2014 PFIG Recipient Stephen Rowe

Career Administrator

Stephen Rowe
College of Arts & Sciences
Chinese Language & Literature
2015 Graduation Year

Internship: Global Environmental Facility in Washington, DC.

Notes on the First Week

I am excited to be writing my first journal entry concerning my internship at the Global Environmental Facility in Washington D.C. Today was my first day on the external affairs team at the GEF. Today consisted of getting acclimated to the structure, mission, and operations of the GEF as well as meeting various team members and country officers. The structural layout of the GEF is rather complicated, but it receives a sum of money from the government and allocates that money to fund environmental projects around the globe. Its actions are guided by a set of global environmental conventions and the GEF’s constitution called “the instrument.” The office in DC allocates funds and distributes them to world governments, NGOs, and other environmental organizations to fund environmental projects around the world.

I learned a lot more about what the GEF does and the role of their office in DC. I am joining the external affairs team right a massive meeting called the Assembly of the GEF, where all the 183 countries that the GEF unites come together and discuss the status of different projects, policies, and the GEF’s constitution. I will be organizing and implementing new information from this meeting into an updated website to ensure consistent and accurate communication with GEF’s stakeholders and investors. The office in DC acts as a mediator between the funds and the implementation of those funds in projects and makes sure the funds are being used properly and that progress is being made on the projects. I will be assisting the external affairs team to this end. The GEF has representatives in 183 different countries called focal points. These relationships are crucial for the GEF to function as they oversee operations in the various countries in which GEF-funded projects take place. Another one of my tasks will be following up with country officers to ensure that their position and projects are properly represented by the GEF and continually update any pertinent information.

I met many dynamic people on my team and in the office. I hope to develop strong relationships with team members and other workers at the GEF and learn from their experience. Since the GEF has representatives from all around the world, I am apart of a vibrant international community at my internship. I hope to cultivate a deeper and more understanding global perspective on the environment, politics, business partnerships, and cross-cultural community in general. I also hope that this internship will help me discern future career paths and goals. I hope to apply what I learn from this internship, whether from the experience of other workers or exposure to international community, to my studies and friendships at UVA.

I hope to develop confidence navigating the World Bank, Washington DC and to acquire more leadership skills from on-the-job experience from working in affiliation with the World Bank in Washington D.C. I am very grateful to the Parents Committee for providing this opportunity to work at the GEF in Washington D.C. I look forward to all I will learn and the relationships I will build during my time at the GEF. 


What projects have you been working on?

I have worked on a variety of projects and have had opportunities to interact with various different parts of the external affairs team. During the first couple of weeks, I updated the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF’s) entire list of contacts, inputted the information in to a new database, and formatted and created groups and other delineations within the database to make the information easily searchable and the interface more intuitive. After that, I helped clean up and organize information and materials from the GEF’s Assembly and Council meetings. They had many discussions on various topics including climate change, sustainable fisheries, knowledge sharing, strategic partnerships, and many others (the full list can be found here). I collected, organized, and summarized information and materials from colleagues regarding these side events.

As a Chinese major I jumped at the opportunity to translate a Chinese article pertaining the GEF’s work in China into English. I really enjoyed directly applying methods and skills from my major classes to help the World Bank and the GEF. I have also attempted to translate a glossary of terms that the GEF uses in to Chinese. This has proven to be quite a challenge because of the complex nature of environmental development vocabulary, specified terms that nobody knows the definition of outside of the context of the GEF’s work, tons of abbreviations, and words and phrases that are virtually untranslatable. While this has been a great endeavor, it has proven to be very difficult and will be a challenge to progress much further.

Additionally, I read through all of the GEF’s programming documents and strategies for their biodiversity, climate change, chemicals and waste, international waters, and land degradation focal areas and made PowerPoint presentations so that the GEF may present this material clearly, succinctly, and effectively for the next four years.

I’ve also been helping the team with social media. I attended a conference on land degradation and took pictures and wrote captions. I have been circulating articles through different outlets of the GEF’s social media, updating twitter and helping raise awareness for the GEF’s work and direct people to resources and information through social media platforms.

Lastly, I have been writing articles and “did you know” blurbs. This has been the most rewarding work because I’ve combined information from reading GEF programming documents and strategies, materials from the side events, and posts on social media to make engaging articles and blurbs sharing about the work the GEF has done and is doing to solve environmental problems. I come away from writing with a deeper understanding and clearer vision of what the GEF does and the results of their endeavors. My article on wildlife poaching entitled, “Preventing Extinction and Empowering Communities: The GEF’s Role in Combating Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trade” was on the homepage of the GEF’s website and the World Bank website as well. The full article can be found here. Additionally, my “did you know” blurb regarding CO2 emissions is also on the homepage of the GEF website. I hope you enjoy these. There are more articles on their way!

