncertainty. Nevertheless, they all found their place at Wake Forest, their “home within a home” with the Office of Sustainability, and a way to leave a lasting impact at their alma mater.

We share our appreciation for these ten students and their combined 23 semesters of service as sustainability interns. We have enjoyed working with each and every one of them over the past four years and cannot wait to see the positive impact they’ll have on the world in their post-Wake lives. 

Dan O’Connell

Sustainable Dining – Carbon Reduction Intern: Fall 2023, Spring 2024

First-Year Leadership Intern: Fall 2021, Spring 2022

Dan graduated with a BA in politics and international affairs and economics and a minor in music. He will be moving to New York City this summer to pursue his JD at Fordham University School of Law. 

One of the two longest-tenured interns in the Class of 2024, Dan has been a committed leader with the Office of Sustainability since he first set foot on campus. After serving as member of SLG ‘24 during his first year on campus, Dan went on to lead the program his sophomore year, helping to solidify its role in the development of future sustainability leaders. He returned to the team his senior year, completing valuable studies that will help Wake Forest reduce its carbon footprint through dining operations. Dan’s maturity, analytical mind, and desire to make a difference will make him a force to be reckoned with as he pursues a career in environmental law.

Emy Yamamoto

Events Intern: Fall 2023, Spring 2024

Environmental Education Intern: Fall 2021, Spring 2022

Emy graduated with a BS in business and enterprise management and psychology and a minor in writing. 

Like Dan, Emy started her Wake Forest journey as a member of SLG ‘24 and has been a consistent presence ever since. Emy’s calm, friendly demeanor made her a hit with area youth as she served as an Environmental Education Intern her sophomore year, bringing sustainability curricula to local middle schoolers and greatly expanding the reach of Piedmont Environmental Alliance’s program. This past year, she leveraged her numerous connections on campus — APO, Student Union, and many more — to bring sustainable event planning education to leaders in at least 40 different student organizations. Emy’s quiet confidence and impressive skill set will serve her well in her post-Wake life. 

Kristin Taylor

Campus Garden Intern: Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Spring 2024

Kristin graduated cum laude with a BA in politics and international affairs with honors and a minor in writing. She has accepted a position as an Associate in the Emerging Leader Program at Fidelity Investments in Dallas, TX.

One of two graduating Campus Garden Interns, Kristin was always a friendly face to welcome students, faculty, and staff to the garden. Her natural abilities as both a leader and educator were invaluable to the Campus Garden’s role as an outdoor learning space, and her steady hand was vital in keeping the garden going strong during a period of staff transition. A 2023 Earth Talks presenter, Kristin also proved her mettle as a public speaker, illuminating the challenge of global collective action in the fight against climate change. While we will certainly miss her at Wake, we are excited to see the impact she will make in her new role. 

Mia Handler

Campus Garden Intern: Fall 2023, Spring 2024

Mia graduated magna cum laude with a BA in sociology with honors and minors in environmental studies and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. She will soon be moving to Bozeman, MT to begin work as a full-time farm hand at Chance Farm.

While Mia may not have become a sustainability intern until her senior year, she previously served as a dedicated and skilled Connect and Cultivate leader in the Campus Garden. Always one of the first people to volunteer her time and lend a helping hand, Mia made an immediate impact upon joining the team, taking the lead on getting the compost system up and running again after the summer lull and introducing countless new Wake Forest students to the wonders of the garden. A skilled farmer and educator, we are thrilled that Mia is taking her passion for regenerative agriculture to the next level. 

Olivia Page

Social Media & Graphic Design Intern: Fall 2022, Spring 2023

Olivia will graduate with a BS in business and enterprise management and minors in psychology and studio art. She was awarded the John Belk Stevens Scholarship for excellence in marketing.

