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Communication Studies Students at TerraCycle: Earning College Credit and Saving the World

By: Livia Lazzaro

In Trenton, less than three miles from The College of New Jersey campus, you’ll find the global headquarters of a company that specializes in repurposing hard-to-recycle items such as coffee capsules, pens, plastic gloves, toothpaste tubes, chips bags, and cigarette butts. “Recycle everything with TerraCycle” is the company motto, and its mission is to work with waste from packaging and products that people commonly discard. Sometimes TerraCycle turns discarded products into something new (“upcycling”), such as making shower curtains out of granola wrappers. Other times TerraCycle breaks down objects—say, empty plastic pens—and recycles them into products that use the same materials. Yet another of its services is devising reuse solutions for unwanted things, such as old shoes.

Partly due to its close proximity to The College of New Jersey, Terracycle has become a prime destination for Communication Studies students who wish to broaden their classroom experiences through company internships. “Our department routinely encourages students to intern at Terracycle,” said Dr. Paul D’Angelo, associate professor and department chair. “Hardly a semester goes by where we don’t have at least one student working at TerraCycle.”

During the 2015-2016 academic year, three Communication Studies students—Brittany Thatcher (Fall 2015 and Spring 2016), Otto Gomez (Spring 2016), and Marc Trotochaud (Spring 2016)—worked in TerraCycle’s PR, Marketing, and Communications Internship program. Daily duties of these interns include preparing media lists, writing press releases, creating media tracking lists, assisting with events and campaigns, blogging, and pitching stories to the media, and working with social media. “I’ve learned a lot about PR there because they give tasks that are actually relevant to the field,” said Marc.

Brittany Thatcher, as the Entenmann's Little Bites mascot, presents a bench made out of recycled Entenmann's Little Bites pouches to the Oliver Beach Elementary school.

Brittany Thatcher, as the Entenmann’s Little Bites mascot, presents a bench made out of recycled Entenmann’s Little Bites pouches to the Oliver Beach Elementary school.

 

It’s very clear: internships offer hands-on experience that prepares students for the real world after graduation. But why TerraCycle? All three this year’s crop of Communication Studies students said that a determining factor behind their choice to work there was the “green” mission of the company. “When I interviewed with TerraCycle, I immediately fell in love with the company and the overall atmosphere in the office,” said Brittany. “Everything in the office is made from up-cycled materials, so everything looks very interesting.” Sounding a more general theme, Otto proclaimed that it was important for him to be “part of the team that wants to help save the world.”

Students work under Lauren Taylor, Global Director of PR and Content, who hires and supervises interns. Ms. Taylor, who also had various internships while she was in college, says she “lost count” of how many of TCNJ students have interned at TerraCycle, adding that “they have all been great.” So great, actually, that a few were offered and accepted jobs right after they graduated from TCNJ.

One of those students is Colleen Duncan (’15). As a Communication Studies major, she interned at TerraCycle because she felt it was a perfect fit for her. “When I first found the TerraCycle internship,” she said, “it seemed perfect in that it combined my interests in communication with my interest in sustainability.” Ms. Duncan credits Dr. Jacob Farbman, adjunct professor of Public Relations in the Department of Communication Studies, for stressing the importance of having multiple internships and for always being willing to assist students in finding and applying for them. Employed as a publicist and director of the PR, Marketing, and Communications Internships, Ms. Duncan trains and mentor students, offering them valuable advice that stems from her personal experience.

From the left: Marc Trotochaud, Janelle Fleming, Otto Gomez, and Kristina Malmstrom

 

Brittany, Otto, and Marc all point out that students should talk with faculty, friends, and classmates when starting to look for an internship. Faculty members are an especially good resource because they have experience in supervising numerous internships—for example, Dr. D’Angelo who supervised Brittany and Otto. But getting information from other students is valuable, too. Lauren strongly suggests checking the Career Center and LionsLink, to which TerraCycle directly posts their internships, and Colleen said that LinkedIn and Twitter helped her locate a couple of internships while she was a TCNJ student.

Without a doubt, internships are a valuable addition to undergraduate experience, and if students can find a local company with a noble mission, even more so. “If you are invited to Terracycle for an interview,” said Ms. Taylor, “be able to talk about why you want to intern at TerraCycle and what you hope to get out of it.” Indeed, any internship provides valuable experience. As Ms. Duncan said, “Internships allow you to try out jobs that you’re interested in before you graduate, allow you to build your resume with relative work, and allow you to build your professional network.”

You can learn more about TerraCycle by clicking on its company logo.

terracycle logo

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