Summer Internship Series: A Prideful Summer

Justine Morelli ’18

Intern, MassEquality, Boston, Massachusetts

This past summer I had the opportunity to intern at MassEquality in Boston, Massachusetts for four months. Thanks to the McMahon Fund, I was able to commute by train for an hour each way into the city, four days a week, all summer long, to work at this organization. MassEquality is the leading statewide grassroots advocacy organization working to ensure that everyone across Massachusetts can thrive from cradle to grave without discrimination and oppression based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The non-profit does this by partnering across issues, identities and communities to build a broad, inclusive and politically powerful movement that changes hearts and minds and achieves policy and electoral victories.

Throughout the summer, I gained experience canvassing, organizing events, recruiting voters and volunteers for the MA 2018 ballot, researching key political issues, writing testimony for bills in the State House, and listening in on pivotal hearings in the legislature. This summer gave me a foundation in the world of lobbying and non- profit advocacy work that will definitely benefit me in my future endeavors after Denison. I became really interested in testimony and legal writing, as well as research for bills in the House and Senate.

The most exciting part of my summer was volunteering at Boston Pride in June. Seeing the city come together at one big festival parade on a beautiful day was an amazing experience. Working with MassEquality allowed me to fall in love again with my home state of Massachusetts. I became passionate about political work and writing testimony for bills; working here allowed me to realize that I really can make a change in my community by starting at the political level and using my own voice. I am so thankful to the Knowlton Center for helping me with my resumé and the McMahon fund for this experience.

 

Summer Internship Series: Doing Policy in DC

Leah Hansler ‘18

Policy Intern, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Arlington, VA

Summer internship series: doing policy in dc - lh-nb-office.png image #0My name is Leah Hansler and I’m a senior political science major and philosophy minor. This summer I was a policy intern at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards near Washington, DC.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) seeks to elevate the teaching profession and improve the quality of teaching and learning in the US. It maintains rigorous teacher-set standards of what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do and provides a voluntary certification process for teachers who meet these standards. NBPTS works with other education-related organizations and advocates for policies related to teacher professional development, teacher leadership, and embedding national standards in school systems and teacher preparation programs.

While I have sought out experiences related to policy and advocacy throughout my college career, I did not have experience with education policy prior to this internship and I was excited to learn and work in a new field. My supervisor, Sarah Pinsky, gave me meaningful and interesting projects and had me sitting in on meetings and conference calls on my very first day. I also had the opportunity to help with other projects and departments, like editing part of a grant proposal and participating in Strategy and Policy team meetings.  I had two main projects, which were both meaningful learning experiences that added value to the organization. Drawing on my experience in advocacy, one of my projects was to design a series of resources to help the networks of National Board Certified teachers (NBCTs) around the country with their political advocacy efforts. I finished six handouts during my internship, addressing topics like “What is Advocacy and Why is it Important for NBCTs”, “Building Relationships with Policymakers”, and “Legislative Processes”. Before I left, I wrote a document with suggestions for how to use the resources going forward. The handouts are available to all NBCTs and will be used to inform the organization’s broader advocacy goals for the year.

Drawing on my experience with research, my other main project was to go through all research that references NBPTS, create a database of the research with detailed analysis, and then to create a summary document of general themes and overarching findings from what I had read so far. While I was not able or expected to finish going through all the research during my summer there, the summary document and database I started will be available internally to all NBPTS staff to aid in grant proposals, resources, and projects.

Summer internship series: doing policy in dc - lh-capitol-building.jpg image #1

I learned so much from my experience with National Board. I refined my advocacy and research skills, learned about important education policies, and received a more intimate understanding of how education is governed in the US as well as how US government works in general. I also gained a better understanding of how nonprofit organizations function and how to collaborate effectively within them. Additionally, both because of my internship and because I was living in DC, I had the opportunity to attend several events, briefings, and advocacy activities related to topics that interest me. I went to the constituent coffee for Senator Sherrod Brown, the full House markup of an appropriations bill, and several panels hosted by the Center for American Progress and the World Affairs Council DC, to name just a few. I improved my networking skills and learned about what it’s like to be part of the policy community in DC.

Because of my internship and my time in DC, I know that I want to pursue a career in policy, advocacy, and projects for a nonprofit organization. I also came away from the experience wanting to learn more about education and curious about how the practice of teaching could fit into my other interests and goals. My internship helped me decide to take an Education class at Denison this semester and to apply for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Fellowship.

I could not have had this wonderful experience without Dr. Pool and Dr. Katz in the Political Science department, the Knowlton Center, and the Cephus L. Stephens Public Affairs Internship Stipend. I also must thank my amazing supervisor, Sarah Pinsky, as well as all the other colleagues at National Board I had the pleasure to know and work with this summer. I am grateful to them for affording me an internship opportunity that was everything I could have wanted and more.

Summer Internship Series: My Summer as an Environmental Advocate

Mae Riordan ’18

Agriculture Outreach and Advocacy Intern, Missouri Coalition for the Environment

This summer, I worked as the Agriculture Outreach and Advocacy Intern at Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE). I worked directly under Alicia Lloyd, MCE’s Clean Water Policy Coordinator. My tasks for the summer included organizing footage, interviews, and pictures from their “Farm Tour” into tangible products to release to the public. This means I wrote blog posts and other features on a variety of agricultural and environmental issues facing Missouri, but I also created a GIS Story Map highlighting farmers across the state. I specifically researched different issues that affected agriculture production within Missouri, which was pretty exciting.

One of the tasks I worked on was researching the chemical pesticide, Dicamba, and its affect on Missouri farmers. This became a very exciting task, because this summer it was a hot issue across the country, so it felt very relevant and important. Essentially, dicamba is a pesticide that must be applied to a certain variety of dicamba-resistant crop, otherwise it will kill anything it touches. This caused tensions in Missouri for farmers, because the pesticide can drift from a farm that uses these dicamba-resistant seeds onto a farm that doesn’t, ultimately financially hurting the farmers who’s crop was killed. There was even a murder over the issue of dicamba drift in Missouri’s boot-heel.

Along with the blog post, I also added content to MCE’s website on pesticides. Since pesticides can truly affect our clean water and health, it was really important that MCE included some content on it on their website. You can read about what I researched and came up with here!

Last, I spent the majority of my time working on editing photographs, interviews, and video clips that MCE collected while talking with a variety of farmers across the state. The farmers ranged from owning 1000-acres of land, to a small 2-acre plot. What was really cool was that these farmers all practiced sustainable methods for farming, which really took what I’ve learned the past 3 years as an Environmental Studies major, and showed real world applications of the processes. The farm tour story map hasn’t been added to the website yet, since it’s a work in process, but it was really awesome to learn how to work with different software to create something that the public would love to look at and learn about sustainable farming!

Overall, this summer was an incredible learning opportunity. From visiting a water treatment plant, to attending video conferences with some leading individuals in the environmental field, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. It’s exciting to see that some of my tangible products will help inform the public of some really detrimental impacts of agriculture on our land, and hopefully it will have a lasting impact on educating the public!