Engaging Young People to Continue the Milliken Legacy

Protecting our precious waters is a multigenerational mission. At FLOW, we put that mission into practice not only by pursuing solutions to water problems that will pay off for generations to come, but also by engaging young people who will carry forward the work as part of a rising generation. Each summer, we seek out bright, talented youth to assist us with communications, policy and legal research tasks.

FLOW’s internships have taken on a new significance this year. We’re excited to work with Emma Moulton and Zoe Gum as our first FLOW Milliken interns. After the passing of former Governor William Milliken last fall, his family designated FLOW as one of two nonprofits to whom contributions could be made in the Governor’s memory. This choice reminds us that Governor Milliken dedicated much of his public service to the protection of the Great Lakes and all the other waters of Michigan. By supporting internships at FLOW, gifts made in the Governor’s memory serve to inspire remembrances of his work and affirm the potential that young people have for carrying it forward.

We asked Emma and Zoe to tell us a little about their background, what appeals to them about FLOW’s work, and their hopes for the future.

Zoe will enter her senior year this fall at Hope College, where she is pursuing a double major in philosophy and biology. A talented researcher, analyst and presenter, she will assist FLOW staff on water infrastructure and groundwater policies, among other projects.

Emma is a recent graduate of the Freshwater Studies program at Northwestern Michigan College. In addition to her college experiences in writing and hands-on projects, she has distinguished herself as an environmental communicator. She will assist FLOW staff broadly in our communication efforts across social media, video projects, research and outreach to traditional media.

You’ll meet Zoe and Emma below, and we hope that you’ll share our optimism about them and about what they and their peers will accomplish in the decades to come.

Zoe Gum

I grew up in Traverse City and I am an incoming senior at Hope College double-majoring in biology and philosophy. It was largely the beauty of my natural surroundings that drove the pursuit of my undergraduate degrees. Since I was young, I have spent my days hiking, swimming, star-gazing, soaking up every bit of the wonderous Great Lakes region, and developing a deep intrinsic appreciation of the natural world. Fortunately, Hope College is also nested on the edge of Lake Michigan giving me access to similar resources and species present in my hometown!

However, as I grew older, I also became more aware of the prevalence of ecological degradation. Studying philosophy has guided me to find my own answer to the question, “What is a meaningful life?” I have realized that I truly enjoy exploring possibilities for making positive changes in the world. In light of current environmental crises, the changes I would like to make are related to the conservation and sustainability of natural resources. In tandem with an initial environmental ethics course that I took my Freshman year, I realized that I had a desire and a duty to protect the environment in whatever way that I could.

Throughout my undergraduate experience, I have had many opportunities to enhance my interest in environmental advocacy. Last summer, I worked as a student researcher for a city-wide tree canopy and greenhouse gas assessment under four faculty mentors in the biology, religion, and sustainability departments of Hope College. Our team performed comprehensive tree species vulnerability assessments; consequently, allowing us to predict the influence of global climate change on Holland’s natural forest cover. We also developed a cell phone app called TreeSap in tandem with the computer science department to quantify the ecosystem services offered by each tree: drought and flood mitigation, carbon sequestration, carbon storage, pollution avoidance, and energy savings. Most notably, I have presented my findings to several audiences, including the Holland City Council, America in Bloom national judges, Citizen’s Climate Change Lobby, the Holland Sentinel, the League of Women Voters, and Hope College faculty members and students. Each of these experiences reinforced the value of hearing and understanding the questions and concerns of citizens. 

During the school year, I also worked as a conservation intern for Hope Advocates for Sustainability. In working with this program, I have had the privilege to pursue original research and a number of sustainable projects to reflect the needs of Hope College or the greater Holland community. My additional responsibilities through this program have included: writing newspaper articles about sustainability and conservation, planning and executing campus-wide events, and participating in numerous service projects.

While the majority of my previous work has focused on the protection and resourcefulness of plants, I have always cared about the sanctity of water as a resource. When I first heard about FLOW, I immediately became interested in its mission to safeguard the Great Lakes. I realized that the work done by the FLOW team produces tangible influences through policy work that truly causes progress in people’s lives. I wanted to take part in any way that I could!

