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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Notes from the Field: Anne Smith '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: Anne Smith '16

Internship Organization:
Office of the Attorney General of Massachusetts, Civil Rights Division

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch?
The Massachusetts Attorney General serves two purposes: to defend the rights of the people of Massachusetts and to serve as the state government’s lawyer. The Attorney General works in various ways such as fighting financial fraud, eradicating organized crime, and protecting consumers. I work in the Civil Rights Division, which serves to protect citizens’ state and federal civil rights and liberties. The division acts to uphold equal opportunity and works to eradicate discrimination on the basis of race, sexual orientation, disability, and a variety of other categories. Citizens file complaints with the division when they feel that their civil rights have been violated. After reviewing the complaint, the office has three main options. First, it can refer the complainant to an organization specific to that complaint. Second, it can seek to mediate the dispute between the complainant and the respondent. Third, if mediation does not work, the Attorney General's office will intervene to enforce and defend the complainants’ civil rights.

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization?
As the intake intern, my main responsibility is to contact and interview people who have filed civil rights complaints with the Civil Rights Division. I present new complaints to the rest of the division in weekly intake meetings, and then we discuss the next steps that the office will take for each complaint. We decide whether another organization is better suited to help the complainant or whether we want to further investigate the complaint ourselves. I also help the Assistant Attorneys General, paralegals, and legal analysts with all of their work and investigations. For example, on any particular day I may be doing research for a particular topic that an Assistant Attorney General needs to know about for a case, or I may be investigating particular people involved in a dispute.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
I was so nervous on my first day! First, I had to wait 10 minutes for my train to arrive to my subway station, and I had not accounted for this in my schedule! However, I was able to power walk and make it to the office in time. Second, I was very nervous about making my first phone call to a complainant. I was nervous that I would be awkward on the telephone.

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
The most rewarding part of the internship is how many different complainants I interact with every day. I feel like I am helping a lot of different people from all over Massachusetts. By working in the Civil Rights Division, I get to be a sympathetic ear every single day, and the Attorney General's office really helps those in need. Every day is different because I am speaking with different people and researching different problems. It keeps my internship so interesting and makes me look forward to work every day.

What challenges have you faced so far?
The most difficult part of my internship is speaking with complainants who are angry or unsatisfied with the office’s advice for them. I speak to many people who have very serious challenges and hardships in their lives and are very angry about their situation. I have learned from my coworkers that the most important thing to do in these situations is be very kind and sympathetic and explain that the office is doing all that we can to help them. It is also difficult to speak with people who think that certain laws are unfair, as I have to explain to them that the Attorney General’s office does not make the law. We enforce it.

Broadly speaking, what do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
I hope that I make a positive difference in people’s lives this term, whether through referring them to an organization that gives them aid or through assisting the legal staff with important civil rights cases. The division’s duty is to protect civil rights and defend equal opportunity in the state, and I hope to contribute as much as possible to this goal.

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship?
I have learned that getting to know your coworkers makes work so much more fun! I love going to work every day not only because I enjoy my daily responsibilities, but also because I look forward to getting to know my coworkers better. It is important to not just stay at your computer all day, but to also incorporate personal interaction at the office! It is also helpful to know your coworkers’ professional histories because it is a perfect opportunity to learn about other offices and industries. Getting to know your coworkers is a fun and easy way to find professional role models!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Notes from the Field: Josefina Ruiz '17

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: Josefina Ruiz '17

Internship Organization:
US House of Representatives, Office of Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch?
The District Office of Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson is an incredible resource to the community in the 30th District of Texas. We specifically work on resolving issues that constituents may have with federal agencies. This office proves its dedication to the community every day, however, by helping anyone who calls, even if only with simpler, local issues. Our goal is to make sure that each constituent knows that they have a representative whom they can count on.

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization?
I am responsible for assisting staff in their projects, sending out condolence letters to the families of those in our district who have passed away in, briefing my supervisor on immigration news, updating our constituent resources database, and participating in staff meetings. I attend events in the community as they occur and report information back to the office. I also serve as support staff at our organized events by running the registration table or ensuring that everything is set in place and working in a timely manner. My duties overall include research, community outreach through letters and phone calls, and secretarial duties.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
I felt very nervous on the first day and was naturally meticulous about my speech, behavior, and dress. At the same time, I felt very excited as this was my first internship experience, and I had many goals already in mind. I wanted to leave a great first-impression.

As I became more comfortable, I behaved more naturally. My love for food led me to bring Mexican "pan dulce" to work one day. On that day, Director Esperanza exclaimed, "Wow, I feel like I'm at home!" The next day, a colleague paid me to bring more. But on the third day, another colleague said with a voice of a reprimanding mother, "Josefina, I'm going to kill you! You brought in that sweet bread and look what you've done. I couldn't help want more, so on I went to the bakery, and today my sugar was too high!" We laughed about it together.

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
My favorite experience was personally delivering Valentine's Day cards at the Parkland Memorial Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. My colleague and I were given a special tour of this unit, where I saw the smallest babies I had ever seen in my life and the most delicate and attentive health care given to them. I was very impressed and proud of the evolution of health care for newborns, especially at the hospital where I was born myself. I enjoyed sharing joy and love with mothers who had recently given birth and needed some uplifting at such critical times.

What challenges have you faced so far?
One of my challenges has been dealing with the other interns. I'm the only one of four interns who work full-time. It's frustrating to respond to the staff when mistakes are made from the intern office, mistakes which may have been a result of the other interns. However, I don't place the blame on them. Instead, I try my best to help the other interns when they are working, answer any questions, and catch mistakes before they happen. With respect and kindness, it has always worked out.

