By Heather Luedke, Carleton College Class of 2020
As a sophomore at Carleton College, I came into my two-week internship at Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy knowing I want to pursue a career related to the environment in some capacity, but not knowing any of the details. With a science-heavy background, I hadn’t really had the opportunity to explore the legal and political sides of environmentalism before my time at MCEA. So, I had no idea what to expect when I walked into the office the first day. What I got, however, was a valuable, insightful experience with a wonderful organization that reconfirmed my desire to pursue a career in an environmental field.
I spent a large portion of my time at MCEA in truly engaging meetings, and the conversations I had and arguments I observed made the entire experience. Whether it was a one-on-one “interview” with an MCEA staff member, a small team meeting within a specific MCEA program, or a larger meeting with other organizations, stakeholders, and legislators, I got something unique out of each session. Talking with MCEA staff about their career paths, roles at MCEA, and current projects made the experience. Because everyone is an expert in their field and passionate about their work, I learned so much about environmental regulations and politics, and it made me realize I want to reach that level of expertise one day. This cemented my tentative plans on grad school; I definitely plan on attending. Additionally, the conversations I had and the bigger meetings I attended made me seriously think about law school. I learned so much about environmental regulations and politics, and the legal arguments and language were interesting to me in unexpected ways. Since I hadn’t had much legal experience prior to my internship, my time spent in meetings and with MCEA’s legal team helped me to understand the field better, and I realized I might want to pursue environmental law in the future.
When I wasn’t in meetings, I was reading legal briefs, writing blog posts, attending fundraisers or events, and touring the capitol. These experiences gave me a better idea of what a career in an environmental field could actually look like, the day-to-day commitments and pace, and I loved it. Being surrounded by people who care about the environment and dedicate their time to caring for it was inspiring and reminded me how much I enjoy environmental work. I’ll definitely be even more involved in the future as a result.
All these experiences created a great internship. The entire MCEA staff is incredibly knowledgeable, dedicated, and willing to collaborate on environmental issues, and witnessing that made me optimistic for the future. It was clear to me that everyone at MCEA truly cares about the work they’re doing, and are enacting real change as a result. The experience gave me an immeasurably better sense of what I can and want to do after college than any class could, and the real conversations and opinions from experts’ viewpoints opened my eyes to new alternatives for my future.