Learn more about the 2016 recipients:
Emzingo, Johannesburg, South Africa
Dominique is a second year management student completing a double major in Marketing and Strategic Management. She is currently involved with Desautels’ Women in Business as Co-Head of Speaker Relations and Desautels’ Fashion Business Uncovered as Director of External Relations. Dominique is passionate about women’s empowerment and how marketing can be used as a tool towards equality. This summer, Dominique will be working for Emzingo, a Benefit Corporation that provides students the opportunity to work on the business side of nonprofits in Johannesburg, South Africa. She looks forward to using her skills as a marketing and strategy student over the summer, while also learning about the culture and nonprofit sector in South Africa.
Reach Dominique dominique.buchanan [at] mail.mcgill.ca (here).
Halfway across the world I set out to work in a country I’d never been to, on a continent I never thought I’d travel to at twenty years old. I had the incredible opportunity of working for Emzingo, a benefit corporation in Johannesburg, South Africa. Emzingo offers undergraduate students the opportunity to consult for various nonprofits and social enterprises. Emzingo’s mission is to inspire responsible leaders, and to introduce students to the idea that a business degree can lead to more than a profit-oriented job. After taking a class in my second year at McGill that focused on impact-driven corporations, I have wanted to gain a better understanding of benefit corporations and what it would be like to work for one. As a learning objective for the summer, I set out to understand how to merge business and empathy, and to discover the perfect balance of impact- and profit-maximization.
I am currently pursuing a double major in Marketing and Strategic Management, and have executive positions on two committees at McGill: Desautels’ Fashion Business Uncovered and Desautels’ Women in Business. I was excited to accept this internship because it gave me the unique opportunity to combine my field of study with my various passions.
There were two aspects to my internship this summer. As an Emzingo intern, I attended various workshops and sessions in order to learn more about responsible leadership. This gave me the opportunity to learn about South Africa’s culture, its history, and its current job market. I also learned about impact-driven leadership in broader terms, in sessions with professionals about impact investing, design thinking, social enterprises and nonprofits, among other topics. These sessions, that took place every Friday, gave me a much deeper understanding of why empathy in business is paramount.
Our main role as interns was our consulting work, where I had the privilege of consulting for Trebene Scarves, a social enterprise that produces ethical cashmere scarves. The business model relies on wealth redistribution: charging a high price for each scarf in order to pay fair wages to weavers in Kashmir and offer safe working conditions. Trebene’s founder, Bushera Bashir, was passionate about offering a better life for women in her hometown in Kashmir. Women’s empowerment is a cause that I care about deeply, and working for Trebene allowed me to believe in what I was doing.
I was responsible for the brand’s marketing, which was all done through social media. I have worked in marketing positions in the past, but this was the first time I was solely responsible for the entirety of a company’s marketing. I am not receiving credit for this internship, but I was able to use my past knowledge from internships and classes to create campaigns for Trebene, centering on the three pillars of the company: Ethical, Design, and Authentic. I was given a lot of creative freedom, which was one of the highlights of my internship. I had learned about making videos in one of my marketing classes, and I was able to create videos for Trebene’s Instagram page. I took a class on branding, which was extremely useful when I was writing the content to accompany all of the photos and videos. Being a member of a fashion committee, I knew how to properly take and edit photos for a fashion company. My work experience in a marketing agency gave me the tools I needed in order to understand marketing on social media, and how to evaluate whether or not the campaigns were successful. I was able to use my skills and passions in the way I felt would be most beneficial, and the results were incredible.
At the beginning of the internship I set out to learn more about marketing, and I was able to learn so much more than I expected. Working alone was the most difficult part of the internship, but also offered the most insight. I ran into challenges when some posts did not gain as large a response as others; and trying to keep up with producing and editing photos and videos, and writing all the accompanying content. It was a steep learning curve to understand how to control all of a company’s marketing, but it was an amazing way to learn. I feel much more confident in my ability to work in the marketing field and to continue to pursue my interest in digital marketing.
