By Ayaka Hasegawa

It was a cool September morning when 645,000 spectators gathered around the streets of Richmond to watch thousands of cyclists from all over the world race for gold at the 2015 UCI Road World Championships. Among the crowd was Emily Foo, ’17, but she was there for another reason. As an intern for the city of Richmond’s Office of Sustainability, she was educating spectators on how to be green by increasing their awareness of recycling, composting, and other environmental issues.

“We wanted to help organize and implement initiative working to decrease the negative impact left on the community,” Foo says. “Not only did [the race] bring cyclists and spectators from all over the world to Richmond, but it brought people, businesses and different groups within the Richmond community together. With an event of that scale, achieving a high level of sustainability truly makes such a big difference.”

Foo has been working with the Office of Sustainability since the spring of her freshman year as part of the Center for Civic Engagement’s Bonner Scholars Program. She was recruited by Alicia Zatcoff, L’94, the manager of the office.

When Foo is not at events like the UCI Road World Championships, she can often be found sharpening her research skills by digging through data, compiling information that could influence sustainability programs, and communicating her findings to colleagues.

This semester, she’s focused on climate change adaptation. That means “looking at the threats from climate change Richmond faces, the parts of our community that are vulnerable (socially, economically, physically, etc.), and how we can prepare for and mitigate the negative impacts,” Foo explains. She often examines what other cities are doing and how those strategies could be re-shaped and implemented in Richmond.

Working with the city’s sustainability office isn’t Foo’s first exposure to sustainability. The summer after her first year at Richmond, she worked as a nutrition education intern for a food bank in Rochester. Not only did she educate citizens in the low-income areas on how to eat healthfully and affordably, but she also sold local fruits and vegetables at to those who typically don’t have access to fresh produce. The internship was also part of the Bonner Scholars Program, and Foo says there are natural links between her work at the food bank and her climate change research for the city.

“These same populations are typically the most vulnerable when you look at the expected effects of any climate change threat,” she says. “Access to healthy food and the farming industry is also directly affected by changing in climate and weather.”

Foo is majoring in business administration with a concentration in marketing and hopes to work in advertising. She can already see how the skills and experiences she gains from the internship will apply to the field. She believes that the ability to think critically and conduct research, for example, can be transferred into any industry, but “especially in advertising where you need to be able to cut through all the options and clutter to know exactly what is best for a particular client.”