Parents Fund & Sustainability Internship Grant Student Reflections

View the latest Parents Fund & Sustainability Internship Grant student reflections below!  You can also view past student reflections on our blog. Learn more about the Parents Fund & Sustainability Internship Grant

Summer 2022

Cooper Cramer

Governor’s Office of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Transformation Office

My internship this summer is with the Governor's Office of the Commonwealth of Virginia, specifically the Transformation Office. Established by an executive order of the governor, the transformation office is dedicated to reevaluating and revamping services and functions of the government to better serve the people of Virginia. Ensuring best-in-class services across the Commonwealth to Virginians at a cost-effective rate is our primary objective.

From the start, my projects have far exceeded expectations compared to what I anticipated. On day one I began an in-depth analysis, presenting my findings to the relevant Cabinet Secretaries in a senior stakeholders committee by the end of the week. Although largely consisting of analytical modeling and assessment, I have still been able to get out into the field to meet with and learn from members of the several agencies we are working with. The trust and responsibility they have extended to the interns has kept me focused and concentrated on the tasks before us. Getting to make a real difference in improving the lives of Virginians has proven fulfilling and meaningful.

Summer 2021

Audrey Hicks

Journal Entry #1

This summer I was given the opportunity to work as a Casework Intern for the International Rescue Committee. The IRC is a nonprofit organization that aids refugees in their resettlement process and advocates for their long-term protection and success in the U.S. The goal is to not only make the arrival of refugees easier, the goal is to set them up for complete self-sufficiency in an entirely new environment. I was quickly immersed into a fast-paced, highly adaptive work environment at the Charlottesville IRC office. Our caseworkers were flooded with new cases this summer as a result of Biden’s decision to raise the refugee cap and no time was wasted in getting our new clients the resources they would need to thrive. With families arriving from all over the world, no case looked the same as the last. The refugee experience can hardly be generalized. There were clients arriving by themselves without knowing a word of English and there were entire families arriving into the arms of family members or friends who had already managed to be resettled, get a job, and find their footing in the local community.

My role as an intern at IRC varies week to week. I assist clients in whatever they need which means that my responsibilities are rarely known in advance and always subject to change. I am often tasked with shopping for grocery and household needs, setting up housing for clients on the day of their arrival, and accompanying clients to appointments at the Social Security Administration office or the Department of Social Services. I also assist the casework staff in getting clients set up with medicaid, food stamps, employment training, ESL classes, and more. In all of this, I have been able to establish connections with the people I am meeting and gain a personal investment in their resettlement journey. The process to get to America as a refugee is one that often takes many years, many sacrifices, and a whole lot of courage. The IRC staff works tirelessly to make an extremely challenging process even slightly easier for the clients we are assigned to. In only three short weeks, my experiences at IRC have further solidified my interest in working in the nonprofit sector. The chance to play a small role in such a monumental event in someone’s life is an incredibly fulfilling experience and the staff at IRC cares so deeply about their work. I have already learned so much about the importance of accountability, flexibility, and composure when it comes to working for a nonprofit. I feel so privileged to join in IRC’s work at such a pivotal moment in our country’s recommitment to humanitarian efforts. Even with the higher refugee cap this year, there are still tens of thousands of refugees stranded abroad, often facing lengthy processing delays. With so much work to be done this summer, I look forward to continuing to learn from the IRC staff and grow my professional skills and knowledge when it comes to refugee resettlement and nonprofit work in general.

Journal Entry #2

As I approach the halfway point of my internship with the International Rescue Committee, I find myself with new responsibilities as a casework intern. I’ve become much more efficient at the day to day tasks such as driving refugees to appointments, helping them get a social security number, or setting up their food stamp cards. As these things became second nature to me, I was also tasked with new duties like managing the front desk at the office. Perhaps the most valuable thing I’ve learned in recent weeks is that it’s ok, and even necessary at times, to rely on others. The work we do at IRC is impossible to do alone and I have discovered how important it is to use the people and resources around you. Everyone at IRC has a specialized role for a reason. To name just a few, we have a medical case manager, a housing specialist, a career development specialist, a resettlement manager, an immigration team, and more. At first, I saw my role as a casework intern as separate from all of these other roles. But to our clients, all of these things are interconnected.

Instead of attempting to become an expert in all of these areas of the resettlement process, I learned to work with the people around me. There is so much value in everyone being able to focus their attention on certain specialties and then work together to help our clients. For example, I worked closely with the housing intern on several projects involving a family from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I got to learn a lot about what she does at IRC and how she works with landlords to find affordable housing for our clients before they get here. I also got the chance to teach her more about my casework tasks, most of which happen after the clients arrive in the United States. Understanding her role at IRC helped me to get a clearer picture of what goes on behind the scenes before our clients get here. It made me appreciate just how holistic the work of IRC is and how many weeks of preparation must occur prior to the start of the resettlement period. Similarly, working with the immigration intern showed me that after the three month resettlement period, our work is not even close to over. She explained how her job is to ensure that our clients are able to pursue a legal pathway to citizenship. The work of our immigration team is essential; my work as a caseworker means very little if our clients are not able to stay in America long-term. Over the past few weeks, I have witnessed how the staff at IRC works as a cohesive team in order to best serve our clients. Everyone I have met at IRC has been more than happy to help and it makes all the difference in both the work environment that has been developed as well as the quality of service provided to our clients.

Journal Entry #3

My time at the International Rescue Committee has taught me a lot about the importance of the nonprofit sector in refugee resettlement, the immense hardships and struggles of resettlement for the families we work with, and the value of community support when it comes to helping our clients. My expectations for the internship looked a lot different than the actual work I ended up doing. Instead of simply administrative work, as essential as that is, I was given the opportunity to have a direct impact on the lives of some of our clients. In my work as an intern, I built actual relationships with the refugees we were helping. Getting to be one of the very first faces that a client sees when they arrive in America is such a unique experience. The refugee experience looks so different for every person and I quickly learned to adjust to each new client and each new obstacle instead of relying on set procedures. Flexibility was key to navigating casework and the initial few weeks of resettlement.

This summer brought a massive influx of refugees from all over the world. Meeting families that are fleeing war, persecution, and political upheaval was a surreal experience. Our clients go through a lot to be able to get here and thus have such a strong appreciation for the opportunities America has to offer. One of my favorite parts of being a casework intern was helping conduct intake interviews with clients the day after they arrived. The most important part of the intake interview is when the caseworker asks the client what their short-term and long-term goals are in the U.S. This is just one example of how the IRC works to support refugees in whatever way they need; the journey to citizenship is entirely individualized.

Over the course of the summer, I learned a lot about working in the nonprofit sector and how much work, time, and energy goes into refugee casework. The people at IRC care so deeply about the work they do and I gained a greater appreciation for how much they sacrifice for their clients. Nina, the caseworker I worked with, was available to help her clients both on and off the clock. It was inspiring to work around people who see the work they do as a privilege, not just a job. I certainly got a better idea of the kind of work I want to do in the future and the kind of work environment I want to be a part of. I’m extremely thankful for my time at the International Rescue Committee and for all the people I got the chance to work with.

Evan Kortebein

Journal Entry #1

Hello, my name is Evan Kortebein; I am a rising Fourth Year student in the College studying Economics and Minoring in Entrepreneurship. This summer, I will be interning with the office of Congressman Mike Gallagher from Wisconsin's 8th district. I was born and raised just outside of Congressman Gallagher's district in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, and have a very personal connection to the area and the people living there. In my role as an intern, I will be working virtually for at least the start of the summer, with the potential to move in person later on. My primary role will be to conduct research and interact with constituents. I will also have the opportunity to attend various seminars designed for interns and led by different Senators and Representatives.

Unfortunately, at least at the beginning of the internship, I will not be able to work in the DC office. Still, I hope to eventually have the chance to visit and gain a better understanding of what life is like in a congressional office. Under normal circumstances, I would also be giving tours of the capitol to constituents visiting from Wisconsin and helping to send flags to those who request them from the district.

My first week and a half of work has been very interesting. The people I am working with are all so helpful and willing to take time out of their days to explain what they do and provide advice. I have had the chance to talk to several of the Legislative Assistants in the office so far to understand what they do and how they arrived here in their careers. The office is a very energetic and youthful environment with many people who are very driven and often have a certain cause that they are particularly passionate about. Some of the best advice I have been given so far is to pay attention to what news I am most drawn to and what stories catch my eye when I am reading news in the morning. For instance, if you are drawn to news about the financial markets right away, that should serve as some indication of what you find genuinely interesting and may look to focus your career around.

Journal Entry #2

Currently, I am a little more than a month into my internship and a few weeks from the mid-way point of the internship. In the first month, I have been working primarily on research for various projects, many of which focus on foreign affairs and China in particular. I have gained a much better understanding of the process surrounding relations with China and the mechanism of sanctions, and the balance of deterrents that my member, Congressman Gallagher, writes legislation around.

By conducting research and meeting with those on the Legislative team, I understand how legislation is created and pushed. The long process of formulating popular legislation and drafting rounds of edits before it is ready to be released is fascinating. There is also always the consideration of how a bill will affect those in the district first and foremost. Even a bill about the Uighurs in China must represent the values and interests of the people from the district before it can even be considered.

All of the interns also had the opportunity to meet via zoom with one of the chiefs of staff for another congressman. He provided a lot of great advice in deciding between graduate school and a career in politics. He spoke with us very frankly and provided some great insight into how to form your career path. He encouraged us to take opportunities and not be afraid to leave a good job when we're young if we get the opportunity to do something exciting. Although I think this is not uncommon advice, the passion that he spoke with resonated with me.

Journal Entry #3

Over the later half of my internship, I started to interact more with some of the detail-oriented issues that go into legislative work. I combed through a lot of data to track proxy voting and had several projects that involved large-scale research. Staying motivated was a little more challenging with these more tedious tasks. However, I think knowing that the end result would impact actual legislative decision-making was encouraging.

Over the whole of the internship, one of my most significant takeaways was how much more connected and well-informed I felt. I was able to see how a political office functions and how people in legislation live. I was struck by how drastically the workloads can change and how matter of fact, a lot of political operations seem to be. There is a lot less emotion about issues and more of a desire to strategize around things. Through recapping the news every morning and doing research for projects, I felt much more informed about a lot of issues and truly felt that I came away from this summer with a much better understanding of the complexity that usually surrounds a situation, particularly in foreign affairs.

One of the best parts of this internship was the number of speakers we got to hear. Members of Congress hosted weekly talks for the interns, and our office manager also provided us with several people to meet with throughout the summer. I was able to get a lot of good advice and ask questions about everything from healthcare policy to family life in politics. These interactions were incredibly valuable in reframing my experience and looking ahead to an actual career and the job search.

Camaran Gaillard 

Journal Entry #1

I am beginning my internship as a part of the Sean Perryman campaign for LT. Governor of Virginia.  I am excited to work for his campaign because I believe in the ideas that he is putting forward and believe he will be a good Lt. Governor.

