iSEE’s New Sitton Award Supports Summer Internships for Students

Sitton Award winner Rudy LaFave, center, talks with a legislator at the State Capitol along with other members of the 2024 Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) cohort during their spring break trip to Springfield. Credit: Erin Minor/iSEE

The Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) has announced the first winner of the newly established Doug and Dawn Sitton Award, designed to help University of Illinois undergraduates improve their career prospects in sustainability fields.

Rudy LaFave, a junior majoring in Agricultural and Consumer Economics, received a stipend to work as a legislative intern with the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC) in May through the end of the spring legislative session.

Doug Sitton

This award was made possible by a generous endowment from Doug and Dawn Sitton. Doug Sitton, a 1980 Illinois graduate, is senior principal and client executive at IMEG Corp. and founder of Sitton Energy Solutions, an Illinois-based energy management firm that merged with IMEG in 2022.

“We are excited to partner with the Illinois Environmental Council to offer this unique opportunity to our students,” said iSEE Alvin H. Baum Family Fund Director Madhu Khanna, Professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at Illinois. “We are grateful to Doug Sitton for his support for iSEE and this new initiative, which builds on our Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) to give students additional experience in environmental policy and advocacy.”

The Sitton Award was created to support educational opportunities and internships for U of I students that can lead to career opportunities when they graduate. iSEE plans to partner with outside companies and organizations like IEC to provide internships that might not otherwise exist, according to Eric Green, iSEE’s Senior Academic Program Instructor/Advisor.

“Dawn and I are proud to partner with iSEE to help continue the University of Illinois’ leadership in sustainability, including providing opportunities that help students develop into future leaders in the sustainability field,” Doug Sitton said.

LaFave received a $2,500 award from iSEE, and IEC provided a stipend for housing and food. LaFave worked with the IEC on fossil-fuel divestment legislation as a member of the Spring 2024 ELP cohort; IEC Executive Director Jennifer Walling is a member of the ELP Advisory Board.

During his three-week internship, which began May 13, LaFave was expected to work closely with IEC’s Legislative Team during the closing weeks of the spring session: attending committee meetings and events; monitoring bills and other items that arise; and providing administrative support for IEC staff.

IEC Chief of Staff Chelsea Biggs, who worked with Green to develop the position, said IEC was looking for additional support during the busy end-of-session period, so the internship was a perfect fit.

“It’s a unique opportunity for students to see firsthand how the last weeks of session come together and how bills become laws with the active engagement of advocates and lobbyists,” Biggs said. “We were impressed by Rudy’s work in the ELP, and we’re thrilled to have him on board.”

LaFave, who focuses on environmental economics and policy, is president of the Illinois Student Council and has served as co-vice president of Students for Environmental Concerns (SECS) and Environmental Action Director for the Illini Democrats.

— News release by iSEE Communications Specialist Julie Wurth