Resilient Virginia partners with multiple Virginia universities to offer internships for students wanting to get hands-on experience in the resiliency field. This summer, Jane Ruggles worked for us as an intern from UVA. During this time, Jane split her time between coordinating the 2023 Resilient Virginia Conference and researching and writing a paper on “An Overview of Economic Impacts, Challenges, and Opportunities related to Climate Change in Virginia” (to be published by the end of 2023). We are so thankful for her help this summer and are pleased that she walked away from the internship with a better understanding of what is actually being done to help plan for the future that she and her peers are inheriting.
Resilience, Reality, and a Student's Perspective
Written by: Jane Ruggles
On August 1st and 2nd of 2023, Resilient Virginia held a conference to explore economic opportunities for community resilience within the Commonwealth of Virginia. This theme attracted a selection of passionate speakers and attendees, all eager to teach and learn– individuals from federal, state and local governments; non-profits, universities and businesses; and even a collection of curious students.
Perhaps I don’t speak on behalf of all my peers, but I know it to be true that for many students there is a sense of uncertainty shrouding the future. We have always been aware that the Earth is undergoing serious changes– all of which with serious implications. We know there are efforts to prepare for this future, but there is often little opportunity for us to inquire: what actually is being done? It is a big question with even bigger answers.
As students, we hope to find tangible evidence to inform us that: yes, there is work being done to prepare for the future! As I sat in the audience of the Resilient Virginia conference, I found myself face to face with this evidence– with real individuals and organizations; researching, planning and implementing real strategies and projects– all with the goal of building resiliency for the future.
The conference included presentations that covered a wide breadth of topics, touching on relevant subjects ranging from socioeconomic climate mapping, to how coastal communities can invest in resilient shoreline development. Each speaker brought with them their own set of concerns, and their own plans of action. Discourse and the exchange of ideas flowed freely in the sessions, proving to be as informative as the speakers themselves.
I learned of new technology for heating and cooling buildings, of which will have greater resilience to extreme temperatures– and is already being implemented across Virginia. Another student told me of the productive conversations that took place during the Q&A session following a presentation relating to federally funded natural resource protections. We were exposed to economic opportunities and resiliency work in all stages: ideas, discourse, planning, implementation.
Is the future still uncertain? Of course it is, and that is inevitable. However, the conference allowed me to participate in conversations, learn, question and gain a deeper understanding of the work being done here in Virginia. It showed me the struggles, successes and complexity of resiliency work; of the challenges facing my state, and the opportunities already presenting themselves as a result. The conference allowed me to glimpse the work I will likely continue when I enter the workforce, and taught me that uncertain or not, it’s never too early to begin preparing for the future.
Jane Ruggles, 2023 Resilient Virginia Conference Intern and UVA Student