What things have come your way (positive or challenging) that you did not expect?

Positive: I did not expect that I would so quickly become an expert on the World Cup. I did not expect that I would have articles published or have a chance to help the team utilize social media.

Challenging: I think that the GEF’s work is admirable and effective. It’s terrific that money is being directed to help indigenous populations and the developing world have food security, sustainable agriculture, effective adaptation to climate change, etc. However, it can be hard at times to feel connected to this work being an intern in an office spending a good portion of my day in front of the computer. I know that the work I am doing is helping this great organization, but it is hard to see it a lot of the time. I think this is a common feeling to experience during an internship.

Also, some days have been slow because it is summer and different colleagues are on leave or out of the office. This, combined with some aspects of the culture of the office and my position as an intern has made it difficult to have a lot of face-to-face interaction. I am definitely a people-person, so it’s tough to have a lot of days where the work I do does not directly put me in a position to engage and interact with other people.

How have your initial expectations of the internship, public service in general, or anything else been affected/influenced?

I have a much clearer sense of how an organization like the GEF or World Bank works. It has made me want to further consider doing this kind of work for after college.

What do you hope to achieve and learn in the rest of your internship?

I hope to have more opportunities to write and publish articles, translate Chinese, and have more people-to-people interactions. I hope to learn more about the GEF and its work, how to become more involved in public service at UVA, after college, etc., and to build more connections and relationships.

Thank you again for this amazing opportunity and I am looking forward to the final weeks of my internship.

Final Reflections

What were your accomplishments since the mid-way point?

One of the main projects I tackled during my time at the GEF was pouring through programming documents, creating presentations and reworking the text so that it could be used in future GEF publications. The GEF publishes a document every four years outlining strategic objectives in the areas of biodiversity, climate change mitigation, chemicals and land degradation. In addition to these programs, this document includes additional strategies on Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) and Integrated Approaches. I successfully completed all presentations and textual revisions and edits giving the GEF a substantial basis for their new publication. This process also helped me finally understand some of the technical jargon used at the GEF. I learned that Integrated Approaches are a series of pilot programs that the GEF is implementing in conjunction with their work in specific focal areas. Some of these programs include the development of sustainable cities and taking deforestation out of the commodity supply chain.

In preparation for a GEF council meeting later this fall, I assisted a college using programs like Prezi and Wideo to create engaging graphical animations that shared GEF core values, information about the structure, focal areas, etc. It felt rewarding to create a tangible animation that was helpful to the GEF’s external affairs and to learn about innovative programs at the same time.

How have you continued to grow both personally and professionally?

I have become more confident navigating the corporate world and specifically, the world of environmental sustainable development. Getting to see an organization like the World Bank function from the inside has been a valuable experience in and of itself. I have a much better sense of how both this organization and the world functions and what goes into actually doing the work that the World Bank does.

In these last weeks, I have also become more aware of my skills and what I can effectively contribute to the team and how what I bring to the table fits in to the overall work of the GEF and the external affairs team. It feels like that as my internship came to a close, I finally found my niche amongst my colleagues. There was a sense that my specific role and contributions were becoming clearer and solidified. Now I know what goes into creating a niche like that in the midst of a giant corporation and how to better share my skills for the benefit of the team. I think that developing that awareness is a skill I will take from here into my future careers.

What challenges did you encounter and how did you respond to them?

The main challenges of the last weeks were overcoming the learning curve on the GEF programming documents in conjunction with reworking big complicated texts into quick engaging simple animations on Wideo. The main response to these challenges was lots of trial and error in various animations and learning to dissect very specified development vocabulary.

What have you learned from this experience and how do you expect it to shape your future career goals, passions, ideas, etc.?

This internship has taught me the importance of making a position your own within a company and to use my specific skills and knowledge to contribute to the team in a substantive way. It has taught me the complexity of environmental work and the inner workings of an organization like the World Bank. It has taught me that I like working with people and on a team as opposed to sitting in front of a computer checking e-mails. It has taught me that I need to be connected to the work that I am doing as well as the work the company is doing overall. It has taught me that while there is always work to be done, it is important to know what work is valuable and best suitable for the time. I will most certainly take these lessons and others into my future career plans.

I am deeply thankful for the Parents Fund support this summer. Thank you for making the wonderful experience I had entirely possible and I look forward to what the future holds. Thank you again!