I am so grateful to Mr. Joseph Schull and Ms. Anna Yang for their generosity. Their financial support allowed me to partake in an internship that taught me how to be a more caring leader, a better marketer, and led me to understand what I was searching for from my experience: how to merge business and empathy. I want to thank them so much for funding the Schull Yang International Experience Award.
Maya Mountain Research Farm, Belize
Rose will be interning at the Maya Mountain Research Farm in Belize, located in the Toledo District. She will be conducting research pertaining to Moringa oleifera as a source of livelihood while also propagating Moringa seedlings for both the farm and local villagers as part of a case study for Moringa production in Belize. Specializing in Ecological Agriculture, Rose has a particular interest in Controlled Environment Agriculture and is poised to continue her studies in post-harvest biotechnology.
Reach Rose rose.seguin [at] mail.mcgill.ca (here).
I awoke one day not to the bustle of Montreal and exams, but instead to the sounds of the jungle and the bright sun rising at 5:30 in the morning. As a student studying Global Food Security and specializing in Ecological Agriculture, this suited me just fine. I would be spending the following three months studying various aspects of sustainable agriculture at the Maya Mountain Research Farm in southern Belize. As I am beginning my final year of undergraduate studies, I engaged in this internship this past summer to reinforce some of the concepts that I have learned over the past three years and to gain experience in international settings. To work towards these goals, I chose to spend 10 weeks at the Maya Mountain Research Farm (MMRF) under the supervision of the farm’s director Christopher Nesbitt. MMRF is a non-governmental organization nestled in the rainforest two miles upriver of San Pedro Columbia, which is actually the largest Kekchi Mayan village outside of Guatemala. The mission of Christopher Nesbitt and his partner Celini Logan is to both research then demonstrate alternative methods of managing agricultural systems to both better fit the geographical and environmental contexts. This means that technologies and solutions must be culturally acceptable and environmentally beneficial. To achieve this end, Mr. Nesbitt bought the land as a degraded citrus and cattle farm then converted it to an agroforestry system wherein a wide variety of trees and other plants were planted to mimic what the natural ecosystem would look like. Among these lush forests are also small patches of land seeded with other annual crops to meet the needs of the farm’s residents, which is a steady flow of different interns.
As an intern, my duties involved participation in farm chores such as the feeding of the animals (poultry and rabbits), firewood collection, fruit harvesting and processing, meal preparation and transplanting among other tasks. I undertook two personal projects on the farm, one of which consisted of assembling a guide to the proper care of domestic rabbits. As I am receiving credit for my internship, the second project was actually my primary one and was aimed at producing a report to be handed in to my supervisor Mehek Mehta. The subject of this report was the use of the Moringa tree as a source of livelihood in Belize. Both projects were very hands-on and brought me some of the highlights of my trip including the handling of baby rabbits (called kittens) and conversations with local Moringa producers. I even had the opportunity of visiting a group of women who processed Moringa, and who made me a Moringa-themed meal wherein every course included Moringa in one form or another. It was also during this experience that I learned that I cannot personally consume the plant as its high nutrient density overwhelms my stomach. The irony in working to promote this superfood within the country, then not be able to consume it myself without feeling sick, was too strong and it’s something that my peers and I laugh at. My academic background helped me to dive right into my work at the farm without needing to do as much preliminary research. Despite being in a tropical destination, this internship was not very glamorous and I faced many challenges. Among these include the intense climate, remoteness of the farm, and limited communications. With the support of fellow interns and the farm’s permanent residents, I was able to overcome these obstacles to meet my internship goals. While I learned a lot about tropical agroforestry that may help me in my future endeavors, the most important gain from this experience has been the contacts that I have made whether they were other interns, government officials, or other like-minded people.
I received funding for my internship from the Schull Yang International Experience Award, to which I am ever grateful. I would like to take this time to thank Mr. Joseph Schull and Ms. Anna Yang for their financial support during this experience. The funding received from the aforementioned persons has helped me make the most of my internship experience in Belize, thus I send lots of appreciation to the both of them.
