Lincoln University renewed its partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, which could help break down barriers for student internships.
Meg McCollister, a regional administrator for the EPA, visited Lincoln University on Tuesday to sign the agency's sixth partnership agreement with the university, which extends collaboration through 2027.
The federal agency and state university, which have worked together for the past 25 years, agreed to continue a shared mission of promoting environmental research, scientific collaboration and career opportunities for students.
"This demonstrates what partnership is: that long-term relationship and being able to continually tailor what works for everyone," McCollister said. "I think the relationship has to continue to evolve to make sure that it's working for all parties."
Through conversations with faculty and students, McCollister said she's getting a better idea of what has worked well for the relationship in the past and what new resource opportunities the EPA can provide.
McCollister said she's particularly interested in breaking down barriers for students at Lincoln.
"We talk a lot, when we're talking about environmental justice, about breaking down barriers for people, and that also applies to making sure you have access to information that's helpful in applying for internships or jobs," she said.
McCollister was a former EPA intern and said the conversation about how to expand access to the agency's internship program is one she wants to continue. She said the internship process is often cumbersome. Some internships are not paid, which she said makes it more difficult for low-income students to use.
One option the EPA is considering is like an internship for college credit. Students could identify a research project to work on with LU staff and, if approved, someone from the EPA. The time spent on the project could count for course credit at Lincoln and the student could present the research at conferences.
Continued collaboration with LU faculty and staff is crucial for improving the EPA's offerings, McCollister said, because they're an integral part of reaching students daily.
"I think those are things that we need to take into consideration, and I'm so appreciative of those types of conversations because that's how we're going to continue to have another 25 years of great partnership," she said.
McCollister said the conversations she had with students and faculty while on campus Tuesday were engaging and she hopes to continue those as the partnership continues.
University President John Moseley said the renewed partnership is an exciting opportunity for Lincoln to explore ways in which faculty, staff and students can work with the EPA on projects.
"It gives us another chance to highlight the tremendous research that is taking place on this campus and the ways in which it goes about serving and improving the lives of citizens throughout the country and the world each and every day," Moseley said.
McCollister said she expects EPA staff to be an incredible resource for Lincoln, and the perspective from students and university researchers will be helpful in shaping the work EPA does.
"You're the future," McCollister told LU students. "We do incredible work, don't get me wrong, we do incredible work in the EPA, but you're also the future of the environment, of agriculture, of all the innovation that's going on in both of those areas."
CORRECTION: This article was edited at 1:10 p.m. April 27, 2022, to reflect that some, but not all, of the EPA internships are unpaid positions.