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work as FLOW’s Milliken Intern for Policy this summer. Among many things, I am most excited to deepen my knowledge of water-related policy from the FLOW staff. In the future, I plan to pursue a career in environmental law, so I am eager to learn about the protection of our Great Lakes from the best in the business! 

Emma Moulton 

Hello FLOW Family! My name is Emma Moulton. I am a recent Freshwater Studies graduate, environmental activist, hiker, traveler, animal enthusiast, reader, writer, and FLOW’s Milliken Intern for Communications this summer.

Having grown up in Tennessee, I wasn’t introduced to the Great Lakes (or any large, clean body of water for that matter) until I was 13 when my family moved up to Traverse City for a change of scenery. It was love at first sight. I had never seen anything like it, and the water immediately consumed every bit of my time and my thoughts. Playing, learning, swimming, researching, and exploring, my connection to the water grew quickly. Taking my mason jars down to the lake, collecting “samples” and taking them back home to my inexpensive, kid-sized, science kit and spending the afternoon analysing and observing things I had no idea about, but was completely fascinated by nonetheless. It became obvious where my academic future was headed.

Flash forward to years of moving around the country with my family frequently, from Detroit to Nashville to Seattle and back again, all the time just waiting for the opportunity to be back with the Great Lakes. Finally, in August 2017, I landed back up north, this time pursuing my degree in Freshwater Studies at Northwestern Michigan College (NMC).

During my time at NMC, I found myself getting more and more involved with the many local environmental advocacy groups in the area, including two years serving on the board of directors of the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council as their college student representative.

My courses at NMC contributed to and nourished my love of these waters and this crucial work. Taking classes such as Water Policy, where I was first introduced to FLOW founder Jim Olson and FLOW’s work, solidified my goals in environmental advocacy. During my second year at school, I was asked to lead the NMC Green Team where I organized a number of conservation-related community events, as well as clean-up and restorative projects on campus. 

I was later recommended by my English professor to start working at the Reading and Writing Center on campus as a reader/tutor, and I began writing environmentally focused pieces for the school paper, White Pine Press, where I had the opportunity to work with FLOW Communications Coordinator, Jacob Wheeler. These opportunities and positions allowed me to make such valuable connections and build up my experience in the field. I have been lucky enough to have held many different types of water-related positions from performing water quality testing in fragile Indonesian coral reef systems to being a shipboard educator at Inland Seas. Throughout this time and these experiences, I noticed my interest had shifted from strictly science field work, to science writing. I then realized I wanted to incorporate my unexpected appreciation for writing and communicating into my love of science and environmental activism. This ultimately led me to apply to FLOW’s communications intern position. The ability to write and speak about work that I am so passionate about is my ideal way of using the skills I have developed to protect and preserve our precious natural resources.

This summer I am greatly looking forward to gaining more experience in writing and connecting people with FLOW’s mission as well as making new connections and working with some of the wisest, and most influential people I could possibly hope to learn from. While the current conditions of isolation are less than ideal, I am looking forward to navigating the new challenges, helping to find creative solutions and innovative ways to connect the community to FLOW and bring people together, even in this time of distance. This summer will be an excellent learning experience and I am so excited to dive in and be a part of this incredible team.

4 comments on “Engaging Young People to Continue the Milliken Legacy

  1. Ken Gum on

    FLOW will benefit greatly with the help of these brilliant young ladies.
    ( a bit preferential because Zoe is my daughter).

  2. Robert Kennedy on

    It is so encouraging to have forward thinking young folks like Zoe and Emma focusing their goals on stewardship of our fresh water resources. The caveat is that they both seem to have articulate communication skills which will allow them to share their enthusiasm with a public that is often times complacent.

  3. Victoria Velting on

    What a great team!
    As a student in the Freshwater Studies program, I am excited to meet you and learn more about your work.
    Clear communication is so important and it seems that both Zoe and Emma are skillful in telling their stories.


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