Sarah Benda, intern for Center for Economic & Policy Studies

Sarah completed an independent study on solar energy with the Energy Transition Initiative. She conducted extensive research, wrote several reports, and participated in an energy policy simulator project.

“Working at CEPS can give students the opportunity to explore subjects that they are passionate about in a hands-on setting. "

Sarah Benda

Independent Study Intern

Sarah was a fourth-year student in the College of Arts and Sciences, studying Economics and Global Sustainability, when she completed her independent study.

Why did you choose to complete an independent study with the Cooper Center, Center for Economic and Policy Studies?

I decided to apply for an independent study for the opportunity to dive deep into a topic not offered in other courses. I wanted to learn more about the solar industry and felt that an independent study would be a great way to do so.

What were some of the projects you worked on as part of your independent study?

At CEPS I completed a report on best practice recommendations for soft cost reduction within distributed solar (full report seen here).  I am currently working on two more projects: a report on solar group purchasing campaigns and an energy policy simulator project with the ETI [Energy Transition Initiative] at UVA.

What did you learn as a result of this independent study?

As a result of my work, I have been able to gain much more detailed knowledge of the solar industry than what could be found in traditional classroom settings.

Has your experience helped you in your academic studies, given you skills you can use in a future career or helped you to think differently about your academic and/or career path? If so, how?

Yes, this experience has absolutely shaped both my fourth year at UVA and the direction that I want to take my career.  My research has helped me realize that that I would like to continue working in a field related to renewable-energy. 

What did you most enjoy about the independent study?

The thing I enjoyed most was the opportunity to speak with a variety of people working in the solar industry. In writing my report, I was able to conduct interviews with a number of solar installers and industry experts.

Would you recommend working at the Cooper Center to future students?

I would absolutely recommend it! Working at CEPS can give students the opportunity to explore subjects that they are passionate about in a hands-on setting.