Fresh perspectives

June 28, 2017
Katherine Venne

Katherine Venne's work with a local business is saving the company nearly $11,000 annually (Photo: Mark Luinenburg; illustration: Leandro Castelao).

Each summer, interns from the University of Minnesota’s Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) are paired with businesses that want assistance addressing long-term challenges. The interns are helping organizations prevent pollution, reduce energy consumption, and use resources more efficiently.

Since the program’s inception in 1985, MnTAP interns have saved organizations approximately $10.5 million.

“The interns look at some of our historic problems through fresh eyes,” says Cheryl Erler, a U of M alum and an environmental analyst at Xcel Energy. “They approach things differently.”

At Xcel, interns have explored new ways to reduce water consumption at two Twin Cities power plants. Erler says work done by interns is saving the company an estimated $69,000 per year.

Katherine Venne is a U of M senior who conducted a cost-benefit analysis for a new wastewater treatment system for a business based in Minnetonka, MN.

She found that by working with a textile recycler, the company could reduce its solid waste by 168,000 pounds per year and save more than $10,700 annually.

“The internship gave me the opportunity to learn about an industry and an area of engineering I previously knew little about,” Venne says. “My favorite part was seeing the final calculations and how big of a difference such small changes could make.”

Recent graduate Nathan Landwehr’s MnTAP internship helped put him on his career path.

“When I did my first internship, I had a general idea of wanting to go into resource conservation, but this internship solidified it,” he says. “I got to experience firsthand what this type of work actually looks like.”

A fuller version of this story appears in Legacy, a magazine of the University of Minnesota Foundation.