Allegheny College Students Investigate Unique Climate Action Solutions as Interns for Second Nature

Two Allegheny College students spent this past summer learning about creative solutions to combat climate change during their internships with Second Nature, a nonprofit organization working to accelerate climate action in higher education.

Beatrice Foley ’24, an environmental science & sustainability (ESS) major with a history minor, and Victoria Balboa ’23, a double ESS and history major, became interested in Second Nature after hearing from classmates who previously worked with the organization.

Beatrice Foley
Beatrice Foley

Foley and Balboa applied for an exclusive fellowship awarded to Allegheny College students in partnership with Second Nature and sponsored by Allegheny trustee Christine Scott Nelson. The program enables students to develop research and resources to support climate action.

“Achieving a campus sustainability milestone, whether reducing energy costs, improving the campus-community relationship, or becoming carbon neutral, is extremely challenging and immensely taxing,” Foley says. “Organizations like Second Nature are very important in offering the knowledge, resources, and the proper guidance required to achieve these goals, inspiring other institutions to do the same.” 

Both students investigated snapshots that detailed climate action across institutions nationwide. Foley focused on campus-community relationships, while Balboa looked at data surrounding climate justice and equity projects.

You learn about how climate change affects not just our planet but also people,” Balboa says. “It was amazing to see this concept apply to real-world situations and how colleges are trying to come up with creative solutions and plans to try and help their students or their surrounding communities.” 

Victoria Balboa
Victoria Balboa

After graduation, Balboa expects to attend law school with a focus on environmental law, and Foley hopes to pursue a career in the climate sector. 

Allegheny students’ involvement in the Second Nature internship reflects the College’s deep commitment to climate action and its long ties to the organization, says Eric Pallant, the Christine Scott Nelson ’73 Endowed Professor of Environmental Science & Sustainability. “Allegheny College has been a keystone of Second Nature ever since President Emeritus Richard Cook was an original signatory of the Presidents’ Climate Commitment (in 2007).”

In February 2020, Allegheny became one of the first 10 colleges or universities in the nation to receive the Carbon Neutral Campus award from Second Nature. The College achieved carbon neutrality in 10 years without a substantial endowment, a large staff, or a big budget. 

Allegheny’s nationally ranked Environmental Science & Sustainability Department is among the oldest programs in the country. Its students work with faculty to solve real-world environmental and social justice problems through courses, internships, and research opportunities.