New Skills and New Networks

Throughout my internship with the EPA, I have developed a few new skills with data collection and analysis. Namely, many of my projects involved the use of ArcGIS and data collection from sources such as the CDC. Before taking on this internship, I was familiar with ArcGIS, however, I never had to use it for any projects of this scale before. As such, I feel a lot more comfortable displaying demographic data spatially and am excited to use this skill in the future for research papers and other large assignments in my courses.

Beyond ArcGIS, I familiarized myself with several data sources that, before my internship, I didn’t even know existed. This is extremely helpful because many of these sources are public, allowing me to use them in future internships and coursework. In the data realm, I ultimately gained an understanding of what sources are out there and how to apply them.

In addition to these more tangible skills, I was able to network and get the lay of the land within the agency. Anecdotally, the EPA teams site has the organizational hierarchy built in, so when in large meetings, I was able to click on names and, in addition to their contact information there was a “reports to” section on the pop-up. This was helpful because there is a lot of collaboration within Region 8, however, there is still a thick layer of bureaucracy with sign-offs and approvals. Seeing clearly who reports to who and what department different employees are housed in made understanding this hybrid of hierarchy and collaboration a bit less daunting.

I have been able to network within the organization, particularly with attorneys and environmental policy professionals. This has been extremely helpful in that it allowed me to ask questions about my intended career path with individuals who have actually experienced law school and environmental health policy work. While I don’t claim that these conversations have shown me every facet of law school or public service, they have certainly been enlightening and provided necessary advice.

Possibly the most important skill I gained from this internship has been flexibility. Oftentimes there would be last-minute changes to meetings or ad hoc tasks with tight deadlines, requiring me to switch my schedule and be intentional with my time. While these changes were never too disruptive or arduous, they helped me keep the entire team’s needs in perspective rather than permitting me tunnel vision. This, in turn, allowed me to see when my work wasn’t just an “intern task” but was rather part of a larger plan. 

This experience has reaffirmed my excitement for environmental justice work. I have learned so much about native tribes and the community outreach projects in Region 8. This internship has made me excited to pursue my JD next fall and ultimately a career in environmental law. I am hoping to return to the EPA some day to work on legal projects, whether that be in ten years from now or in just a few summers from now. 

Finally, I am extremely grateful for my supervisor Corbin and how much involvement he gave me on major projects. He invested his time in me this summer and always ensured that I worked on tasks that interested me. I have enjoyed my time with the EPA this summer and I can’t wait to use what I learned from the agency this fall!

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