Lena Essak

Regardless of the major you choose, L&C will prepare you with the skills and knowledge to pursue your interests in sustainability.

Lena Essak BA '24



Degree and Class Year

BA ’24


Milwaukee, Wisconsin




Data Science

What three words would you use to describe L&C?

Engaged, Curious, Enthusiastic

Life at L&C

What’s your favorite class? Why?

My favorite class I’ve taken at L&C is Urban Economics taught by Professor Arthur O’Sullivan. In general, I really love all the applied economics courses and the professors in the department. I find it so interesting to apply economic models to real-world issues to better understand them, and to help come up with potential solutions to real world problems. Because the majority of the U.S. population lives in urban settings, many people deal with everyday challenges tied to the environment of cities. The Urban Economics course covered relevant issues including houselessness, social norms, transportation, crime, and more.

What do you like or find most interesting about your major?

Most people think economics is just about taxes, interest rates, and money. However, those topics barely even scratch the surface of what the discipline of economics covers. Economics can study gender issues, immigration, poverty, world health, and practically any social, political, or personal issue where people make decisions about their behavior within a larger system. The discipline of economics studies problems by theorizing about their cause, modeling them, testing them using empirical evidence, and adjusting the theory based on what was learned. Therefore, economics understands the world through both qualitative and quantitative measures, and constantly self-corrects as new research and evidence emerges.

What do you like or find most interesting about your minor?

Having data analytic skills is super important in many professional settings in our modern world. The data science minor gives students the basic skills to be ready for those jobs. First, we learn how to use the computer coding language of R. But perhaps more importantly, we learn generally about what data science can do, and how to problem solve in qualitative research.

How would you describe sustainability at L&C?

So many students at L&C care deeply about the environment and sustainability. Reflecting that, there are many professional and student positions on campus that deal directly with sustainability issues. In general, I believe the students are very aware of environmental issues, and want to do their part in fighting climate change.

What’s your involvement with any sustainability initiatives on campus? What’s the best part of your experience?

I currently work at the Sustainability Office with Amy Dvorak as the energy efficiency intern. We work with the Energy Trust of Oregon (ETO) to improve energy efficiency on campus. The Sustainability Office also works to create opportunities for students to get involved with and learn about sustainability both in and outside of Lewis & Clark. For example, I participated in the Bates Center Summer Sustainability Internship Class last semester where I had the incredible opportunity of working with EDP Renewables.

What should incoming students know about sustainability at L&C?

If you care about sustainability, there will be many opportunities for you at L&C if you pursue them! One of the most important parts of engaging with sustainability in college is learning about all the different positions and roles within the industry. Lewis & Clark is a great place to learn about how your particular set of skills and interests can be used to make a difference.

How does sustainability prepare students for life after L&C?

So much of sustainability work is about problem solving; as a liberal arts institution, L&C is a great place to learn problem-solving skills in multiple disciplines. Regardless of the major you choose, L&C will prepare you with the skills and knowledge to pursue your interests in sustainability, whether it is through professional or informal means.

Bates Center Summer Sustainability Internship Profile

Summer 2023

What is your internship this summer, and what are your basic duties?

My internship this summer is in the Community Relations department at EDP Renewables North America. The main responsibility of our office is to help strengthen the relationship with the landowners and communities of our wind and solar projects around North America. We also support other departments with various projects and questions, usually related to community engagement or external facing communication.

What’s the best part of your internship?

The best part of my internship is meeting so many incredible people involved with the company, and learning about the renewable energy industry as a whole.

How has the Sustainability Internship course supported you in the process of finding and securing your internship?

The sustainability internship course was crucial in securing this opportunity. I met with Amy before joining the course, and then stayed in close contact with her throughout the interview process. She was very supportive in helping me choose the position that was the best fit, and advocated for me to the employers I was most interested in working with.

How do you see this internship leading to a career in your chosen field and aiding in your overall career development?

I’ve recently become interested in pursuing a career in the energy industry, which makes this internship a perfect introduction to potential future jobs. By connecting with a variety of different people in the industry, I’m learning about the role I can and want to play in the future of renewables.

How does this internship support your interest in sustainability?

Overcoming the challenge of how we will have enough energy to support our growing population, and how we will produce the energy in a clean, sustainable manner is a pressing issue. I believe working in renewables is one of the most effective ways I can be involved in sustainability efforts that make a real difference. This internship is interesting to me, and will help me grow my knowledge and network in an industry related to sustainability.