For this internship I hope to be able to experience what its like to be apart of a young and dynamic campaign staff.  I hope to gain experience using my communication skills over the phone and in person doing door to door campaigning.  In addition I hope to be able to understand a little bit more about how campaigns work and how they function from the insiders perspective.  At the end of this internship I hope to be able to be apart of a professional campaign staff. 

Finally, I am looking forward to getting to know people that I am working with and hope to build some lasting relationships during this period and begin to create a professional network that I can rely upon in the future.  And hopefully in the future we will be able to work together and help one another in our careers and future lives.

Journal Entry #2

I have begun my internship and have been participating in meetings and making calls for the campaign as well as participating in the social media presence.  Recently the staff has discussed having candidate Perryman in the Charlottesville area and having some in person events.  As a result we should be beginning to increase the rate of phone calls as well as door to door literature drops.  I am also making many phone calls each day and using a program that tracks these calls.  It gives you the name and place of the person you are calling.  It gives you a script and tracks how many people you call and for how long.  Before this internship I never would have realized that there is such a thing as phone banking applications.  

I also am learning about the financing and logistics of a campaign.  I am beginning to understand the amount of money it takes to keep on staff who manage the big picture things as well as the volunteer staff, money for campaign literature, and putting on events.  It begins to add up quickly and as a result this campaign always seems to be looking for more money and endorsements.  It has also been interesting to work with the people on the campaign.  It has been a good experience so far.

Journal Entry #3

Unfortunately the Perryman campaign did not win the democratic primary.  Even though Mr. Perryman did not win, he thanked us for our hard work and encouraged us to help with the democratic nominee’s general election bid for the Lieutenant Governorship.  As a result I have volunteered my time on the Hala Ayala campaign.  Although the Perryman campaign was not successful I did learn a lot from it and I would say that I really enjoyed my time working with them.  I learned a lot and met some people both on the staff and on the campaign trail.  Going forward I will have skills like phone and text banking as well as door to door canvassing as skills that I can carry with me and apply to other things.  

I am also excited to be part of the Hala Ayala campaign for the remainder of the summer.  Although the Ayala campaign was not my primary choice I do agree with many parts of her campaign.  Once I was a part of the Ayala campaign the scale of everything became larger because it moved from a primary to a general election in a state wide race.  Our phone and text banking goals have gotten bigger and this is a larger team than the Perryman campaign and I am excited to be a part of the Ayala campaign.

Voss Neal 

Journal Entry #1

I began my internship this week. I did not know initially what my company, Blue Zone Resources, did on a daily basis, but after meeting with my supervisors, I have a much better grasp of their work. Specifically, they work with agricultural businesses to help them realize the monetary incentives of sustainable change, which can be done in a variety of ways. I am still homing in on what my big project is going to be and should have that cemented in the next few days, but I am familiarizing myself with relevant articles and information in the meantime along with other miscellaneous tasks to help learn about the company. The transition has been good, though, and I am ready to get back to work after the break between finals and now. This transition is further eased by the prospect of being able to do work that I feel will truly make an impact. The introductory conversation with my supervisors went quite well, and I was able to get a much better sense of the people I will be working for and with. Also, as mentioned before, this introductory conversation was quite helpful in getting a better understanding of what my company does as far as operations. My employers are quite personable and have made me feel comfortable when around them, so I am excited to work more with them. My co-interns seem nice as well, so I feel that the internship will certainly be successful from a personal interaction standpoint. I additionally am optimistic about my capacity for growth with this company, as I will be working closely with the founders and learning a great deal from people who are quite experienced across numerous fields.

Journal Entry #2

I believe the work that I am doing within my internship is genuinely helping others in the organization. Most specifically, I worked on a project that involved compiling and creating a profile on angel investors and seed-stage venture capital firms that look for companies such as Blue Zone Resources to provide funding for. I gathered company names, website, basic information, qualifications for investment, and even researched people within the firm to look for connections to best reach out to. Seeing as Blue Zone Resources is looking to begin their second wave of funding collection after the initial friends and family stage, the work that I did will be used to create a direct impact on the future trajectory of the company. I also have learned a lot more about the operations of the company. Currently, a large amount of the revenue comes from enlisting companies out west in “demand response” programs in which said company will curtail their energy usage during times of the day in which the grid is highly stressed and receive financial compensation. It has been fascinating learning the details of this program and how it is implemented. One thing that I have learned from the work that I have done so far is that I enjoy working in the start-up environment. This may be because of the variety of tasks that come along with it. I also feel that seed-stage companies have more of a defined culture and specific mission which I enjoy being a part of.

Journal Entry #3

The past 8 weeks have been very rewarding with Blue Zone Resources. I learned a lot during the two-month internship that I can take with me going forward. Specifically, I gained experience with research skills in the investment space, with sustainability and utilities, and with the business side of a start-up. All of these will be beneficial going forward, and it was exactly what I hoped to get out of my time, as I wanted to gain versatility and learn about many different functions of a business. Whether I end up continuing working with Blue Zone Resources or another company when I graduate next year, I will have a much larger toolset now than if I had not spent my summer with the company. Aside from learning a great deal, I also enjoyed the work that I did. The projects I received were both interesting and had the potential for a significant impact within the company. This combination of interesting and rewarding work made my time quite enjoyable.

 Another aspect of my time at Blue Zone Resources that made the experience better was the people that I worked for. They were very personable and enjoyable to be around, making my trips to the office easy and is a reason why I went in as often as I did. This sense of comfort allowed me to focus on my work and the learning process without spending any attention on fitting in, which added a great deal to the internship. Looking back, I am also glad that I spent the summer working towards a cause that I believe in. Although I was not making a direct impact doing things like planting trees or campaigning for the environment, I know that the work I did will eventually lead to sustainable changes, which feels good. I hope that I will continue in sustainability roles for at least part of my future career and feel that this was an incredible starting point.

Sonja Bergquist

Journal Entry #1

Despite the difficulties of working virtually with Village Health Works, the remote format has conveniently allowed me the opportunity to connect with students from across the world. I work with two other interns, Samantha from Cape Town, South Africa, and Bright, from Lagos, Nigeria. Despite the over six hour time difference between us, we have already successfully navigated a meeting schedule and learned how to best communicate using WhatsApp and Google Meets. Despite the disappointment of being unable to work and learn in person this summer, I am grateful that COVID has given me the opportunity to work with individuals that I would not have had the chance to otherwise. 

Within the first few weeks, Bright, Samantha and I have worked with our internship coordinator to create a feasible schedule to complete the Annual Report by the 15th of August. We have spent time to understand what this report requires, plan the conversations we have to have with those who work on the ground in Burundi, and have begun the writing process on the over 32 page document we must complete. This Annual Report will be sent out to all those who donate to Village Health Works, and exists to summarize the humanitarian and clinical work that was completed in the year 2020. The difficulties of the year 2020 must be represented within this report, while simultaneously emphasizing the hard-won successes of the Village Health Works team.

Journal Entry #2

The Annual Report must address the four aspects of Village Health Works intervention, Healthcare, Education, Food Security & Nutrition, and Community Development. I am tasked with writing the Healthcare section as well as the introduction section of the AR. In order to complete the healthcare section, Samantha and I have set up meetings with the chief medical director of VHW, collected stories from community health workers, and gathered statistics to inform the successes of clinical interventions. In order to gather these stories and statistics, we have meetings with those working in Burundi almost daily. These conversations are incredibly informing, and work to center my understanding of VHW’s core purpose and values. 
One of my favorite conversations was with VHW’s chief medical director Jean Baptiste Mbonyingingo. A highly trained surgeon and doctor, Jean Baptiste spoke candidly about his frustrations with delays in the Kigutu Hospital opening, and the culture surrounding COVID in Burundi. This conversation carried on far beyond our allotted meeting time, as we asked questions and learned about the reality of providing healthcare in a place as rural as Burundi Africa. These conversations are the most important resource that will allow us to produce an informed and thorough Annual Report. We take our time in these Google Meetings, and I genuinely enjoy the time we are able to discuss and learn from these individuals.

Journal Entry #3

Now that Samantha, Bright, and I have concluded the information gathering process, we begin to write. Dividing the sections equitably among ourselves, it becomes clear that the three of us have different writing styles. In order to produce a cohesive report, we work together to make our work consistent and uniform across all sections. This requires many rewrites and redrafting, but provides us an opportunity to work across our differences. We approach this project with good humor, and I am grateful as I start to form personal relationships with Bright, Samantha, and our internship coordinators. 

The next step in the completion of the AR is to plan out the graphic representation of our writing. We met with a graphic designer to discuss photo placement, color schemes, and the visual layout of the AR. I appreciate this part of the internship as it allows me to think creatively about representing the very concrete writing I have been focused on for the past two months. Looking back on the time I have spent with VHW, I am so happy to have learned within such a supportive and inclusive group. The diverse set of perspectives and approaches to a common goal opened my eyes to the ways in which work can be accomplished. Working with a non-profit healthcare organization, I have realized that doing work which is both professionally and morally fulfilling is an incredibly important aspect of my future career.

John Rossbach

Journal Entry #1

My time at the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors so far has been incredibly insightful and challenging in the best possible way.  I have learned so much about criminal law and the power of District Attorneys (DAs) and local prosecutors in our legal system.  This internship has encouraged me to challenge my perspectives and given me, as an outside citizen, an unparalleled look into the critical work that prosecutors play in safeguarding our community and how our society can reform the criminal justice system to be fairer while at the same time deterring and reducing crime. 

I only recently began my position at the Loudoun Board of Supervisors, but so far, I can say that I have newfound respect for my local government.  They are hard-working public servants who do not get the credit they deserve.  The Covid-19 pandemic subjected their office to many ungrateful and disrespectful citizens who do not share the gratitude I have for them.  I have also come to understand and revere the power that the Board has in their ability to implement and execute change that can be so easily and quickly felt by its constituents.  Many people who are passionate about public service and reforming the world we live in for the better believe that the best way to do so is through Congressional action.  That is certainly not true.  Local government will determine how well we plan for the future; the condition of our parks, recreational centers, and services that our community treasures; the quality of our law enforcement and first responders community; and the health of our people as we handle Covid-19 and beyond.  

In addition to this, I have come to understand the pains and pressures of working a full-time job as an adult.  This experience has forced me to reconsider what I believe is integral in my day-to-day life because there are only 24 hours in a day.  Yet, at the same, this experience has also pushed me to find new ways of making office life enjoyable. My intern team has been so essential to my experience so far.  They are so overwhelmingly kind and come from a diverse array of educational backgrounds, ranging from high school to law school.  The knowledge and advice they have given me goes past anything I could learn in a classroom.

Overall, I am very thankful for my situation and very thankful for the grant from the UVA Parents Fund that allowed me to pursue this experience for the summer.

Journal Entry #2

Since my last journal entry, I have learned so much and am excited to share my experience.  I enjoy coming to work and my experience has been enhanced by the amazing intern team.

