Environmental Law and Policy Studies
Environmental Law and Policy Studies (ELPS) examines how US environmental and sustainability policies are made, who and what influences their creation, and the scope and breadth of the field. ELPS introduces you to the players and institutions that shape environmental decision-making on the major issues of our time including climate change, energy sustainability, manufacturing, architecture, urban planning, endangered species, the oceans, and many others. ELPS also critically analyzes the convergence of US environmental policy with the challenges and realities of geopolitics. This is an exciting and challenging time for you to see firsthand the intersection between environmental decision-making and the rapidly changing world of scientific discovery and domestic and international politics.
Thanks to my semester-long internship through the Washington Internship Institute (WII), I have had an up-close and personal experience with environmental politics and grassroots organizing in the heart of our nation’s political system, Washington, D.C. The program is designed to give students an opportunity to gain hands-on professional experience in our nation’s capital, while also engaging in seminars one day a week. I accepted a position with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign and elected to take the Environmental and Sustainability Policy Studies (ESPS) seminar.
The internship opportunity has provided me with tangible, relevant experience. I have been able to interact with numerous environmental organizations and have been privileged to receive a first hand look at what it takes to be an environmental lawyer, organizer, educator, or lobbyist. As an intern, I had a host of responsibilities and was continuously challenged. In addition to the work I did inside the office, I was able to work outside the office by attending events such as rallies in front of the White House in opposition to mountain top removal mining and the Keystone XL Pipeline.
In D.C. it is all about connections, and there are hundreds of opportunities within the environmental community to network and make concrete contacts that will be able to aid you in moving forward after graduation. Through my ESPS seminar, I had meetings with staff at the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Green Building Council. I was able to attend numerous hearings on The Hill, and a Supreme Court case (I know!), all pertaining to environmental issues. When we were not attending hearings or meetings, we had keynote speakers such as Ken Berlin, who is part of President Obama’s energy team. We learned about various U.S. and international environmental policies, and how they are developed and affected by geopolitics.
While the program is a bit more costly than Plattsburgh State tuition, it is absolutely worth it. I was able to gain concrete experience through my internship, make wonderful friends, and maintain relationships with professional mentors and contacts that are available to me upon graduation. Yes, the application process can be a bit tedious, as all applications are, but the rewards have been outstanding. I have gained priceless skills, lifelong friends, and experienced everything our nation’s capital has to offer (from monuments and museums, to Eastern Market, to the great nightlife). The advisors are wonderful and the program directors really care about the students. Overall, D.C. is a magical city with an atmosphere unlike anywhere else. I would strongly encourage everyone to take part in what WII has to offer.
-Kaitlin Keenan- SUNY Plattsburgh, Sierra Club Intern