Swimming with Current

Written by Preeti Iqbal

As students and interns go, I probably don’t fall within the norm. What follows are some highlights of my experience being both.

After more than 20 years working in technology and project management, I quit working knowing only that I wanted to do something different. Several years into my hiatus, an evolving interest in the environment and sustainable living led me to DePaul University’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business. This time around, I did not choose graduate school to steer the direction of my career but simply to learn what I could about sustainable management and be more deliberate about my learning. I am easily the oldest person in most of my classes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – somebody’s got to wear that hat.

I figured out early in this education journey that I had an interest in natural resource management but I wanted an organic, non-stressful search for possible internships. Given the turmoil caused by the pandemic, I recognize I was fortunate when a networking event led me to an internship with Current last summer. Here was a nonprofit working to not only elevate the visibility of our local water challenges but also to foster the kinds of collaborations that could help solve them and educate the public along the way. To say I was excited when I got a summer Communications Intern role with Current would be putting it mildly! Though we were remote, I loved working with the Current team and learning about the many forms their work took: from the H2NOW technology pilot water sampling to giving startup innovators a platform to share their work. We must have hit it off since they asked me if I could continue into my school year. I couldn’t have been happier since I wanted to see the work that we started in the summer for the first ever Chicago Water Week come to fruition in the fall.

During the winter 2021 quarter, I took a class which required me to complete a consulting project for a social enterprise. I pitched Current as the client for my class team of four, and we defined a project to help identify industries and companies within those industries in the Chicago-area with an interest in water sustainability, water management, and collaboration to tackle related issues. The team quickly identified several industries for further research and completed an analysis of water management and sustainability efforts for over two dozen companies within those industries. One unexpected finding was the dearth of meaningful information about companies’ intersection with the water sector, either on their websites or in published articles. Still, the information we did find contributed to Current’s knowledge and understanding of its stakeholders and will be a solid foundation for outreach.

A couple of weeks ago, the Current team had a staff “outing” at the fully virtual One Earth Film Festival, screening The Great Green Wall directed by Jared P. Scott. While not quite the experience of watching and discussing it together, it was nevertheless an opportunity to come together outside the pressures of work. As I sign off, I want to share a line from the film that captures how I understand Current’s approach to its work: “Even as the message is hope, how do we shine a light on the problem?”