Broadly speaking, what do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
I hope to stay connected to the staff and establish relationships so that each time I visit Dallas, I can come and say hello to them without awkwardness. One of my colleagues has already said that if I am ever in Dallas again, I could likely come and work for them. I also hope to leave my footprint in the office so that the projects I initiated can be successfully completed.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Notes from the Field: Anna Ghnouly '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: Anna Ghnouly '16

Internship Organization:
US Mission to the United Nations

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch?
The US Mission to the United Nations (USUN) is responsible for carrying out the nation’s participation in the world body. Created in 1947 to assist the President and the Department of State in conducting United States policy at the United Nations, today USUN serves to represent the United States' political, economic, social, legal, military, public diplomacy, and management interests.

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization?
My specific responsibilities change daily. Some specific tasks I completed over the past few weeks include creating binders of research on weighted voting and Security Council reform in the UN for Ambassador Isobel Coleman, making Excel graphs to visualize information on UN budget and assessment rates, familiarizing myself with issues that will be voted on during the Fifth Committee's resumed session in March, developing and maintaining databases, and accompanying Section staff to meetings with UN officials and representatives from other missions and documenting the results in reports and cables.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
I felt confident on the first day of my internship since I had already interned with the US Mission to the UN in Rome the previous summer. On my first day, I was unable to get my security badge. I didn't get to do very much because as I could not log into the Department of State computer. Therefore, it was a relatively stress-free day. It wasn't until day two when I started getting bombarded with assignments!

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
My favorite part of this internship experience so far is feeling like I'm an integral part of the team. I get to speak at all of the staff meetings, and Ambassador Coleman frequently engages with me directly, which was not the case with the Ambassador in Rome. In addition, an expert asked me to generate my own thoughts for my research on weighted voting. My final document was given directly to the Ambassador for her to read.

What challenges have you faced so far?
So far my biggest challenge is balancing my internship with Dartmouth research projects I'm conducting from off-campus. This takes great time management and making sure I use my weekends effectively.

Broadly speaking, what do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
I hope I gain greater confidence in my abilities to accomplish all of the tasks given to me, and I hope that there will be a day when I understand everything that is said during staff meetings. Right now there are so many acronyms that it's nearly impossible!

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship?
I wear boots to walk to work and bring my heels with me to wear in the office. The subway is never that crowded. I like getting to work at least 10 minutes early because then I can respond to all of my emails before the actual work-day starts. I bring a pad of paper and pen anywhere I go because I almost always have to write something down.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Rockefeller Center Funds Two Students for Spring 2015 Public Policy Internships

Did you know that we regularly highlight a variety of internship opportunities for students to consider? Click here to see all posts related to internships.

The Rockefeller Center is one of several centers at Dartmouth that grants funding support for full time, unpaid internships to undergraduates. Grants provided through the Rockefeller Internship Program are designed to enable students to work in a non-profit or governmental agency on issues of public policy research, public policy analysis, issue evaluation, social entrepreneurship, or activities that help shape and determine public policy - whether at the local, state, national, or international level. Grants of up to $4,000 are awarded to students through a competitive application and interview process each term. The deadline for Summer 2015 consideration is Wednesday, April 22, 2015. 


Congratulations to the two interns working in a variety of host organizations and funded by the Rockefeller Center for Spring Term!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

RLF Recap: The "Resource Curse" with Rockefeller Center Director Andrew Samwick

This ongoing series explores sessions of the Rockefeller Leadership Fellows (RLF) program. RLF provides fellows with resources in leadership theories and practical skills. Selected their Junior Spring, these Seniors take part in the workshops, dinner discussions, and team-building exercises as they gain a better understanding of the qualities and responsibilities necessary for leaders and successful leadership styles.

The Rockefeller Leadership Fellows were most recently visited by the director of the Rockefeller Center, Andrew Samwick. In addition to leading the Center, Professor Samwick is the Sandra L. and Arthur L. Irving Professor of Economics at Dartmouth. From 2003 to 2004 he served as the chief economist on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. After I introduced him, Professor Samwick joked that he needed to update his bio to reflect an area of focus I had left out–his new-found interest in social entrepreneurship.

The Rockefeller Leadership Fellows recently enjoyed a session on the "resource curse" with Andrew Samwick, Director of the Rockefeller Center.

The bulk of Professor Samwick’s time with us was spent analyzing what is known in economics as the "resource curse." The resource curse describes the surprisingly negative experience of nations who find themselves rich in natural resources. They often lag behind other nations in many economic categories, most notably GDP per capita. What, Professor Samwick asked, is behind the resource curse? And how do we avoid it?

To elucidate the causes and potential solutions, Professor Samwick scanned the room for volunteers, threatening to cold-call the economics majors if no one stepped up. Eventually we came to the understanding that the best way forward, and indeed the hardest way forward, for a country that stumbles upon natural resources is to find a way to invest it in each of their citizens. Rather than pay citizens or invest in infrastructure, one student suggested governments invest the proceeds in education. Professor Samwick smiled–he thought that was exactly right.

As we wrapped up the session, Professor Samwick took us in a different direction. He asked us to ponder the resource curse, or the "paradox of plenty," in the context not of countries but institutions. He also pushed us to consider whether we as individuals experience paradoxes of plenty. An example one student suggested was that of the friend we all knew or still know—the friend who is so talented that he develops bad academic habits, eventually under-performing his less talented friends.

For me and for many fellows with whom I spoke, the session brought out the challenge of complexity in leadership. Even when we appear to have a natural advantage, the advantages themselves can become liabilities over time. In order to prevent this, leaders must not just be prudent. Instead, they must proactively take difficult or even painful steps to keep their organizations innovative.

-Written by Max Gottschall '15, 2014-2015 Rockefeller Leadership Fellow