As the semester wraps up and I think often about this upcoming summer and my internship, I am also reflecting on last summer. I had the amazing opportunity to intern at the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), an organization that, among other work, advocates for environmental education (EE), fosters collaboration and organization within the field, and looks at building capacity and professional development in EE.
I’d been passionate about both education and the environment for many years, but it wasn’t until my internship before sophomore year at the Academy of Natural Sciences writing the curriculum for a science camp that those interests merged to EE. Upon talking with my advisor, Charlotte Clark, in the middle of fall semester of sophomore year about this interest and my concern for the internship search, she mentioned NAAEE. Charlotte is a leader in the EE field and Board Chair at NAAEE. After she set me up to meet and interview with a few people from NAAEE, I was offered a policy- and advocacy-focused internship. After accepting almost instantly, I decided to apply to DukeEngage for funding as an independent project so that I could live and work in Washington D.C. After being accepted to that program and working with DukeEngage to ensure I got the most out of the experience, I was all set for an amazing summer.
On the second day of the job, I wound up on a historic skipjack, a type of traditional boat used in the Chesapeake Bay for oyster dredging. My supervisor, Sarah Bodor, director of policy and affiliate relations for NAAEE, took me along for the event with many others from the EE field in the area — and that wasn’t even my last work-related boat ride of the summer! I had the opportunity to be introduced to many amazing people doing such great work throughout the whole summer, whether during that ride, meeting visitors to the office or visits to other organizations’ offices.
Over the course of the summer, I contributed to many varied projects. They ranged from database population and contacting every state’s education department to crafting infographics/fact sheets and researching state environmental literacy plans and federal EE grant programs. I had the opportunity to hone my skills in organization, communication, teamwork, graphics creation, problem solving, writing, researching and more. During the projects, I applied so much that I have learned in my classes in the Nic School. Through these and other projects and spending time in the office, learning from the whole staff, I also got to see and understand so much about the functioning of non-profit organizations.
The experiences I had and skills I learned were absolutely invaluable. Since returning to Duke, I have employed those skills in my classes and clubs, for example, by using the communication skills I learned in my meetings with administrators or using the database/spreadsheet organization skills in my classes. My interests in education also heightened, driving me to explore classes in the education department. I owe so much of this past school year to what I learned at NAAEE.