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Monday, August 31, 2015

Notes from the Field: Axel Hufford '16

Rockefeller Center-funded interns reflect on their experiences as part of our Notes from the Field series. The Rockefeller Center helps students find, fund, and prepare for a leave-term internship experience in public policy research, public policy analysis, issue evaluation, or activities which help shape and determine public policy.

Student Intern: Axel Hufford '16
Internship Organization: 
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of International Affair

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch?
The Office of International Affairs at the Department of Justice acts as a liaison and gatekeeper between the U.S. government and any international Ministry of Justice. In particular, it maintains all bilateral treaties between the U.S. and other states regarding mutual legal assistance and extradition, and it is the chief organizing body in the U.S. for all international legal coordination within criminal law.

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization?
At the Office of International Affairs, my regional team maintains the legal relationship between the U.S. and over 100 foreign states, including all of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. In particular, I am responsible for drafting correspondence between my office and their foreign counterparts as well as between my office and our corresponding bodies (including the FBI and U.S. Attorneys Offices). So far, I have played a large role in updating the pending case files between my office and Turkey, India, South Africa, and Japan.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
On the first day of my internship, I realized that despite our work in international law, national sovereignty is of critical importance. Though the U.S. signs binding treaties with many other states in mutual legal assistance and extradition matters, either country can withdraw from those treaties if they desire, so my office constantly works to maintain relations so that productive work and engagement can continue without the compulsion of an international body or higher law.

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
A few weeks ago I joined a video teleconference between the attorneys in my office and our Indian counterparts to discuss ongoing cases between the United States and India. Just this morning I met a few Indian attorneys who are visiting our office this week to meet in person and ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding both U.S. and India cases. Seeing such coordination in person -- between states with very different histories, legal systems, and cultural contexts -- was an extremely refreshing and rewarding experience.

What challenges have you faced so far?

Since our office works with so many countries, a huge variety of legal systems, and a spectrum of diplomatic relationships, it seems that our work with some countries seems more productive and efficient than with others. I wish there were more tangible ways for the U.S. to improve diplomatic relations with certain states so that we can accomplish more material objectives in legal cooperation and coordination.
 

Broadly speaking, what do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
By the end of my internship I hope to maintain lasting working relationships with every attorney, paralegal, and intern in my office, and I hope to have a better idea of my future career focus after I graduate from Dartmouth.

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship?

I learned that it is important to find an apartment as soon as you can and to make sure that you do your homework when it comes to apartment locations, or else you might have a difficult off-term.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Notes from the Field: Jase Davis '18

Rockefeller Center-funded interns reflect on their experiences as part of our Notes from the Field series. The Rockefeller Center helps students find, fund, and prepare for a leave-term internship experience in public policy research, public policy analysis, issue evaluation, or activities which help shape and determine public policy.

Student Intern: Jase Davis '18
Internship Organization: 
Congressman Scott Rigell (VA-02)

In your own words, briefly describe your internship organization and what they do.
As an intern at Congressman Scott Rigell's office, we offer constituent services to the people that reach out to us while making sure the legislative staff is fully prepared to do their jobs.

What is your specific role or major project as an intern?
At Congressman Rigell's office, we are committed to faithfully representing the people of Virginia's second district. My part has been to answer constituent calls and emails, but I have also been involved in doing research for our legislative team. I have fact checked videos, researched court cases, and created graphs for the congressman. I have also gotten very involved with helping the communications director draft tweets and Facebook posts.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
I was very nervous. I showed up super early because I wasn't sure how long it would take to get to work. The first orientation from our supervisor was a bit overwhelming since I was afraid of what would happen if I messed up. I realized I just needed to relax and get the job done. On my first day I saw the intern across from me and was honestly intimidated by him. He was from University of Virginia and had been in the office for a few weeks; he just seemed to know how to do everything. As time went on I realized there was no difference in our abilities and I began to prove myself through the first couple of weeks. He and I work together all of the time now.

What is the most rewarding part of the internship experience so far?
The role of the intern is kind of a menial one in the office but I've seen bits and pieces of my work in reports and briefings from the staff. However, I don't think I have had the most rewarding part of my internship yet. I am currently working on some projects on my own that will be presented to the Congressman or the constituents in its entirety. I have a feeling that will be a good moment when I can definitively say when I see something "that is my work."