To start, our book club meetings have been an incredible outlet for me to engage with my intern cohort and communicate directly with our elected Commonwealth Attorney, Buta Biberaj.  Ms. Biberaj is so smart and bold that I aspire to be like her one day.  She recognizes that everyone has different strengths and skills to bring to the table and has given tasks accordingly.  Since I enjoy quantitative analysis, she recently gave me the task of researching the crime statistics of Loudoun County in order to create public service announcements about the status of crime in our community.  The effort she puts into the safety and protection of our county is unparalleled.  She has challenged me to think critically about how the criminal justice system can be reformed in order to administer justice while minimizing harm and wasteful spending.  

This internship has also taught me a lot about what my future may look like.  After having the opportunity to speak with many different attorneys and law school students, I have a clearer path of what I want to do after graduating from UVA.  I am envisioning taking a 1-2 gap period between undergrad and law school in order to get experience in the fields of law I want to pursue.  Before this summer, I did not know a single attorney personally or anyone in law school currently.  Now I have a whole network of people to draw from.  I always make sure to add any attorney I meet on LinkedIn.

One of the more exciting things that I witnessed was a jury trial for a man charged with hindering the police.  The accused was a man claimed to be an investigative journalist specializing in police accountability.  His social media pages consisted of ridiculous tabloid-style headlines and videos of him almost harassing local law enforcement officers.  He fired his public defender because she told him to stop posting on his YouTube channel, so he had to defend himself.  That was an interesting day in court to say the least.  The man did not understand how a trial works and came very, very unprepared.  The Judge was very upset with his behavior, and he was convicted of the charge.  

The beginning of this experience was difficult for me because I had to adjust to the nine-to-five work schedule, but after getting the hang of it, I have come to enjoy it a lot.  What makes this job the most enjoyable is the people who work here with me.  I have made some great friends that I plan on keeping for the rest of my life.  Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like a job when I get to hang out with the other interns.

Journal Entry #3

As my summer comes to an end and I start to close out my last few weeks at my internship, I have been able to reflect a lot on what this experience has given me.  

When I think of what I got out of this experience, the first thing that comes to mind is relationships.  Connections, and even better, friendships.  I have made so many friends this summer through my internship that most of the time it does not feel like work.  What’s even better is that these friends range from a sophomore in high school to a 3L in law school.  They have given me so much advice about the LSAT, law school admissions, and ideas for a gap year that I am able to see a much clearer and focused path after graduation.  Before this summer I did not know any attorneys or law school students, and now I have a whole network of people to communicate with.  

The next thing that comes to mind is how this experience has unearthed new interests and reignitied previous passions I used to enjoy.  The book club has revamped my love for reading and has inspired me to read more.  The debates we’ve had has made me realize that law school is a goal that I want to achieve in life.  This internship has renewed my passion for social justice, and has encouraged me to discover fields outside of criminal law where that passion persists.  Not only have I become more interested in criminal law, I now want to know more about civil rights law, tax law, national security law, and international law.  

Lastly, this internship has taught me a lot about professionalism.  Networking is a huge component of being a working adult and I know now how to be better at it.  Little things like giving a firm handshake, eye-contact, thinking carefully about what you say, and respect are all things I knew before this internship, but now mean a whole lot more since I have put them into practice.  I have become better at task management and navigating complex situations.  Above all, I have learned to make my voice heard.  If I have questions, I ask them.  I do not nod my head and sit in silence while having no clue what is going on.  Before, I was apprehensive about asking questions and talking with people above me, but now I know that it is in everyone’s best interest to have good communication.  It also doesn’t hurt to make friendly small-talk in order to get to know someone better.  It actually helps build a better connection with the people you work with.  

Looking back, there were a lot of opportunities that I didn’t get this summer.  I applied for internships at the State Department, Think Tanks, Congress, the Federal Government among others.  But looking back, I am thankful for this internship and wouldn’t take it back for anything.  I know that positions at those other places would bring more prestige, but I know that I would be more happy doing what I am doing now, and that’s what matters most to me. 

Matthew Simon

Journal Entry #1

For Summer 2021, I am working as an intern for Office of the Principal Legal Advisor’s (OPLA) field office in Newark, NJ. OPLA is an office within the Department of Homeland Security that litigates immigrant removal proceedings before the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Because of COVID-19, my internship is operating under a hybrid schedule, meaning that I am splitting my time between working in the office and working at home. When I am in the office, my responsibilities include reviewing the legal sufficiency of documents, analyzing motions, and organizing office files. When I am at home, I mainly work on “country conditions” research reports that OPLA attorneys can use to easily access information on an immigrant’s country of origin. My supervisors also run training courses for the interns on topics such as asylum law and cross examination, and I get to shadow attorneys during virtual court proceedings. I feel very fortunate that I am working in such a unique program, as it is providing me with valuable experience in both the legal and national security fields.

I am currently in the fourth week of my ten-week internship, and I have visited the Newark office during two of those weeks. To get to my office, I take the Amtrak train early in the morning from Union Station and then walk several blocks to the office after arriving in Newark Penn Station. I then stay in Newark for several days and work at the office before returning home. My first trip to Newark was an interesting experience, as I had not taken the Amtrak in a long time and was unfamiliar with the process. Fortunately, my travel to New Jersey went off without a hitch, and I arrived in Newark on time. When I got to my office, my internship coordinator gave the other interns and I a tour of the building and taught us how to review case files. These files contain all of the documents relevant to an immigrant’s trial, and our job as interns is to catalog the information into spreadsheets and to ensure that the important documents in these files were properly signed and dated. The office had a large backlog of respondent files that had not yet been reviewed, so my fellow interns and I spent a lot of time working on these files during our first week in the office. As we worked, my colleagues and I got to know each other, and I learned that one of my fellow interns was also a UVA student. This really surprised me, because I thought I would be the only UVA student working all the way up in New Jersey. After spending several days reviewing documents and listening in on court hearings, I finally returned home exhausted from a full week of work.

I spent the second week of my job working from home, and during that time I worked on a “country conditions” report on Algeria. For this report, I needed to research Algerian politics, healthcare, education, and LGBT rights. I also needed to discuss the various terrorist organizations that operate within the country. To successfully write this report, I used a variety of online sources, including official U.S. government sources like the State Department’s annual report on human rights practices and the CIA World Factbook. I really enjoyed working on this report, as I am interested in Middle Eastern affairs but did not know a lot about Algeria at the time. I hope that I will be able to further explore my interest in legal and national security issues through this position.

Journal Entry #2

A lot has happened with my internship in the three weeks since I last wrote. One of the most important activities that I worked on for this internship was my mock trial, which took place last Monday. The mock trial is an activity designed by the internship coordinators to give interns courtroom and legal research experience. The interns were divided into teams of two and assigned to either work as the attorneys for the respondent (the immigrant claiming asylum) or for the government. My partner and I were assigned to be the respondent’s attorneys, and we spent around a week researching and preparing for this case. On our trial date, my partner and I defended the respondent’s asylum claims against the interns representing the government. This was done before a DHS attorney who was acting as an immigration judge. This experience was really valuable for me, as it taught me how attorneys litigate cases. I also got important experience conducting legal research and questioning witnesses, which will greatly help me if I decide to pursue a legal career.

Another interesting activity I took part in for the internship was a tour of the Newark Liberty International Airport. My fellow interns and I were given a tour of the international arrivals terminal by two Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, and the officers told us about how CBP works to prevent terrorists, drug traffickers, and other criminals from entering through the country’s airports. One interesting part of the trip was when we visited the division of CBP that monitors agricultural products brought into the country from overseas. The officers explained that this unit is a very important part of CBP’s mission, because it helps prevent diseased crops and invasive species from damaging the American environment and economy. I had traveled through the Newark airport once before when I was returning from a trip abroad, so I found it interesting to see how airport security worked at this location.

Beyond these unique events, I have also done a lot of other work these past few weeks. I completed a country conditions packet on LGBT rights in Mexico, which the attorneys will use in future cases to be informed on this issue. I have also begun to write a research packet on the activities of Central American street gangs in Guatemala, including gangs such as MS-13 and Barrio 18. When I go the office, I have mostly been reviewing case files and organizing files in the office stacks. I hope that I will be able to continue to do valuable work for the office as my internship enters its final weeks.

Journal Entry #3

In the past few weeks, I have been done a lot of interesting work in my internship. While I was at home, I completed a final research packet on the conditions of indigenous people in Guatemala. My research focused on how the Guatemalan government and organized criminal gangs treated indigenous people in the country, and whether indigenous people were discriminated or persecuted by these entities. I found this project to be really interesting and informative, as I was able to learn a lot about Guatemalan history and society by exploring this topic. I also participated in a virtual discussion with members of DHS’ Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division. HSI is the main law enforcement agency of DHS, and HSI agents work both in the U.S. and abroad to help protect America’s borders and investigate terrorists and other criminals. I really enjoyed learning about HSI, as it is not as well known as other U.S. law enforcement agencies like the FBI.          

Last week was my final week in person at the office, and I did several interesting things while I was in Newark. One of the most memorable experiences I had last week was participating in an all-day discussion with people in various branches of US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS). These people discussed their jobs with us, and the other interns and I got to ask them questions about their work with USCIS. I found this to be really valuable, because it helped me get a better understanding of how the immigration and naturalization process works in the United States. After these discussions ended, the interns and I got to witness a naturalization ceremony in person on one of the upper floors of the office building. Around 20 people became naturalized U.S. citizens at this ceremony, and I was struck by the pride and happiness that these people expressed as they received their certificates of citizenship. I am glad that I was able to end my in-person experience at OPLA on such a positive note, and I am grateful that my supervisors were able to schedule this event for us.

I am writing this final journal entry on the last day of my internship. I have been working for OPLA for ten weeks, and during that time I have gotten a firsthand look at the U.S. immigration system. I feel like I have gained a lot of valuable skills and knowledge from this experience, and I know that I will be able to carry what I have gained with me throughout my future endeavors. I am really grateful to the Parents Fund grant for helping me complete this internship, as it would have much more difficult for me to gain valuable in person experience in Newark without the support of this grant.

Hannah Hervey

Journal Entry #1

This was the first full week of my internship and so far everything has been good. I’m spending a lot of time in the greenhouse and in the newly built high light growth building. The high light growth building is pretty cool and is essentially designed for speed breeding. They are putting the trees under a lot of stress exposing them to 16 hours of light a day so they grow faster and will enable us to collect pollen from them within a few months rather than us having to wait several years for pollen. This will hopefully help speed up the process of discovering the genes for blight resistance and will help with germplasm conservation. Later in the growing season we will be inoculating some of the young trees that are in the field with different strands of the blight fungus to test for the presence of the blight resistant gene. There are quite a few trees on our property in Meadowview and within the other branches that will be getting inoculated so I’ve also had an opportunity to spend some time in the lab growing, preparing, and shipping fungus. I’m really looking forward to everything that this internship has to offer and I think it will be a really incredible experience.

