Out West student blog

Laptop leverage: serving virtually

Mario's home workstation. Image credit: Mario Nicolas

Mario Nicolas ‘24
Hometown: San Antonio, TX
Major: Undeclared
Archives Intern, Yosemite National Park Archives


I've learned to expand my understanding of service through this virtual internship. Service for Yosemite that I once pictured as digging through the dirt, or in my case the archives, turned out to be much broader and to hold many other facets. The way we communicate about the West, the services for its people that we advocate for, the virtual infrastructure we build: service is all of these.

I've gotten the opportunity to sit in on planning meetings and offer my perspective on the initiatives the park should implement in the next five years. I've dug through historic documentation and highlighted aspects of a hotel's history that often go unnoticed. The best way to be of service virtually is to stay in tune with what you care about, for you will work most caringly towards service goals that matter to you. For example, I care a lot about environmental sustainability and history. That's why I found it important to highlight the work of Historic Preservation on the Ahwahnee Hotel and to make note of how we can better appreciate the work that goes into the structures and building systems we surround ourselves with each day. 

This internship has also taught me about organization in a way that not even a virtual freshman year could. I've gotten better at organizing my email. I now often use the app Notion to keep my work, school, and personal tasks a bit more organized through checklists and note pages. Additionally, I use its calendar function to plot down my work tasks so that I have a fuller sense of what I want to get done each day. This system helps me work through my projects in an organized manner and reminds me to keep in contact with those I work with. 

Beyond using new apps and programs, I've learned how to better communicate my ideas, my questions, and whatever complications I run into. The archives team is very understanding and fun to work with, so their open and willing communication has made me a better team player and communicator while also giving me the space I need to dive deep into my projects and tune them to both the park’s needs and my own interests.

Outside of my internship, I've used the book “Do One Thing Every Day to Change the World” to guide my service. It has many COVID safe-ways to make the world around you a better place, such as charts with environmental facts to share on social media, reminders of good organizations to donate to, pushes to volunteer locally, and reminders to thank the people in your community whom you admire.

Read more at the Out West Student Blog »

Recent Center News

A lawsuit in California to hold big oil accountable; Southern California and Arizona explore desalination in the face of drought; growing urchins to save the kelp forests; wildfires cause a decrease in air quality across the United States; and other environmental news from around the West.
In many drought-stricken regions, water security is threatened by shifting climate and demographic conditions. In research funded by the Woods Institute for the Environment, Center Director Bruce Cain and colleagues will develop a new approach to drought management that accounts for long-term socio-environmental change.
Stanford research reveals the rapidly growing influence of wildfire smoke on air quality trends across most of the United States. Wildfire smoke in recent years has slowed or reversed progress toward cleaner air in 35 states, erasing a quarter of gains made since 2000.