What is the biggest challenge that have you faced so far, and how did you respond to it?
I have had one major challenge in my internship. The first was that I was not originally trusted with a lot of work at the beginning of the internship. My role was to man the phone while I watched other interns do research work. It was tough to prove my worth to the staff when I wasn't being offered much work to even start. So I took my role with the phones seriously, and I started to ask some of my fellow interns what they were doing when they had extra projects and they would give me parts to do. Soon the staff started to realize I could do good work because of my hand in the random projects assigned to other interns.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
I hope to have autonomy on some of my projects with the goal of seeing them presented in their entirety to the Congressman or the constituents.

What practical lessons have you learned in the day-to-day life at your internship?
I'm perpetually worrying so having my own place in the city has added all new sources of stress. I would always wonder if I had turned off the oven or iron or if I had turned the lights off. One day at work I thought I had left my iron on in the morning so I went back home for a bit to double check. Of course the iron was unplugged and there was no need to worry. But it was at that point I decided to prevent this again, and now I have a checklist at the door to make sure everything with the apartment is in the right shape so I don't have to worry.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Notes from the Field: Henry Gardner '18

Rockefeller Center-funded interns reflect on their experiences as part of our Notes from the Field series. The Rockefeller Center helps students find, fund, and prepare for a leave-term internship experience in public policy research, public policy analysis, issue evaluation, or activities which help shape and determine public policy.

Student Intern: Henry Gardner '18
Internship Organization: 
The Arc

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch?
The Arc is a non-profit organization that promotes the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the country.

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization?
I interned with the Center for Future Planning project team which has been working on creating a Professional Services Directory (PSD) website which connects people seeking information on long term care and services to providers of these servides (special needs lawyers, healthcare professionals, etc.). As an intern, I am tasked with combing through journals and dissertations to find research that accentuates the need for such a program and to put what I find in short reports for grant proposals.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
Having never rode a subway in a major city before, I was anxious about my first day commute. I left my apartment over an hour early to allow for any confusion and made it to the office with time to spare. Unfortunately, I had made it to the wrong office. There are two Arc offices in D.C., The Arc of D.C. (where I was) and The Arc of the United States (where I was supposed to be). With my heart beating faster than was healthy and not wanting to be the intern who was late the first day, I sprinted back to the metro. Turns out I had allowed enough time to where I still arrived well before my welcome meeting, but the experience was jarring nonetheless.

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
I have learned an incredible amount about the inner-workings of a company. Just being able to sit in on meetings gives me a view not just of the progression of a project as it works through every department, but also offers a look into the individual expectations every employee has for him/herself and the level of personal dedication everyone puts into their jobs to have a positive impact.

What challenges have you faced so far?
As is typical being an intern, I have rarely had clearly defined goals. I will be tasked with researching a subject or finding prospective companies to recruit for the PSD and will be told to turn in my reports when I am done. As such, it has required a great deal of personal discipline to seek out other projects and to take the initiative to ask my supervisor for feedback.

Broadly speaking, what do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
I hope to have contributed to the development of the PSD and to see the initial launch of some of the early domains of the website. I also hope to have learned even more about The Arc and the workings of non-profit organizations in general.

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship?
If you're starving and falling asleep due to lack of energy in the morning, you can ask to take your lunch at 11am. There's no shame in that.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Notes from the Field: Gabriela Urias '16

Rockefeller Center-funded interns reflect on their experiences as part of our Notes from the Field series. The Rockefeller Center helps students find, fund, and prepare for a leave-term internship experience in public policy research, public policy analysis, issue evaluation, or activities which help shape and determine public policy.

Student Intern: Gabriela Urias '16
Internship Organization:
U.S. Department of Justice: Office of International Affairs

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch?
The Office of International Affairs (OIA) works on an international level to help capture and prosecute criminals both within the U.S. and in foreign countries and maintain foreign relations and U.S. strategic interests when law enforcement issues cross international borders. This is done primarily by managing incoming and outgoing extraditions, as well as requests for mutual legal assistance for the United States.

