The National Audubon Society started it all nine years ago; the society needed extra summer workers and turned to college students for a ready supply. The Audubon Society wasn't interested in providing academic credit for the work experience, but its managers thought it was important for the summer interns to be treated like professional staffers.
Today, the Center for Environmental Intern Programs (CEIP) has a central office (629 Statler Office Bldg., Boston, MA 02116) and four regional offices and has matched some several score of businesses and organizations with 1,700 students. The program now is an all year affair.
''We have a twofold program,'' says John Cook, the national director. ''We offer help to government, private industry, and nonprofit organizations to complete short-term projects by using students who are seeking professional experience, and we give the students practical educational experience.''
One of the successes of CEIP has been its follow-through services both for the interns and the groups that hire them. On-site visits by the regional director are standard, and CEIP coordinates seminars and conferences for the interns throughout the summer.
Also, interns are in contact with peers in their fields and find that they complete their internships as part of a network of people involved in different aspects of environmental study.
Susan O'Brien, an undergraduate in mechanical engineering at the University of Illinios, experienced considerable independence in her internship at Energy Resources and Planning and mentioned other strong points about the program.
''The experience I really enjoy is the economics I'm learning here. They are involved with doing energy audits and planning for improvements. They can't adequately teach you this in college, so this is really a backup to what you learn academically. And the great thing about CEIP is that they are definitely concerned about what you're doing.''
Employers as well are pleased about what they receive from the program. James Rogers from the Digital Equipment Corporation in Massachusetts, has been involved with CEIP interns and the program itself since its inception. He feels more companies should make use of the service. He ticked off some of the strengths:
''The interns are super. They're a good way of getting certain tasks done in a cost-effective way. And we're not just hiring some sight-unseen temporary employee. These are people with solid backgrounds.''