Learning universal skills through environmental communications

August 12, 2022, Alex Palakian

Hello everyone, my name is Alex Palakian, and I am a rising second year undergraduate interested in the intersection of environmental science, communication, and policy! Alongside taking classes that cover a wide range of my interests, I knew I wanted to supplement my college career with unique, interdisciplinary experiences. USC Wrigley’s Environmental Communications Internship combines skills unlike any other, and I am lucky enough to be selected as an intern this summer.

a person smiles while standing in the snow with trees in the background
In the snow during a visit to the San Gabriel Mountains

Specifically, I wanted to combine my affinity for art and design into my environmental studies. Living in a world that continues to be confronted with the consequences of climate change, visually communicating the who, what, when, where, why’s of environmental issues is important to me. I want to use my skills as a vessel to inform, educate, and inspire change.

A part of this internship is working with a university professor as a mentor and completing various communication projects for their work. This summer, I’ve remotely worked with Gabilan Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Megan Fieser whose research tackles sustainable solutions for plastic pollution. Specifically, her lab, the Fieser Lab, works to synthesize degradable plastics as replacements for commercial non-degradable plastics and upcycle current plastics into useful chemicals. As a Southern California native, I am constantly confronted with plastic accumulation, in particular on our beaches, so this issue is a personal interest of mine. As you can imagine, when I learned of Dr. Fieser’s research, I was even more excited to bridge the gap of understanding between the lab’s work and general society’s knowledge to raise awareness.

Within this role, I’ve completed a diverse range of communication projects–all with endless support from Dr. Fieser and Wrigley coordinators Dr. Jessica Dutton and Kathryn Royster. For the lab, I’ve: constructed new presentation slide templates, designed a t-shirt for Dr. Fieser’s beach cleanups, made graphic material for the lab’s research, constructed website pages, produced a promotional video… and so much more! From these experiences, I was able to polish my graphic design skills as well as gain more confidence in my artistic abilities.

However, my biggest takeaways come from our weekly speaker seminars where accomplished, prestigious communicators from all fields came to share their story, and what they have learned from being in the communications industry. Their unique experiences in newspapers, magazines, university institutions, and freelancing were all eye-opening and highlight the importance of communication from a perspective I’ve never thought about. The importance of relatable characters, the psychology of marketing, the power of social media, the emotional toll of journalism… (just to name a few) are all topics explored in our talks where I was able to ask one-on-one questions and learn from professionals.

And during our weekly check-ins with the interns, we debriefed on what we have learned–allowing me to connect the skills, tasks, and information acquired to anything I want to do in the future. Which, at its core, is why I am grateful for this internship. Communication skills are universal and essential for success in any field. For me, this experience offered enough practicality and creativity to mature as a communicator and upcoming professional–making me feel more confident in my capacity to tackle new situations and do so with proficiency.

I cannot thank USC Wrigley enough for this amazing opportunity!

Watch the video Alex made for the Fieser Lab