Journal Entry #2

I am a little over half way through my internship and we are at the peak of the growing season right now! There’s all kinds of things going on, on the farm. The chestnut flowers were pretty late blooming this year so they are just now getting started on pollenating trees I had an opportunity to help out with that and it was really fun to go up in the bucket lift to pollenate the trees.  Its really interesting this year because usually the chestnuts make flowers and are ready to be pollenated before the end of June and with global warming it seems like this would happen earlier and earlier however its causing the opposite and the breeding director on the farm says that the chestnuts have been flowering later and later every year. Our running hypothesis is that global warming is causing less predictable winters/spring so you might have warm day and then a really hard frost and we think the chestnuts might be waiting until they are sure it is going to be consistently warm. Either way it will be interesting to see what happens as the research continues.

We also just finished inoculations for the year. There is a plot of about 2000 young American Chestnut trees planted in 2017 that we used for this experiment. Essentially a while ago they were able to isolate the different strands of blight fungus that has been killing the trees and now we are introducing the fungus to these young trees to test for their resistance. The blight resistance gene is incredible complicated and has to do with several genes interacting with each other and we do not yet know exactly how to create resistance. However by inoculating these trees we can asses the genes of the survivors and grow closer to understanding what genes are involved and we can select these trees for breeding and hopefully make more blight resistant trees. We also were visited by The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and are hoping to work with them in the future for restoration efforts and germplasm conservation. It was really incredible getting to meet them and hearing about the roles chestnut plays in their culture and communities. I really hope that TACF is able to establish a relationship with them ad I think it would be a really beneficial partnership.

In addition to all of that there is some work being done with transgenic chestnuts which are currently in the greenhouse and in the high light growth building. However we have noticed that some of the transgenics are less resilient to stressors and we are not exactly sure what might be stressing them. We have narrowed it down to possibly the high PH of the water or to lack of phosphorus and so we are running an experiment to test for both. Hopefully this will give us better insight into what conditions are ideal for chestnuts and what challenges we might face in this restoration journey if these are our best hope.

Journal Entry #3

Today was the last day of my internship and its quite bittersweet. I have had such an amazing time at The American Chestnut Foundation. I think this was a really beneficial internship and I have learned so much and made such incredible connections with so many people I’m so grateful. We finished the experiment with the transgenic trees and we found that there is minimal correlation with the water PH and it most likely has to do with phosphorus and or the watering schedule. We started watering the plant in the High light growth building but hand and the really thrived. We also were watering the plants selected for the experiment by hand and it seemed to benefit them a lot. Or running hypothesis is that chestnut like heavy less frequent watering however we still need more evidence to be sure. Pollenating is also complete and we are now just putting cages on the trees to protect them from being eaten. Since they are pollenated with transgenic pollen they are super regulated by the government and we have to follow a lot of extra rules. Were now just getting ready for the harvest season. Overall though this was a really great experience and I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to spend the summer there.

Logan Van de Water

Journal Entry #1

Hello! My name is Logan Van de Water and I am a rising fourth year student with majors in Government and Spanish and a minor in the Batten School. This spring and summer, I am working as a press intern for Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia. While most of my internship has been remote, I am greatly enjoying the opportunity to delve into both current events and communications strategies. I knew I wanted to work on Capitol Hill this summer despite the pandemic; Senator Manchin’s office is brimming with the dynamic energy and spirit of teamwork that I feared was intangible in a virtual setting. From my computer in Warrenton, Virginia, though, I genuinely feel a valuable and included team member with sound contributions to the Senator’s consequential role as a swing vote.

I’ve spent many of my undergraduate hours at the Center for Politics at UVA. Under its faculty, I have taken fascinating courses and dedicated the majority of my research to political polarization and fostering compromise in Congress. Consequently, I’m thrilled to work for a member who prioritizes nonpartisanship and working across the aisle on legislation. In particular, I believe Senator Manchin’s professional relationship and friendship with Senator Lisa Murkowski on the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is a great example for all lawmakers.

My daily tasks consist largely of watching, clipping, and distributing pertinent coverage of the Senator in national and West Virginia news outlets. This regular assignment has definitely enhanced my understanding of pressing news issues because I watch how a large variety of sources report on the same topic or event. From Fox News to MSNBC to CSPAN to local West Virginia outlets, this part of the internship keeps me captivated for most mornings.

Journal Entry #2 

Today, I had the privilege of meeting Senator Manchin (virtually)! My supervisor told me that he makes an effort to meet each member of his team, regardless of their job title, and I greatly admire this leadership priority even amidst his frenetic schedule. On the Zoom call, we introduced ourselves, chatted about the current policy areas the office is focusing on, and about bipartisanship in Congress. Senator Manchin was personable, sincere, and enthusiastic to learn about his interns and it was definitely a highlight of my internship so far.

My supervisor has been a great mentor and friend to me during this experience. She has arranged several “career chats” between other employees in the office and myself to make sure I’m meeting everyone despite the virtual circumstances. It’s been very interesting to speak with people in all kinds of roles in the personal office and with the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. I’m able to ask a ton of questions about topics like graduate school, professional tracks on Capitol Hill, and specific policy views within the team.

I’m working on a project now of backlogging media statistics for much of the year 2020. With the mayhem of switching to remote operations last year, there is some work to make up. Most of the project is recording and synthesizing coverage of the Senator into topic areas and chronological months. The compilation from last year also has the benefit of showing me dissimilar perspectives on issues and it’s fascinating to watch how opinions have evolved since then. 2020 press work has also exposed me to how the Senator’s office and Capitol Hill as a whole operated under the previous presidential administration. In many cases, news outlets have distinguished their coverage of policies per the leader behind them; I’ve appreciated learning communications nuances such as this one.

Journal Entry #3

As my internship with Senator Manchin’s office comes to an end, I am so grateful for the opportunity and for the support of the Parents Fund in completing it. It has definitely reaffirmed my passion for public policy and my aspirations to work in government after I graduate next spring. While it wasn’t the traditional summer internship experience during the pandemic, I met enough hardworking and adamantly optimistic staffers to actually appreciate the flexibility necessary to operate a governmental office from thirty different living rooms across the country.

I’m finishing my 2020 backlogging project during the final week of my internship, as well as keeping up to speed with current news coverage. Whether or not Congress is in session affects my work load a good amount, so I’m glad to have this retroactive assignment to keep me occupied during recess. That being said, the second half of my experience has been much busier than the first half. It worked out perfectly for me as my classes ended around the time the internship really picked up. It’s been exciting to be a part of a team that is so relevant in the press and in each vote the Senate takes; I wouldn’t have preferred a quieter schedule in the slightest. Additionally, the employees in Senator Manchin’s office have treated me with active kindness and inclusivity despite my temporary status; this constructively ambitious atmosphere has propelled me to learn all that I can, uninhibited from any anxiety at stepping out of place or making a mistake.

One piece of advice I would give to students seeking an internship on Capitol Hill or in politics in general is to make genuine connections a priority. Especially during COVID and in all remote settings, I can find it nerve-wracking to reach out to my superiors. My previously and foolishly held belief that networking was somehow annoying or selfishly detracting from day to day responsibilities has thankfully subsided and I have come to enjoy these conversations. One strategy that I found helpful is to start with looking for UVA alumni. For me, the Chief Counsel in Senator Manchin’s office ended up being a Hoo!

For any student wanting to chat about interning on Capitol Hill, the UVA Politics Department, or anything else, please don’t hesitate to send me an email at!

Grace Kurcina

Journal Entry #1

In my internship with International Justice Mission (IJM) I am serving as the Business Operations intern for the North America region. IJM is a global nonprofit organization that works to end human trafficking and other forms of modern day slavery. The North America region is the organization’s primary revenue creator and partnerships builder. Since the start of my internship on June 6th, I have been working directly under the supervision of the team’s Learning & Innovation Lead. Business Operations is a mixture of data analytics, project management, and general administrative tasks. As such, I will be providing support to each of these functions. So far I have been working on editing and building out the team’s project process in powerpoint. I attend all of my team’s meetings, as well as engage in professional development programs specifically designed for interns.

Over the course of this internship, I hope to meet the following goals: 1) To use the time as an opportunity to learn more about the nonprofit field and to network within the organization, 2) To come out of the internship with a hard skills and experiences I can use in my future career, 3) To be a resource for my term and the larger organization. Above all, I want IJM to be able to work towards its mission to free everyone from modern slavery. I hope that even my small role as intern contributes to IJM’s mission over the course of my time there.

Journal Entry #2

Over the course of the past few weeks, I have been fortunate enough to meet a handful of incredible people doing fascinating work. Some of these have been lawyers working in the office of general counsel, creators doing professional writing and design for the organization, officers in the field conducting rescue missions, and even our own CEO, Gary Haugen. In personal conversations with these individuals, I have learned so much about the nonprofit sector, human rights law, and the fight for global justice. Suffice to say, I am inspired by the people I work with everyday. I have begun work on a project developing a new shared services site for the North America region in the intranet website SharePoint. In doing so, I have learned a great deal about the various Microsoft platforms, created infographics in Canva, and worked closely with our IT team. I have also been collaborating with team leads from our creative, marketing, finance, project management, data analytics, and prospect development teams to gather and synthesize the services each team provides and FAQs they receive. I will then turn this information into a useful informational resource for employees.

While my individual work has kept me busy and taught me a lot, I have learned the most in team tacticals and project meetings—working with fellow team members. I have also had the chance to receive “Enneagram coaching” to help me learn more about my strengths and weaknesses as a worker. I am certain my time with IJM will provide incredible leadership and professional development training for me in my future career.

Journal Entry #3

As an intern for IJM, I have felt part of a team in more ways than one. My Business Operations team welcomed as one of their own, my fellow virtual interns gathered regularly via Zoom socially and professionally, and daily prayer time reminded me that I am one small part in this greater mission, fighting for freedom around the world. Through my projects and in the support I have provided for my team, I have gained communication, analytical, and creative skills. Not to mention, I now have familiarity with Teamwork, Salesforce, and SharePoint. My time with IJM has been made more valuable through the guidance of my superiors and the friendship of my peers. The robust programming provided for IJM interns aimed at helping us explore different career paths in the nonprofit, international relations, legal, and human rights fields. I am now more sure than ever that I want to work to fight human trafficking and build better justice systems around the world.

Emma Dawson

Journal Entry #1

My first couple of weeks at Dogwood Alliance have been very rewarding, and I am excited to continue to become acquainted with the organization’s projects and help work on them. Dogwood Alliance is an environmental non-profit organization based out of Asheville, North Carolina. Its mission revolves around fighting against the environmental and social issues stemming from the wood pellet industry in the southeastern United States. Dogwood’s staff members work with frontline communities to protest the building of new wood pellet facilities, perform research to expose the injustices that the industry creates, and work in partnership with other organizations that have similar focuses.

