The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Notes from the Field: Cameron Hunter '15

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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: Cameron Hunter '15

Internship Organization:
Office of the Attorney General of Massachusetts, Civil Rights Department – Boston, MA

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch?
Until the start of my internship, I had no idea what the Attorney General's role was like many of the people who call in to the Civil Rights Department of the Attorney General's office. Could they support me in court if I got in trouble? Could they bail me out of jail if I was falsely imprisoned? Clearly, I simply had no idea what  sort of role the office had in society and within the framework of state government. But I've learned that the office is more or less like a big mediator, and it will work to resolve conflicts between different parties before being forced to escalate these cases to court. Specifically within the Civil Rights Department, paralegals and attorneys will receive daily complaints of discrimination from Massachusetts citizens in which complainants allege that they've been discriminated against in the workplace, in restaurants, in school, and so on. Then, it's the Civil Rights Department's job to step in, assess the problem, and work to resolve the matter in accordance with the law.

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization?
My responsibilities are mainly to vet the many complaints that come to our office and get a good sense of what the complainant is alleging. After assessing this, I will contact the other party involved and get their side of the story. Then, I'll return to the drawing board and think of the best way to come to a middle ground between the two parties, depending on what laws may or may not have been violated. If this middle ground cannot be achieved without using legal means, then I will escalate the complaint to attorneys in the office and continue to work on the complaint with these attorneys.  

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
I was thrust into the work almost immediately. Starting within the first week, I was on my own calling up business owners, school administrators, and state officials saying, "Hello this is Cameron Hunter from the Attorney General's office, and I have a couple questions for you." From very early on in the internship, almost immediately, I was given a lot of power and independence in trying to help those who had been discriminated against.

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
I have often been thanked profusely on the phone by complainants who are so happy that someone will finally listen to them. The office frequently deals with vulnerable members of society, as those who face discrimination are more often than not. For someone in government to give them a chance to tell their story is very meaningful to them. This is especially true when you are able to help solve their complaint and alleviate problems that have been seriously weighing on them for a long time. I have found that when I have been successful in resolving a complaint, the complainant's gratitude is incredibly rewarding. Someone even asked me once if it was ok to say that they loved me. I chuckled awkwardly not knowing how to respond.

What challenges have you faced so far?
Sometimes it is difficult to know that even if you want to help someone in need, the law can restrict the options at your disposal. For example, if a building is compliant with code but a disabled person living there is still having trouble walking up the walkway because they find the slope's incline to be too great, there is only so much you can do to help. This can often be frustrating, but knowing where to refer people after the Attorney General's office is out of the picture is an important skill to have.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
By the end of my internship, I'd like to know whether or not I can see myself working in a similar environment in a similar job later in my career. I'm still on the fence about what I see my career path being, so this internship will be a great tool in deciding which direction I'll head.

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship?
Air conditioning would be nice to have in your apartment. It can be hot without it.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences