Gustavus Student Interning at Will Steger Foundation

Posted on February 3rd, 2008 by

Gustavus senior Amanda Varley is in intern with the Will Steger Foundation. (Photo by John Cross of the Mankato Free Press)

Gustavus senior Amanda Varley is in intern with the Will Steger Foundation. (Photo by John Cross of the Mankato Free Press)

By Robb Murray
Mankato Free Press

Clearly, Will Steger was impressed with Amanda Varley.

The explorer was in town for the most recent Nobel Conference, which happened to focus on global warming and climate change.

To ensure his visit to Gustavus went well, he was given helpers, one of whom was student Varley.

“I basically chased Will Steger around for two days,” she said this week.

Steger, she says, was so impressed by the Nobel Conference and the enthusiasm he saw at Gustavus for the topic at hand that he requested a Gustavus student be hired on as an intern at the Will Steger Foundation.

They didn’t have to look too hard to find an interested student.

Varley was hired and put to work on a project that, once launched, will be very visible to anyone interested in fighting global warming.

Steger is gearing up for his next expedition — a 60-day, 1,400-mile dogsled journey to Ellesmere Island. With him will be six other people between the ages of 21 and 28, including the son of billionaire Richard Branson.

“The idea of this expedition is to witness global warming firsthand through the disintegrating ice shelves, retreating glaciers and destruction of wildlife habitat,” Varley said. “The team will document their trip through video, images, sound bites, etc. and will post them on their Web site as they go along.”

And directly to the side of those online updates (at, on the same computer screen, will be the result of Varley’s work during her J-Term internship.

Steger’s target audience will be youth, i.e., people between ages 17 and 27. Her job is to find people in that age group already doing things to change the world for the better. They’ll be featured on the Web site as “Action Stories.”

“I am gathering stories of young adults throughout the world and what they are doing to lessen their impact on the earth whether it’s walking to school or organizing rallies,” she said.

Some of the Action Stories are close to home. One involves a group at St. Olaf that has an organic farm. It is student run, and the group sells what it grows to the college.

Another features a young man with an environmental blog. A group of students at Carleton College live in a green house. And then there’s the St. Peter coffeehouse where Varley works part time.

“We’re doing an Action Story about River Rock,” she said. River Rock uses compostable take-out coffee cups made out of corn among others things — not petroleum.

So far she’s gotten positive feedback from everyone she’s contacted.

“When I contact people, they are really honored and excited to get involved,” Varley said. “They feel like they’re making a difference.”

This week she’ll be in Minneapolis. The Will Steger Foundation is having an event called Focus Minnesota, which is part of a larger nationwide event called Focus the Nation. Scheduled to appear at the event, which takes place at the First Avenue night club, are Steger, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and perhaps Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Varley has worked to organize and promote that event.

All this internship work with the foundation has taught her plenty.

“I’ve learned so much,” she said. “I didn’t realize how much grass-roots organizing there was on the college level across the nation.”

She still wishes there was more going on at Gustavus. The Gustavus Greens are active, she said, but the student body in general is mostly inactive when it comes to global warming and climate change.

But she remains optimistic.

“Just seeing what people are doing in the smallest ways,” she said. “I think people really want to make change, but they don’t necessarily think they can when there’s so much going on in the world … People want to make a difference.”


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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