I began my internship by sitting in on staff meetings. In these meetings, I was able to meet staff members and learn about the different initiatives they were working on. It was interesting to learn about the functions of the various teams that Dogwood’s staff were organized into and how work was distributed amongst them. This helped me to understand my role as a supporter to the organization’s conservation scientist. I also learned about the different campaigns that Dogwood runs and the differences between them, further helping me understand the organizational structure that I would be working within.

My first task was to write a blog to be posted on Dogwood Alliance’s website. The blogs serve as a way for staff to explore different topics in a way that can be understood by a general public audience. The blogs cover a variety of topics, and I was given the freedom to choose what I wanted to write about. I decided to write a blog for Dogwood’s Biodiversity in Your Backyard series, which is meant to highlight the diversity of species that occupy the southeastern United States. I decided to perform research on reptiles, as I know that they are highly threatened and sensitive to stressors such as climate change and habitat destruction. After performing research and writing a draft, I used software to edit my draft so that it read at a high school level and could be easily understood by Dogwood’s audience. This was a helpful experience because it helped me to simplify my writing and make concise points.

Going forward, I am working with my supervisor to plan my main project, which I am very excited about. They used ecosystem services valuation as a method to estimate the total ecosystem services value held in southeastern wetland forests for a past project for Dogwood, and I want to expand on this method to incorporate environmental justice. I’m not sure yet how this project will take shape, but I am currently doing extra background research and preparation to better understand the concept. I am excited to see how this project will end up forming.

Journal Entry #2

I am a little bit over halfway through my internship with Dogwood, and I have adopted several interesting projects since my last journal entry. The main one that I have been focusing on is related to ecosystem services valuation with an emphasis on environmental justice. I am working with another intern on developing a framework for incorporating environmental justice into conservation planning. She has GIS skills while I do not, so we have been able to delegate work so that we can each utilize our strengths. We are expanding on the method that Dogwood has used in the past to assign a monetary value to wetland ecosystem services. We have decided to perform a case study which includes comparison between two different counties in South Carolina, using GIS modelling to create different hypothetical future scenarios that result in different amounts of wetland forest land cover. We will use a literature review as the source for the base per acre monetary values and will multiply these values by the amount of wetland forest cover across each scenario. We will also develop a new scenario that prioritizes environmental justice areas as tracts that are important to conserve as a point of comparison to conventional conservation criteria. We will then analyze how changes in ecosystem service values and land loss or gain fall between environmental justice and non-environmental justice communities. I am very intrigued to see what our results yield and hope that this method can become standard practice for decision-makers going forward.

I am also working on helping one of Dogwood’s staff members develop a website that will serve as a central resource hub for community organizers to access. This website was already created but needs updating. I will try to make the interface more organized and user-friendly, and I will also perform research to find the best videos, handouts, and statistics related to the wood pellet industry so that they can be made available for community organizers to use. I have enjoyed starting this process since I know that it will have a direct effect on frontline communities. It has also been fun to be a little bit more creative. I am excited to see how this website turns out.

Journal Entry #3

I am almost finished with my internship at Dogwood Alliance, and my major projects are largely complete. I have finished up the report on ecosystem services and environmental justice. The findings of our case study show that when environmental justice is not prioritized in conservation, land is not conserved in an equitable manner. Based on ecological principles alone, conservation results in an overallocation of land for wealthier, White areas and a disproportionate amount of ecosystem services are given to these groups. This was quite a significant finding because it demonstrated that following established methods for conservation will only result in deepening existing inequity. The method we developed significantly reduced this inequity, though it is imperfect. We recognize the shortcomings of ecosystem services valuation and the need for qualitative input from frontline communities. We hope that our report can be further improved and iterated upon so that conservation plans in the future can have equity at their center.

In addition to working on the biomass resources website, I also took on a smaller project that involved tracking wood pellets throughout their life cycle. While I initially wanted to create an entire database that connected individual plots and wood pellet facilities with the plants that eventually burned the fuel, I quickly found that this was difficult and decided to narrow my focus. Instead, I tracked a plot of pine trees in North Carolina to their pellet processing facility, to the port of Wilmington, North Carolina, overseas to Denmark, and finally to the bioenergy plant that burned these pellets to generate electricity. I created a StoryMap to depict this life cycle with the hope that it could be shown to Dogwood’s audience and help the public understand the international connections that this industry creates.

My time at Dogwood Alliance has been extremely rewarding, and I am very grateful that I got the opportunity to work with this organization. I have learned valuable skills related to working and communicating in a workplace, planning and sequencing steps for finishing a project, and writing for different audiences. I also have gained a new perspective on the role that environmental justice can play in conservation work and land-use decisions. I see the need to place environmental justice at the center of these decisions in order for equity to be achieved moving forward. Addressing issues such as climate change and pollution cannot be done if the positive outcomes are only seen in White, wealthy communities. I would like to incorporate environmental justice into my academic studies in the future and expand my knowledge from strictly science-based issues to include the accompanying social contexts.

Rohan Singh 

Journal Entry #1

In my first two weeks as a Summer Fellow for the Innovation Team of Montgomery County Government, I was tasked with ordering office furniture for the new Innovation Space in the Grey Courthouse. While initially excited for my project that was branded as designing a space, I was placed under tranquilizing stress as I attempted to pull together an order for furniture as the FY 2021 budget was in its last few days. There were two orders I needed to complete. The first was regarding computer peripherals (mice, monitors, keyboards, etc…) through the DCM team. The second was regarding furniture (desks and whiteboards). I began to learn the humanizing and dehumanizing processes that take place in local government. I gained immense empathy for those working to patch up poorly designed systems and policies that hinder workflow and inevitably cost the taxpayers money due to inefficiencies. The first issue in ordering furniture came about when trying to communicate with the County vendor. While he was helpful in providing us information, we had already compiled a list of furniture to meet our space needs from other online vendors. We were only introduced to the County vendor late in the process which required a coordinated meeting where little new information was shared between parties. While his insights were appreciated. We eventually made the decision to purchase furniture elsewhere. The lack of policy regarding package delivery was astounding. Seemingly no one knew how to get packages into Grey Courthouse (our new office) while the building was under construction. This caused frustration between the Innovation team and delivery folks as neither was informed on processes for ordering large packages and having them delivered to the appropriate locations. Several instances took place where the delivery people could not park or could not be met by team members due to scheduling overlaps or lack of people in office due to remote work policies.

I began to empathize with the people who worked the front desk at the CEX office (office we were moving out of). They were tasked with managing the purchasing card process for the office for which all orders had to pass through. There were several stipulations to this process which included waiving all taxes and fees on most orders. This generally involved several email being sent to vendors assuming no denials took place along the way. Such a process made it tedious to order the simplest things like computer mice. My interactions with DCM, while pleasant, were not the most efficient. Quoting items took significantly longer than expected. DCM policy does not allow for quotes to be placed on products listed online (via Amazon, Staples, etc…) which essentially rendered my own product research as useless. The holdups actually encourage users of the process to abandon ship and order using their own personal to seek reimbursement later.

I could go on and on about the hair pulling frustration I faced during my time trying to coordinate furniture orders and computer parts for the team, but instead I will leave my biggest takeaways from a summer working with Montgomery County. There are thousands of extremely bright, creative, passionate employees in the county. But because of overly secure or poorly designed processes, these employees are unable to shine their brightest. They become quelled in logistical tasks like the ones I had to do. I understand the value I brought to the team by taking this burden off of other people’s priorities such that they could focus on doing meaningful work with residents and other departments. Local government has immense potential to be agile, adaptive, and embracing of the needs of all residents. Yet the logistics of booking a team to help assemble desks at a desired time, place, and rate can easily drain six hours of design interview synthesis with residents. One of these is more important than the other, but you need the desk to do the synthesis. To quote a local government celebrity interview I sat in on “Anything that is worth doing is worth doing better”.

Journal Entry #2

The internship with the Innovation team at Montgomery County Government (MCG) has been mostly frustrating at this point. As mentioned in my previous post, there have been several hiccups in the ordering process of furniture and computer parts. More issues in the delivery resulted in a botched delivery where parts were broken. However, I will focus on the positives for this post. I’ve been learning more and more about liberating structures as well as other tools to facilitate innovation within my own meetings I hold. I have begun interviewing people who work for MCG and there is a desperate need for sustainable innovation in almost every department. This type of innovation needs to be sustainable as well. One of my side projects has been researching Thurgood Marshall as he argued a case in the Courthouse where our new office will be located. This is the same office I have been tasked with designing. I organized and ran a presentation and ideation session with stakeholders who would be using the new office space. One of my colleagues and I gave a historical presentation on the past, present, and future of the space. Afterwards, we held a liberating structures ideations session where several people paired up and brainstormed how to best embody the values of Thurgood Marshall and the Piscataway Tribe in the space. It led to innovative responses that the people who would be using the space truly believed.

Journal Entry #3

The final two weeks of my internship with Montgomery County were thought provoking and intense in workload. I was able to learn about service design research processes from several civic designers on the Innovation team. I was tasked with creating a census project for an Innovation Accelerator program hosted by the supervisor of my team for a group of county employees that were selected via application. Using surveys and design interviews as data collection tools, I was able to create a data visualization that visualized the new or strengthened connections in the network of county employees who have taken the course. Additionally, I presented the findings from the data collection and sorting to the employees (dubbed as Accelerators) who took the course. Additionally, I worked on several customer journey maps in partnership with the Office of Consumer Protection. The first map I drafted was based on several design workshops and interviews conducted by one of my civic design colleagues. It represented the touchpoints between a business, customer, and the Office of Consumer Protection during a complaint filing process. The end result was a metro-map inspired visualization that effectively mapped where lapses in communication occurred between the three parties during the process. The other journey map I crafted was again with OCP, but related to their Public Election Fund application process for new or returning candidates running for public office. My task was to make visible the front-end and back-end process that took place for four candidates, each with a different level of familiarity with the PEF application process. By doing so, OCP was able to understand where each different persona may run into issues with regards to meeting deadlines or responding to necessary messages to remain eligible for running for office.

Skylar Brement

Journal Entry #1

I have been working with the Climate Cabinet for a week and a half now, and I really enjoy the work I am doing. First, I’ll provide a quick overview of my position and responsibilities. I am an intern working 30 hours a week from 8am to 2pm, Monday through Friday. My duties include assessing the climate scores of legislators, doing research to write memos, meeting with candidates and political officials to help them build their climate platforms, keeping spreadsheets, and more. I have really enjoyed it so far

I am hoping that I will be able to gain really valuable experience from this position that will let me earn a job in the legislative field. So far, I am learning how to use many new resources and websites that will help better me overall as a worker. I am also getting opportunities to do more professional research and writing- an invaluable skill that always looks good on applications. Future goals aside, I want to enjoy my time working here in the moment. My teammates are really sweet and we have weekly meetings to bond despite the online setting. My work goals are clearly laid out for me and asking questions is always welcomed and encouraged to ensure I understand the assignment. It feels nice to do work that I am proud of- so I hope the rest of the internship goes well.