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization?
I am a part of the Mexico and Central America team, which means that we handle extradition cases and mutual legal assistance requests relating to countries within this geographic area. My role as an intern is to aid the team in processing these cases, whether that means reviewing and referring mutual assistance requests, translating and editing extradition packages, or sorting through and summarizing information provided for a case.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
I was looking forward to my first day, and couldn't wait to finish the required orientation and get started. I was given my own office with a name plate, so I felt very official and welcomed. Everyone was really nice and excited that I spoke Spanish, so I was actually given a translation review to do right away.

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
I think it's been most rewarding to have this opportunity to be a part of increasing justice on a global scale. While working on cases, I read about the criminals involved and the horrible acts they've committed. It really makes me realize the type of people I'm helping to capture and prosecute, and that I'm actually making some sort of a difference in the world.

What challenges have you faced so far?
When I first started my internship, I was met with a really steep learning curve. I had to quickly learn about international treaties, legal terms, and how to process a mutual assistance treaty in order to do the assignments I was given. While this was difficult, I found it to ultimately be worth the hard work and very beneficial to my experience overall. I've been able to delve into legal processes and responsibilities that I don't think I would otherwise encounter as an undergraduate.

Broadly speaking, what do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
I hope to continue learning more legal aspects and about how countries cooperate in general. Especially with Cuba officially opening it's embassy here in D.C. just this past week, it will be interesting to see how things unfold in terms of the OIA working with prosecutors there and building our relationship with them after so many decades. I also hope to use my experiences to better focus my professional goals as I enter into my last year at Dartmouth.

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship? 
Stay away from the metro when there is Nationals game that evening.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Notes from the Field: Evelyn Weinstein '16

Rockefeller Center-funded interns reflect on their experiences as part of our Notes from the Field series. The Rockefeller Center helps students find, fund, and prepare for a leave-term internship experience in public policy research, public policy analysis, issue evaluation, or activities which help shape and determine public policy.

Student Intern: Evelyn Weinstein '16
Internship Organization: 
American Civil Liberties Union: Nassau County, NY

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch?
The American Civil Liberties Union fights to protect the rights of all people within American borders through litigation, legislation, and movement advocacy. I work at the Nassau County chapter of the ACLU's New York branch. We handle region-specific problems so that we can work more effectively at the ground level.

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization?
My specific role is to provide research work for NYCLU Nassau. This work is mainly project-based. I've completed two major projects so far: I went to court with Legal Aid to monitor an unfair judge and learn about the challenges that public defense lawyers face in Nassau County, and followed NYCLU's report on transgender student rights by researching and writing a presentation for school officials on how they can properly treat trans* students.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
On the first day of my internship, I felt tremendously excited to get to work. Working for the ACLU is truly my dream job. I was a little surprised by how small the Nassau County office is, and happily accepted its size as an opportunity to do a broader variety of work--which has certainly been true so far.

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?

The most rewarding part of the internship experience so far is the knowledge that every single thing I do makes a sincere difference in the world. From working alongside Legal Aid, to creating a presentation for educators on trans* student rights, to writing memos on Supreme Court decisions, I know that my actions are tiny steps towards a better world. I can't wait to start taking bigger steps.

What challenges have you faced so far?
Both of my two sisters had medical emergencies in the past few weeks. I was torn: should I stay at home with my sisters even if I'm not strictly necessary for medical tasks, or should I go to work instead? I spoke to my supervisor about it and he was happy to be flexible. As a result of discussing my worry with him, I've been able to take work from home on some days and take off days to visit my sisters in the hospital. Communication solved the problem.

Broadly speaking, what do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
By the end of my internship, I hope to have helped my supervisor to launch a major new project. I would love to provide the overworked folks at Legal Aid with some assistance in gaining rules compliance from Nassau courts. Wish me luck!

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship?
If you're interested in doing something, always ask. The worst thing that can happen is that they say "no." Yesterday, the Manhattan office of the ACLU held a training on how the Freedom of Information Law works in New York--taught by the director of the Committee on Open Government! It's in a completely different office, and no one expected me to attend. But I asked to attend, followed up, and was able to learn about a great interest of mine while expanding my network.