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June 30, 2011 / steppsmsu

The DC Internship Program

NOTE:  This is the first of many posts we will offer from current and former students.

My name is Noah Allington, and I’m a junior specializing in STEPPS and majoring in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy in James Madison College at MSU. This summer I have been living and working in Washington, DC, completing my James Madison College field experience requirement, and also taking a course entitled “Elements of Federal Policy Development in Natural Resources.” The course is taught by Mark Rey, the former Undersecretary for Agriculture in Natural Resources and the Environment in the George W. Bush administration. The course is composed of an internship and an actual class that meets twice a week (on average): once for a lecture and a presentation by a classmate on what exactly their internship entails, the others are field trips where we experience policymaking and the execution of natural resources policy first hand.

Our internships also provide us the opportunity to experience policymaking up close. I am working in the Department of the Interior in an agency called the National Invasive Species Council (NISC). Established by an executive order from President Clinton in 1999, NISC works to coordinate information and actions between 13 cabinet-level departments to stop the spread of invasive species, such as Asian carp, emerald ash borer and many more. The secretaries of three departments (Interior, Agriculture and Commerce) co-chair the Council, while the secretaries or directors of ten other departments (State, Defense, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Transportation, Treasury, USAID, NASA, US Trade Representative, and EPA) share membership. Though the Council is actually made up of those 13 secretaries or directors, the majority of the work of the Council is done by the NISC staff. The group of about 8 people works with domestic and international invasive species issues, and also work as liaisons between the three co-chair departments.

In my role as an intern, I have done everything from making copies to doing research on the risk of spreading invasive species that may be incurred by a free trade agreement among Pacific Rim countries to which the US is a party. The work has been challenging, but also rewarding. While biology, ecology, or any of the life sciences for that matter, are not my strong suit, I am definitely learning a lot about how humans acting without concern for their environment can have adverse effects. The simple act of going on a relaxing boat ride, for example, could make your boat a vector for a number of different species that could infest and choke out native species in the next body of water where you decide to sail. In general, this internship has been a life-changing experience. I would strongly encourage any Spartan with an interest in public policy or natural resources to apply to this program. It is well worth your while.

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