Journal Entry #2

I have been with the climate cabinet for a while now, I love my job! I have been very busy with several unique projects to call my own. I am still working 30 hours a week, and my duties remain the same. I have gotten a few extra projects working on building out databases for Virginia, and I have been able to write many memos helping candidates shape their climate platforms. It is exciting to learn about what my state is doing to become carbon neutral and to combat climate change. It is less exciting but still important to learn about what steps we still need to take to reach climate goals. I also have gotten the amazing opportunity to research other states on the national level to see their climate progress too. I have over a month left of the internship, and so much more to learn.

Journal Entry #3

I am finally slowing down on work and wrapping up my 30 hours a week- I worked 30 hours for over 10 weeks. I have slowed to 3 hours a day so I can accommodate my summer class now that I have worked the appropriate period for the grant. I still love my internship, and I think I will be a 6 hour/week intern during the Fall semester so I can continue doing work I love and forge more connections, even if it is unpaid. I have learned so much during this internship, and I have met so many new people with the same passions as me. The Climate Cabinet has a wonderful team of fantastic people, they are flexible and willing to work with you, they are passionate about their cause and the team bonding exercises are so fun. I am grateful for the opportunity to work for them, I couldn’t have done it without the grant I received.

I have developed my skills in policy analysis, writing concise data reports, research, teamwork, and communication. I have furthered my knowledge of climate change and politics, and I have completed projects and made connections to gain future career opportunities. This was an amazing experience, and it isn’t over quite yet!

Krysten Kuhn 

Journal Entry #1

On June 7, I started my internship at the Scrappy Elephant. The Scrappy Elephant is a creative reuse center. The store receives donations of unwanted art materials and either sells them to the community at a much lower, affordable price or repurposes them in the studio to allow visitors to make their own art. The goal is to keep these materials out of the landfill and give them back to the community in order to encourage sustainability and to foster a love of art.

The owner, Sarah Sweet, showed me around the store and explained its purpose. She laid out what I would be doing to help, starting with organizing the pounds and pounds of donations that the Scrappy Elephant receives. From day one, I spent most of my time in the storage closet space sorting through donations and deciding how to organize the materials and where they should go (out front to the store, in the back to be used in the studio, or in the closet to be stored for later use). Unfortunately, some materials that are donated cannot be used, or the space in the store is not sufficient to store them, so some items have to either be donated to Goodwill, taken to be recycled, or as a last result, thrown away. However, from my first day at the store, I could see Sarah’s passion for finding creative ways to reuse just about any material that gets donated, however odd or random. As proof, the store is filled to the brim with art materials that have been saved from the landfill, as well as eye-catching art pieces created with those very materials. While I was organizing the storage closet and learning the lay of the land, there was a kids art camp going on, taught by Sarah and another local art teacher. They planned out art projects for the kids to do every day using the donated materials, and watching the campers get so excited about making art in such a sustainable way has been very rewarding.

Journal Entry #2

In July, I began helping Sarah teach the art camp for children at the Scrappy Elephant. It was a few hours in the morning, from 9-12:30, and I spent my afternoons back in the storage closet continuing to sort. I had worked with children while volunteering in high school, but helping with camp was a much more involved experience that proved challenging but very rewarding. Watching the campers come up with their own variations of the projects that Sarah and I designed was exciting, even when some kids needed extra assistance along the way. I consider myself to be pretty capable when working with children, but it definitely reminded me how much patience is required. Since I’ve considered teaching in the future, camp was an opportunity for me to see how I feel about working with kids and teaching them, albeit in a relatively low-pressure setting.

One of the most memorable days of my internship thus far was one Thursday when we received a huge donation of fabric, all from two women. They had cleaned out their sewing rooms and donated the materials they no longer needed (over 300 pounds in total!). Sarah and I moved the donations into our storage closet, weighed them, and got to work sorting. I spent the next day rolling and organizing the fabric to be put on display, and Sarah decided to have a fabric sale to compensate for the fact that we simply had run out of room to store more fabric. Over the course of my internship, I have been stunned by how generous the community has been with donating art supplies. There is certainly never a shortage of items to sort and organize when I come in during the week, and every Monday I walk in to find even more donations have racked up over the weekend. It can become overwhelming when Sarah and I are the only two people working to organize donations, but I can’t imagine how daunting it was when Sarah was working alone. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be helping her, all the while soaking in the creativity of sustainable art-making.

This month I also tried my hand at social media for the Scrappy Elephant, using websites like Canva to make graphics to post about creative reuse project ideas to inspire followers to stop by the shop or to help visitors to the studio come up with ideas for crafts. One week I had to work virtually, so I spent my time finding and trying out sustainable craft ideas, anything from cork wall hangings to popsicle stick animals. I posted a new idea almost every day during the week, and quickly realized how challenging it can be to keep up with social media promotion, let alone the rest of the tasks that running a small business entails. I really enjoyed the process though, and I think that working on social media for the Scrappy Elephant has helped me continue to cultivate useful skills for the future.

Journal Entry #3

As my time as an intern at the Scrappy Elephant comes to a close, I can’t help but marvel at Sarah’s skill as a small business owner amid a pandemic. Working alongside her has been exciting and inspiring, especially watching her bring her passions for art and sustainability together to create a wonderful space for creativity and to promote environmental awareness. There is never a shortage of work to be done at the shop, from organizing donations to cleaning out the storage closet, to resetting the studio and ringing up customers. I spent much more time at the front of the store in the past few weeks, which has given me good experience in customer service. I have done my best to be a friendly face to customers and follow Sarah’s lead when describing the purpose of the Scrappy Elephant to newcomers. Helping customers find what they are looking for amid scores of donated craft items is rarely an issue, given that Sarah and I know the store inside and out, from the shelf of yarn skeins to the most random items that fit into small crevices among other donations.

One of the most unexpected but rewarding components of this internship has been interacting with customers and seeing their reactions to the shop. The community seems so eager to engage with the Scrappy Elephant, which has given me a substantial amount of hope for the future of creativity and how messages of sustainability can be received. Especially in the past couple weeks, teachers and other people who work with children have visited the shop to look for school supplies and other art materials, and listening to their creative visions has been amazing. One woman stopped by to pick up materials for an Olympics-themed project she planned to do with kids at a camp, and she described how she had used old award ribbons to make rainbow fish. So many people who visit the shop have shown me and Sarah pictures of their art using materials they got from the Scrappy Elephant, and it’s incredible to see the creativity that comes out of rather unassuming scrap materials. I can only imagine how rewarding it is for Sarah to see the fruits of her labor, from the projects that children bring home to their parents from camp to the projects that store-goers make using materials donated to the shop.

In the past two and a half months, my views of sustainability and creativity have expanded so much. Never would I have considered making Olympic gold medals out of plastic container lids and paint, or using yarn to wrap around sticks to make flagpoles. This internship has challenged me to see the possibility in every scrap. The Scrappy Elephant takes the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” to a new level, and my time at the shop has reminded me that almost everything has an unexpected second use. I hope to use the experience and knowledge that I have gained during this internship to continue encouraging people to not only make art and tap into creativity as a form of self-expression, but also to use that creativity to devise new approaches to the climate crisis that continues to grow. Surmounting this immense challenge requires incredible creativity and innovation. Working with Sarah at the Scrappy Elephant has shown me this firsthand, and I hope to share her passion with others even after I have left the shop.

Declan Lynch

Journal Entry #1

This summer, I'll be working as a Natural Resources Intern for the Anacostia Watershed Society. While the organization’s headquarters are located in Bladensburg, MD, much of my work will be concentrated in sections of DC. The group, a non-profit established in 1989, works to restore the Anacostia River and rehabilitate its recovery from the consequences of centuries of industrial exploitation. Currently, AWS' mission is to make the river swimmable and fishable by 2025. While progression towards the goal of swimmable has outpaced that of fishable, the effectiveness and popularity of strategies towards both goals has increased significantly in recent years. Local residents, driven both by personal interest and AWS' community outreach programs, play a significant role in the restoration effort. As a student particularly interested in wildlife conservation and its local and regional applications, I'm extremely excited to experience AWS' programs firsthand.

In my first week, I have been provided with several opportunities to engage with this goal. A significant element of the AWS' restoration plans involves the propagation and rehabilitation of mussel populations throughout the Anacostia River. Over the past decade, the society has re-introduced dozens of species native to DC and MD in hopes of increasing the biofiltration capacity of the river. Remotely, I've started working with data from these surveys to judge the relative survivability of each species within certain parts of the waterway. In the field, I've participated in a mussel survey, scouring the riverbed for mussels with clam rakes. Those that we found were measured for their length; their location was measured for its temperature, pH, and levels of dissolved oxygen. Through these calculations, in addition to those I've completed in my remote work, we can predict the most comfortable environments for these mussels and determine the feasibility of propagating additional species in locations throughout the river. In addition to restoration efforts, I've also toured the water on small pontoon boats and learned about the society's green infrastructure projects in churches and schools around DC and MD. I've examined the engineering and blueprints behind rain gardens, gathered water quality data, and so much more. So far, I have loved the work and am looking forward to delving deeper into AWS' mission in the coming months.

Journal Entry #2

Over the past few weeks of my internship with AWS, I have been tasked with increased responsibilities. While much of my work has involved the society’s efforts to restore freshwater mussel populations in the Anacostia River, I have had the opportunity to work on a myriad of unique projects.

One experience that had a lasting impression on me involved the construction of trails and recreational space in the median separating two sides of a neighborhood in DC. While the work itself was interesting, -- an arduous process consisting of weed removal by hand, distribution of protective film, and spread of mulch across the landscape -- it was the people that struck a chord with me. We were assisted in our efforts by a group called CorpsTHAT, an environmental group consisting entirely of the hearing impaired. I thought it was fascinating that there was an environmental organization dedicated solely to the inclusion of such a niche collection of people. In the realm of environmental justice, we often hear about the importance of including minority groups in conservation efforts, but this distinction typically refers to communities excluded due to racial differences. It was fascinating to encounter a different branch of this discussion and experience the passion the group had for protecting the environment despite their inability to fully experience it. This experience resonated with me and had profound effects on my perspective on environmental justice and work, in general.  

Remotely, myself and another intern have been tasked with a significant assignment, one integral to the mission of AWS and the improvement of District waters. By the end of our internship, we hope to have completed the draft of a Mussel Restoration Plan for DC, fulfilling one of the deliverables for our District Department of Energy and the Environment-funded project. The completed plan will consist of information regarding the 15 species of mussel native to DC, their decline in recent years, and protocols for restoration and propagation, among a multitude of other data. Despite the importance of the project, we have received little direction, although I have arranged multiple meetings with our National Resources Specialist to discuss the document. In the coming weeks, we hope to expand on the concept-driven sections (e.g. background, project timeline, etc.) and develop a comprehensible guide to introducing mussels in District waters. In addition to this massive task, we have also been asked to condense the results of recent mussel surveys in preparation for our activity on July 19. Tomorrow, I will begin organizing the data, running calculations concerning growth and mortality rates, and sharing it in the company database.

