The O’Neill School Alumni Team recently caught up with Danni Schaust (BSPA’13, MPA’18) program manager at the Indiana Sustainability Development Program (ISDP).
What’s your work like at the Indiana Sustainability Development Program?
As the Indiana Sustainability Development Program Manager, I am responsible for partner and student recruitment, fund development, and strategic growth of this sustainability-focused summer externship program. We place around 30 students each summer in the public and private sectors to tackle sustainability challenges and climate change work across Indiana. The goal of this program is to train students for sustainability careers, placing them in full-time, paid summer positions that strengthen their connection to the Hoosier state, train them to be climate-competent sustainability professionals, and expand capacity at organizations who may lack the capacity or resources to hire sustainability staff.
How has the summer externship cohort changed or grown in the past few years?
Since I started as the ISDP Outreach Coordinator, we have grown from two part-time staffers, an extern cohort of 15 students, and two IU campuses to a full-time staff and multiple interns that are responsible for placing more than 30 students from four IU campuses each summer. Since 2017, close to 100 students have gone through our program, and we’ve begun expanding our focus to include more training and placements focused on local climate action. I am lucky to be the first full-time ISDP staff person, and the positive impact these students have made in just a short amount of time has been very exciting and rewarding!
What excites you the most in your work with ISDP?
I love getting to know students and watching them grow over the short 10-12 weeks that they’re placed with their organizations. Seeing them make professional connections and grow in their confidence and sustainability expertise is what inspires me and keeps me going, strengthening and expanding our programming. I love finding new ways to connect them to the Hoosier State, helping them launch their sustainability careers in Indiana.
Were there any particular skills you learned at O’Neill that have been helpful in your professional career?
It’s hard for me to pinpoint one specific course, skill, or professor at O’Neill that have been most helpful in my career path so far, because so many of them have shaped me into the person I am today. I think the most important thing I took away from my time at O’Neill is the importance of continuing education and networking, particularly in the sustainability field. Whether that education takes place in a classroom, on-the-job training, or is self-taught, my advice is to stay curious, keep asking questions, and remain open to the opportunities and possibilities in front of you! You never know where you may end up.
How can alumni get involved?
If an O’Neill alum is interested in hosting an ISDP extern to work with their organization, please reach out! ISDP is always looking for new host sites in Indiana. We are always grateful for financial support of our work, so that we can continue to grow and expand this program across the state.