It’s difficult to determine which was more impressive: Liv’s prowess with graphic design and social media or her tireless work ethic. As the creative force behind much of the Office of Sustainability’s marketing materials, her work helped to draw students, faculty, and staff to the office’s initiatives. Liv did all of this while exuding kindness, patience, and an ardent desire to help others. Her unique skill set, diverse interests, and can-do attitude will take her far, and we are excited to see where her journey will lead her. 

Mary Elizabeth Pifer 

Waste Reduction & Diversion Intern: Fall 2023, Spring 2024

Mary Elizabeth graduated with a BA in environment and sustainability studies and a minor in studio art. She was recognized with the Environment and Sustainability Studies Award and as an OCCE Civic Scholar. After traveling around Asia this summer, Mary Elizabeth looks forward to pursuing a role that centers social and environmental impact. 

Mary Elizabeth certainly made a name for herself this year as she put together one of the more successful student-run events in recent memory, achieving multiple layers of impact. Her “Spring Clean Out: Buy Nothing Sale” garnered hundreds of participants and simultaneously normalized the practice of buying secondhand, collected donations to benefit the Winston-Salem community, and got students to plan ahead in utilizing the Deacs Donate program to reduce waste during move-out. Mary Elizabeth’s commitment to process and her persistence in the face of adversity leave us confident of her future impact beyond Wake Forest.

Sarah Whitney

Energy – Carbon Data Intern: Fall 2023, Spring 2024

Sarah graduated with a BA in Environmental Science. This fall, she will begin pursuing her MSc in Environmental Sustainability at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

One of three senior additions to this year’s intern team, Sarah wasted no time in diving head first into data, working under the guidance of Assistant Director for Utilities Jimmy Nifong. Her contributions were vital to tracking carbon emissions as Wake Forest works towards its 2040 climate neutrality goal, and her positive attitude made her a pleasure to work with. We’re excited for her to take her passion for sustainability across the pond in the fall as she continues her educational pursuits. 

Tyria Zanders

Campus Garden Intern: Fall 2021, Spring 2022

Ty graduated with a BS in biology and a minor in environmental science in December 2023. She is now working as a Hydrological Technician with the US Geological Survey in Baton Rouge, LA.

Ty joined the sustainability intern team her sophomore year after displaying an impressive commitment to the Campus Garden a year prior. Her knowledge and skills belied her age and she was instrumental to the rapid growth in student participation in the garden. An extremely hard worker, it was no surprise to see Ty graduate a semester early and land a job that combines her love of science and the outdoors. We look forward to watching her grow in her career. 

Lila Gneiting

Campus Garden Intern: Fall 2022, Summer 2023

Lila graduated with a BA in economics and a minor in Latin American and Latino studies. 

In addition to her semester as a Campus Garden intern, Lila also spent last summer tending to the space during the heart of the growing season. Her garden knowledge and skill set served a much needed role and her sharp wit and sense of humor made her a beloved addition to the intern team. We know that her legacy of exceptional chicken care will live on and we are excited to see where her journey will take her next.

Una Wilson

Communications & Events Intern: Fall 2022

Una graduated with a BA in biology and minors in environmental studies and journalism. She was awarded the Guy T. Carswell Merit Scholarship and, in 2022, received a Champions of Change Student Leadership award from the Office of Sustainability. She was also named a 2023 Pulitzer Center Fellow. Following graduation, Una will be pursuing the completion of her Pulitzer Center reporting project about the impact of citizen-led community gardens on food insecurity in Mexico City.

Una’s single semester as a sustainability intern belies her incalculable impact at Wake Forest. In addition to being instrumental in the Office of Sustainability’s event planning and communication efforts in the fall of 2022, she was a key member of SLG ‘24, a two-time Earth Talks presenter, a driving force behind the emergence and growth of the Old Gold & Black’s Environment section, an advocate for environmental justice, and the creator of this spring’s Fungi Fest, part of Earth Month 2024. Equal parts ideator, innovator, and communicator, Una came to Wake to make a difference and certainly accomplished that. Her future — whether in journalism, mycology, or something else altogether — is exceptionally bright.