So far, I have learned about the trials and successes of environmental conservation efforts at local and state levels, as well as the day-to-day operations of non-profit companies. On a more focused scale, my knowledge of species restoration, green infrastructure, and invasive species has increased immensely. I'm looking forward to the final few weeks of my experience with the Anacostia Watershed Society.

Journal Entry #3

I’m extremely grateful for having had the opportunity to work for the Anacostia Watershed Society. My knowledge of regional environmental challenges, as well as the community strategies used to combat them, has increased significantly. I have a newfound appreciation for the “green infrastructure” work that occurs out of the public eye, such as the use of rain gardens and permeable surfaces to accommodate storm runoff. I also loved that the program was structured as a rotational internship, which made it a perfect introduction to environmental work. While I enjoyed some activities more than others -- my favorite being the mussel surveys -- it was helpful to sample as many areas as possible. I’m particularly proud of the work I did on the freshwater mussel restoration plan that AWS will submit to the District Department of Energy & the Environment. In the final days of my internship, I managed to finish the first acceptable draft of the plan. I've been told that my name will be included in the final document, which I consider to be a unique personal achievement. Wildlife conservation remains my primary passion, but the different experiences I had this summer have given me a lot to consider as I continue my environmental studies.

At the beginning of the summer, I figured I would prefer fieldwork and that turned out to be the case. I enjoyed the outdoors time as well as seeing the problems that afflict the watershed firsthand. I now have a better understanding of my ideal work setting, preferring hands-on assignments to office work. I also enjoyed getting to know many members of the staff and learning about their different responsibilities. I liked that everyone knew each other well and I feel that this interconnectedness did wonders for the efficiency of the organization and its success. Furthermore, everyone seemed happy to accommodate me and to fit me into their schedule, which was helpful for my personal growth. I have an improved understanding of how non-profit organizations operate and would love to have similar firsthand experience with a business or government agency in the future to see how they tackle environmental challenges in their unique landscapes differently.

Daniel Stockmal

Journal Entry #1

Hi guys, I'm Daniel Stockmal, a rising 4th year at the University of Virginia. I'm in the Batten School, studying Public Policy and Leadership with minors in Environmental Science and Foreign Affairs. This summer, I’ll be working at the Department of Energy (DOE) with the Partnerships and Technical Assistance Team (P&TA) to support the State and Local Planning for Energy, or SLOPE, platform. SLOPE is an online interactive information visualization tool with over 40 data sets covering the trifecta of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable transportation. While I won’t be working on the data-heavy portion of the tool (our team at NREL does that, thankfully), I will get a chance to enhance the outreach and layout of the platform so that state and local stakeholders can use it to drive their planning and achieve their jurisdiction energy goals.

As I prepare to start my first week, I’d like to share why I selected this internship and reaffirm some of my goals for this summer. At UVA, I’ve had the chance to study environmental science and a variety of related areas in my policy classes, but I’ve yet had the opportunity to combine the two outside of memo writing and class projects. I chose to work at the DOE because I wanted to 1) learn more about the energy sector as it fits within the broader scope of climate action, 2) experience the tangible efforts behind existing policy initiatives, and 3) enhance my understanding of how the federal government can support states and local governments in their own energy and climate planning endeavors. Lastly, working for the government provides the opportunity to serve the nation, placing the public good at the heart of our efforts in a way that I find really unique and rewarding. These points embody my interest in the DOE, and I hope that they can serve to guide my exploration and drive my work ethic throughout my internship this summer.

Journal Entry #2

As I return to work after a long July 4th weekend, I can say that I’ve accomplished and learned many things halfway through my internship at the Department of Energy. Thus far, I’ve adopted the role as a supportive team member, taking meeting notes and reviewing materials. All the while, I’ve worked to learn more about the SLOPE platform, our funding structure, and the many other amazing deployment programs in the Weatherization and Intergovernmental Programs (WIP) Office, of which P&TA and SLOPE are a part. I’ve had to ask quite a few questions over my first few weeks to get a working understanding of SLOPE and the office, but, my supervisors, the office Fellows, and all the federal staff have been generous in sharing their time to support the other interns and me in this learning process.

More recently, I’ve had the opportunity to provide input on new functionality and design elements for the SLOPE homepage and outreach materials. Taking advantage of my fresh set of eyes, I’ve reviewed the SLOPE homepage, tutorial, and fact sheet. I then synthesized my feedback into a 3-page report, with recommendations to enhance the layout and wording of some of the resources to maximize their impact. I’ve enjoyed this task and look forward to providing more feedback on the SLOPE data viewer in the future.

Reflecting on my initial goals, I can say I’ve already learned, and will continue to learn, a lot about these guiding questions during my time here. As I’ve delved further into the WIP office, I’ve discovered a lot about existing energy efficiency programs, areas of successful collaboration between state and federal planners, and the dynamics of government bureaucracy. The complexity of coordinating feedback, setting priorities, and determining project budgets have been difficult to work with at times, but it has been useful to learn about this necessary process and the benefits of multi-tiered review. I’ve also already gained a much better understanding of the resources and tools available for sustainability and energy efficiency planning. While SLOPE is just one of many planning tools, it is an integrative platform that consolidates high-quality data into one place – reducing the barriers to entry for all planners. SLOPE is particularly helpful for smaller counties or cities that may not have the money nor expertise to derive independent reports or data markers for their jurisdictions. Soon, I’ll be creating detailed comparison charts between SLOPE and other data tools to serve as references for leadership and others wishing to learn about the tools and identify their value propositions in specific contexts. Lastly, while the state and local planners that my office focuses on are different from the stakeholders of other DOE offices, it’s been great to see that a deep commitment to service is shared across the DOE.

Beyond these tasks and the immediate work-sphere, I've also finally had the opportunity to interact with teammates in the office. While my internship is entirely virtual, as a local Washingtonian, I’ve had the opportunity to meet up with my teammates and fellow interns in a few informal get-togethers across DC. Not only have these meet-ups been some of my most memorable experiences at the DOE, but they’ve also shown me the importance of getting to know those beyond your immediate supervisors. While few of the other staff or interns work directly on my project, I’ve seen how valuable it is to get to know others across the office. Everyone brings a different background and perspective to their work, and as a young professional looking to jumpstart my career after college, talking with my colleagues about their own pathways has been enlightening. Seeing the varied degrees, experiences, and paths others have taken to get where they are has assuaged some of my fears about “doing all of the right steps” because there is no one set course. By working on developing useful skills and nourishing networks, my colleagues have shown me the many ways you can end up where you want to be.

Journal Entry #3

As I close out my internship at the DOE after 10 weeks, I can say that I’m proud of my work and grateful for the opportunities and the people that I’ve come across. Over the last half of my internship, I’ve had the chance to provide more feedback for the SLOPE platform as well as generate the comparisons between SLOPE and 7 other energy data platforms. Additionally, I’ve prepared charts, updated excel sheets, and formatted slides for our quarterly Steering Committee (SC) meeting. Since SLOPE is collaboratively funded by 9 DOE offices, these SC meetings set the short-and-long-term development priorities of the platform. While the SC meeting will occur after the end of my official internship, I look forward to attending as an observer one last time to see the culmination of my work and the opening of the next chapter for the platform.

Looking back, every task and project I’ve worked on has enabled me to explore a different aspect of life at the DOE. Collectively, these tasks and my many other experiences – from informal get-togethers to webinars with the Deputy Secretary – have helped define my time at the DOE and provided some takeaways.

Professionally, this internship helped me not only align my interests in the environment and policy, but to differentiate the topical areas that emerge from this intersection. More than ever before, I recognize distinctions in energy policy, sustainability work, and efficiency programs. Additionally, I've developed a much better understanding of how the federal government can support states and localities, whether that's through directly funded programs, technical assistance, or the availability of quality data and planning tools, like SLOPE. Experiencing the collective effort within the DOE and the top-down deployment of programs to local levels has provided invaluable insight as a prospective future federal employee.

Personally, I've found my experience at the DOE to be both enlightening and exciting. From the P&TA team, I've seen the many amazing projects that my colleagues are working on, and as the entire department swings into gear under the Biden administration, the work ethic has been encouraging and infectious. Likewise, the friendliness of the office has been universal. Early in my internship, one of the Fellows remarked that the kind interactions and genuine advice she first received when in DC set her on her feet and that she wants to return the favor to all those she can. As I prepare for my own career, I hope to retain this same sentiment and pass along any useful advice. While this is my last week as an intern at the DOE, I've found my experience immensely rewarding, and I hope that these reflections can help anyone considering interning at the Department of Energy. 

Megan Sprotte

Journal Entry #1

Today I began my internship with the U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce which is a California based non-profit that aims to research and connect with other environmental NGOs throughout the world in order to work towards a more sustainable future. I am excited to continue working in the nonprofit semester after interning with the High Atlas Foundation last spring through UVA. Last semester was a very eye-opening experience for me, as I was not only able to gain insight into the workings of the non-profit industry, but also gain hands on experience working with individuals abroad.

Within the USGCC I am working on the Sustainability and NGOs team of the Global Climate Pledge. The organization has created the global climate pledge (and webpage along with it) to inspire individuals and organizations throughout the world to join in the climate fight. My tasks on this team include researching reputable environmental NGOs in various countries to be added to the global organization’s page. One of the first things I did was add the High Atlas Foundation to their list of global organizations, in order to highlight all the progress they are achieving in Morocco. I think this is a great example of how past work experiences can really play into and shape your future endeavors.

My internship this summer will be completely virtual, which is unfortunately something that I have become very used to. During the course of the pandemic, something that I have really taken away from online school is how important it is to remain focused and diligent when working alone from your room. I am disappointed that I won’t be able to meet any of my colleagues this summer, but I am confident that I will still be able to make a tangible impact in my role at the Global Climate Pledge.

Journal Entry #2

I am a little past the halfway point of my internship, and it has been really interesting to see how my role has evolved throughout the summer. What started as mainly research has now transformed to incorporate outreach and communications as well. I have meetings multiple times a week with leaders from NGOs throughout the world to discuss partnerships and future collaborations in order to help spread each other’s message. It has been so interesting for me to see how sustainability is approached in the context of other cultures and socio-political frameworks. I have also learned a great deal about how species conservation, education, women’s rights, and more play a major role in addressing climate change. It is such a vast issue that the only true way of fixing it is through a multidimensional approach.

As I was saying before, part of my role currently is to attend and participate in meetings with international NGOs that we are looking to partner with. Yesterday, I lead my first meeting with none other than the High Atlas Foundation. It was great to have this opportunity to reunite with my previous boss and supervisor, while simultaneously bringing two great environmental organizations together. We have been able to find a space for collaboration and are now working together to promote each other’s messages in various ways, whether it be social media, blogs posts, or through contact with other organizations.