Maya Mountain Research Farm, Belize
Audrey will intern at Maya Mountain Research Farm in Belize, an organization that demonstrates and promotes ecological agriculture and biodiversity though permaculture principles. Audrey will be conducting research on agroforestry and sustainable cacao production. She has interned previously at Navdanya Biodiversity Conservation Farm in India, and has several experiences volunteering on organic farms and urban agriculture initiatives in Montreal. This internship will contribute to Audrey’s objective of helping farmers implement sustainable practices into their productions.
Reach Audrey audrey.wagner [at] mail.mcgill.ca (here).
I am pursuing a B.Sc. in Environment with a concentration in Food Production and Environment. I have a passion for sustainable agriculture, ecology, and permaculture. I am also dedicated to tackling the UN Sustainable Development Goals, especially Life on Land, which deals with environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, and restoring and maintaining ecosystem services.
I completed a ten-week internship at Maya Mountain Research Farm, founded by Christopher Nesbitt, my supervisor, for which I have gotten course credit through the FAES 300 course. I chose to do an internship abroad over the summer in order to gain a new educational travel experience, get hands-on skills, meet like-minded individuals, and familiarize myself with a different culture. More specifically, my learning objective was to study specific sustainable agriculture practices, as well as tropical ecology and sustainable living.
Maya Mountain Research Farm is located in Belize, Central America, and is an NGO and permaculture demonstration farm which has been established for 25 years. Permaculture is a set of design principles which enable the establishment of sustainable agroecosystems and human settlements. Although permaculture practices can also be used to design self-sustainable houses, cities, and even societies, permaculture is often used to restore degraded land and replace it with a sustainable agricultural system. Such systems can be described as ‘food forests’, since they should mostly consist of tree crops, integrated with other elements like livestock. Since Maya Mountain Research Farm is located in the tropics, the site resembles a lush rainforest dominated by coconut trees, mango trees, avocado trees, breadnut trees, bananas, cashew trees, papaya trees, pineapples, cacao trees, coffee trees, and a variety of timber trees and nitrogen fixing trees and shrubs. The purpose of this organization is to firstly demonstrate the effectiveness of using permaculture techniques to transform degraded land into a productive healthy ecosystem, and secondly to provide a setting for students, local people, and researchers to study ecology, agroforestry, biodiversity, and sustainable off-grid living.
My duties as an intern at MMRF included planting various species of trees and shrubs, transplanting and mulching seedlings, harvesting a variety of crops, and feeding livestock. In addition to these daily tasks, I conducted research and authored a research paper on the botanical biodiversity and ecology on this site. By performing biodiversity surveys in more than twenty 10m by 10m quadrats, I was able to identify over 300 species of trees, shrubs, and other plants. I then entered these findings into a database, along with the common name, Latin name, main use, ecosystem services provided, and more relevant information about each plant species. My academic background in environmental biology and ecology allowed me to understand the ecological processes on the site, given that permaculture is logical and works with the laws of nature, while giving me the research methods to obtain measurable results.
One of the highlights of my internship was my involvement in the process of making cacao powder, which is what chocolate is made from. The cacao pods were harvested from the trees, and the beans washed and dried. Then we roasted the beans, peeled them, grinded them, and shaped them into balls. Once dry, the cacao balls could be grated into cacao powder, and subsequently used to make brownies or hot chocolate. Another positive experience was being able to give farm tours to new interns and visitors, in the place of my supervisor, after I had internalized all his teachings about permaculture.
Asides from the large number of mosquitos, my greatest challenge during the first half of my internship was narrowing down to a precise research topic – I was interested in everything! I overcame this by not committing to a fixed topic right away and allowed myself to take the time to follow my interests. After a few weeks I found myself getting more and more excited and passionate about identifying plant species. I subsequently found a way to transform this interest into a research project by conducting measurable biodiversity surveys.
This internship experience at MMRF has inspired in me an interest in botany and edible landscaping, and has pushed my career towards working with farmers practicing permaculture and putting policies in place which financially incentivise sustainable agroforestry practices.
Finally, I would like to express my utmost gratitude to Mr. Joseph Schull and Ms. Anna Yang, who funded the Schull Yang International Experience Award, without which I would not have been able to embark on this transformative learning experience and fuel my passion for permaculture.