Beyond the Classroom: EKU Students Stand Out in State Internships

Published on March 01, 2024

By Evan Bentley

Last summer, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet (EEC) in Frankfort hired more than a dozen interns from Eastern Kentucky University (EKU). 

“All of these students have sought out interdisciplinary learning and training, and they are great examples of how impactful internship opportunities can be for students,” said Dr. Stephen Richter, executive director of agriculture, natural resources and environment at EKU. 

One of the EEC interns and Richmond native, Jesse Trost, spent a transformative semester working with the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection. A graduate biology student, Trost compiled data on emerging contaminants and PFAS, a group of compounds commonly referred to as “forever chemicals.”

His internship involved collaboration with the commissioner and deputy commissioner of the department, as well as environmental consultants, each of whom provided Trost with a well-rounded understanding of the sector.

Considering his long-term career goals, Trost said, “I want to work as an environmental scientist for a state or federal agency or possibly a consulting firm, and through this internship, I was able to interact with people who work in all of those roles.”

His experience went beyond the confines of the laboratory, as he occasionally ventured into the field for sample collection. GIS (geographic information system) proficiency learned at EKU provided Trost the ability to create maps and visualize data across a multitude of projects. 

Reflecting on the value of his summer experience, Trost said, “My internship taught me a lot more about PFAS than I ever thought I'd know. It has also strengthened my GIS and research skills.”

Abbey Bleuel, an EKU junior pursuing environmental and applied geology, interned with the Division of Abandoned Mine Lands at the EEC. The Versailles, Kentucky, native worked alongside professional geologists to investigate the environmental hazards of coal mining. Her tasks varied from analyzing contaminated water bodies to addressing landslides. 

“We determine if environmental hazards are eligible for reclamation by the state. If they are eligible, we will work with the project branch to engineer a solution,” stated Bleuel.

Bleuel wants to utilize her education, GIS certification and experience from her internship to “help the environment and people.”

After graduation, she’s considering a master’s degree in education to share her knowledge of science and geography with upcoming generations.

“Through internships and their future careers, EKU students make a profound impact in our communities, state and beyond,” said EKU President David McFaddin. “We are incredibly proud to see our students represented in competitive state internships, such as these, and truly showcase EKU as a School of Opportunity for the Commonwealth.”

EKU is hosting an Outdoor Job Fair on Friday, March 1, 2024, at the Science Building Atrium from 1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m. where students explore options for internships and future jobs in outdoor disciplines. Students from a variety of majors, such as geology, recreation and park administration, biology, criminal justice, agriculture and others, will have the opportunity to learn about outdoor career options and develop interview skills.