I was not expecting meetings to be such a crucial part of my role here at USGCC, but I am thankful that they are. While at times they are nerve wracking, I feel that I have improved greatly in terms of my confidence while presenting and speaking. I am hoping that this is something that will carry over into my life past this internship, as I approach the interview stage of my Fourth Year.

Journal Entry #3

I am writing this entry at the end of my last full week of my internship, and I am so proud as I look back at all I have achieved. Earlier today I was on a call with an organization from China that was hoping to provide funding to an organization in Mozambique that provides school lunches for impoverished children. This helps to not only encourage them to stay in school, but also to help them focus better and achieve more while they are there. This meeting was really inspiring because we were able to act as the middle man and connect these two organizations that we had previously worked with. The week before we had connected the same Chinese organization with a Madagascar organization to help them receive funding to fight the current famine that is devastating the country. These meetings and partnerships felt so special to me because these are things that would not have happened without the hard work and research that my team put in. In addition to that, these partnerships are going to have a real, crucial impact on the people of the country that are facing hardships.  

While this is technically the last full-time week of my internship, I am going to stay on board and do as much as I can until I get too busy with school and other commitments. In a meeting we had last week with an organization in Botswana, they mentioned that they are very busy fighting against the drilling project that the Canadian-based oil and gas company, ReconAfrica, is launching in the Kavango Basin (located in Northeast Namibia and Northwest Botswana). They are concerned with the threats this project holds to biodiversity in the area, as well as what it will do to the Indigenous communities that are some of the first inhabitants of the countries. I am really inspired to help join the fight in any way I can, which is why I will hopefully be able to remain active in my position for a couple more weeks.  

Emily Ma

Journal Entry #1

I have now been an intern with the IRC for more than 10 weeks and have about a week left of my internship program. I have really enjoyed my time working for the IRC, and I feel like I’ve gained a more informed picture of what the needs of recently arrived refugee communities look like.         

The past few weeks have been the busiest out of the entire summer. The local public schools are starting up for the new school year soon, so I have been working on completing school and pre-school enrollments. I think this experience has made me more aware of how many moving parts and pieces there are involved in this process. I’ve been contacting parents, school administrators, medical clinics, school secretaries, and more in order to get the proper documents, set up accounts, get records straight, familiarize clients with the school system, and arrange immunizations. I have also been helping clients with free lunch applications as well as doing education intakes for some of the newly-arrived clients in order to assess their school readiness. These tasks have also made me realize how many challenges there are in the public school system for refugees with children. For example, many clients rely on a community clinic for their children’s immunizations and health physicals that is often ill-equipped to address their needs. Moreover, during the summer months, it can be difficult to get in contact with people from the school system in order to ask questions about enrollment.

Furthermore, for the past two weeks, the IRC’s ESL summer program, the Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA) has been going on. This year, the program is taking place in a hybrid format. I’ve been managing morning and afternoon attendance for the program and conducting outreach to the families in order to help them with technical and logistical difficulties. Especially during the first week, many of the families had problems using Microsoft Teams or other aspects of their computers, so it was a challenge to try to help troubleshoot their issues over the phone so that their kids could log onto class. Many parents also called or texted me with various other questions about the program’s class schedules, transportation, in-person activities, and field trips. From this experience, I’ve definitely learned how to better balance multiple tasks at once.

Overall, I’ve found this internship to be incredibly rewarding. I feel like I’ve developed important skills in communication and organization. Working directly with clients has been a great opportunity.

Paola Linares

Journal Entry #1

Hi!! My name is Paola Linares and I am a rising third year majoring in Political Social Thought. This summer, I am interning at a non-profit organization named Mil Mujeres that helps victims of violence who are petitioning for immigration status within the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Specifically, Mil Mujeres provides low-cost immigration legal services to individuals within the Latinx community who are survivors of gender related crimes and other violent crimes. My internship for now is remote due to the pandemic. Though I wish I could be there in-person, I am excited to provide support to the Mil Mujeres national team. So far, I have been able to meet interns and Mil Mujeres employees from all over (ex. Colorado, California, Columbia, Peru, etc.) It is incredible to listen to stories about how people discovered Mil Mujeres and how passionate they are about helping the unoducumented community. 

During our first meeting this past week, they explained to us that they mostly work with U-Visa applications and VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) applications. It was interesting to learn about all of the components that are required in order for these applications to be complete. It made me further realize how difficult and emotionally laboring it can be for people petitioning for these visas. In addition to learning about these specific applications, they also explained that some of my responsibilities will include managing various databases, translating documents from Spanish to English, proofreading legal arguments, and inputting information, data, & records. I am excited to further explore these tasks and I hope to gain a lot of valuable skills this summer. I believe the responsibilities they explained to me in this meeting are going to help strengthen my research skills and my oral & written communication skills. I also think my Spanish speaking skills will certainly be utilized and strengthened this summer. Overall, I am excited to explore a specific area of public service that I would potentially like to pursue in the future. I will definitely be back in a few weeks with an update on how it is going!  

Journal Entry #2

I am now about halfway done with my internship at Mil Mujeres and it has been a very busy, informative time. At first, I worked almost exclusively with the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration services) website and database. My job was to input the Mil Mujeres case numbers into the system to ensure that USCIS had received it in order for a client’s case to continue. Though, at times, it was tedious work because the USCIS database is very slow and there is a large backlog, I knew that the work I was doing was necessary and important in its own way. It taught me that even the smallest of tasks matter because it helps to keep the organization moving. 

Also! An exciting project that I recently finished was creating a blog post for the Mil Mujeres website. They gave us the freedom to select a topic of our choice that related to the undocumented community. For example, one intern wrote about the recent Supreme Court decision regarding TPS, another wrote about ways to identify domestic violence & how to look for help, and others discussed the political situation going on in other countries and how it affects asylum seekers. I chose to write a ‘Know Your Rights’ article that discussed one’s basic defensive rights when confronted by immigration authorities. Within my post, I specifically discussed the right to remain silent and the right to demand a warrant before letting someone into your home. I included common phrases that one could use in order to assert this right such as: “I am asserting my 5th amendment right to remain silent” or “I do not consent to this search under my 4th amednment right” or “Tienes una orden de entrada?.” In addition to writing my article in English, I had the chance to translate it into Spanish which allowed me to practice my Spanish speaking skills. Overall, I wanted to make my blog post as accessible and informative as possible. 

Journal Entry #3

I am currently wrapping up my last week with Mil Mujeres. This past month has been great because I was finally able to go to their Washington D.C. office and support the team that works there. My time at the DC office mostly consisted of reviewing and scanning clients’ physical cases. Most of the files I reviewed were either about people petitioning for the U-Visa or for VAWA. In some ways, reviewing these files was a “full circle” moment for me. I remember back to our first meeting in the beginning of summer when they trained us on what type of visas Mil Mujeres works with so it was interesting to finally see what these applications look like and how much is required in order for it to be successfully completed. Additionally, working in the DC office allowed me to get to know some of the people that Mil Mujeres is helping. Both the clients and the DC team were so kind and I am content that I was able to spend some time doing in-person internship work this summer.  

I learned a lot about the field of immigration law this summer. This internship helped to solidify the fact that I would like to potentiialy pursue a career in this realm and it encouraged me to continue helping the undocumented community in any way that I can. I believe that I strengthened a lot of my communication and research skills this summer as well. If there was one piece of advice that I would give to someone who does this internship in the future, it would be to remember that communication is essential and to never be afraid to ask questions about the work that you are doing. These things will help keep you grounded and help you grow. Ultimately, I am so grateful for having this internship experience and it truly would not have been possible without the Parents Fund financial support. Thank you!

Reilly Krannitz

Journal Entry #1

Today I finished the first week of my internship with Generation180. Generation180 is a non-profit in Charlottesville that equips people with the resources they need to switch to using clean energy, as well as resources to help others make the switch. My internship is focused on assisting with the Electrify Your Ride program, which educates people about the benefits of purchasing electric vehicles rather than fuel-powered cars.

I applied to this internship because I am very interested in sustainability. While I recognize that big corporations are largely to blame for our climate crisis, I am specifically passionate about focusing on little ways to live more sustainably that eventually can add up to make a big difference. I was drawn to Generation180 because I could really relate to the organization’s mission of helping people make lifestyle changes that are better for the health of the planet (and the health of people!).

So far, my job duties have mostly included conducting some research about electric vehicles (EVs). I came into this internship not knowing anything about EVs, so I spent the first few days educating myself about the topic and reading articles about the subject. I was able to learn a lot about them in a short period of time, and I’ve enjoyed the learning experience.

Now, I am working on researching policies surrounding electric vehicles in several states throughout the US. It has been interesting to see what policies are in place, and how they vary between states. I’m looking forward to learning much more about EVs this summer!

Journal Entry #2

This week marks the halfway point of my internship. In these last four weeks of working, I’ve learned so much - not only about the work of Generation180 and the organization itself, but also about the type of work that I enjoy doing.

I’ve always imagined myself working for a large company, but I am starting to realize how much I like working among a small, tight-knit group of people. I’ve also liked being able to see how a non-profit operates. For example, since Generation180 does a lot of work around various policies, I’ve especially enjoyed hearing discussions of the capacity in which partisan politics can/cannot play a role in the organization’s work.

I have had the opportunity to help organize some events. It has been fun to see how the work that I do is realized and turned into an actual event. For example, Generation180 will be hosting a training workshop for its ambassadors. I helped come up with the topic of the training and I found a person who will lead the training.

I’ve never imagined myself working in the auto industry in the future, but I do hope to have a sustainability-related career (specifically sustainable fashion). I am glad to have the opportunity to learn about sustainable transportation, because I feel that being well-versed in environmental issues beyond simply the fashion industry will be beneficial.

Journal Entry #3

This is officially the last week of the internship at Generation180, but I have been offered an extension on the internship, so I will be able to continue working throughout the school year! There is a project that I’m working on that will still take some time to complete, so I’m happy to be able to stay here and see them through to the end. As a part of the project, I’ve had to do a lot of research on EVs, and I feel like at this point I’ve become very knowledgeable about them.

I’ve also lately had the chance to join some communications meetings and hear the behind-the-scenes conversations regarding marketing strategies. I am planning on concentrating in marketing as a part of my Commerce major, and hearing these conversations is making me excited to start classes and actually learn more about marketing topics. It’s been fun to see how things that I learn in the classroom can be applied to an actual workplace. One of the main takeaways that I have had from this summer is that I know more than I realize. Although I didn’t know anything about EVs or clean energy coming into this internship, I do have a lot of experience with doing research for school, which helped me learn a lot quickly. On a similar note, I’m sure that my work experience will be beneficial once I’m back in the classroom. Having a better understanding of how organizations work will probably be useful especially once I start taking Commerce classes.

Throughout the summer, I set up some informational meetings with various staff members to learn more about their roles at Gen180. As a college student, I have no idea what kind of position I’ll end up working in in the future, so it’s been helpful to hear about the various jobs that exist.

Overall, I’m glad that I decided to apply for this internship, and am very happy to continue working for Generation180.

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