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

Notes from the Field: Laura McCulloch '16

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Rockefeller Center-funded interns reflect on their experiences as part of our "Notes from the Field" series. Click here to read more about the Rockefeller Center's Internships program. To read the entire series, click here.

Student Intern: Laura McCulloch ‘16

Internship Organization: New America Foundation – Washington, DC

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch? 
The New America Foundation is a non-partisan think tank in DC. New America promotes constructive conversation and sharing of ideas. New America invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States, so there are a lot of young, vibrant intellectuals in the office. The foundation's mission is animated by the American ideal that each generation will live better than the last. There are multiple departments within the Foundation, including education, information technology, national security, health policy, and others.

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization? 
My specific responsibilities include writing reports and policy proposals; writing blog posts & Huffington Post articles; attending health policy conferences and briefings around DC; helping to create presentations for my boss; maintaining Twitter Feeds, websites, and emails; writing company proposals; and applying for funding grants.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship? 
My first day was a snow day, so instead of going into the office I met my boss, Rear Admiral Susan Blumenthal (Ret.), for tea. It was a nice transition into the job because I was able to meet her in a more relaxed setting where we discussed my responsibilities and future projects. Meeting her before my first day made going to the office for the first time less daunting.

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
I have had the privilege of meeting some very influential and powerful people, including former European Presidents, Ministers, ambassadors, congressmen, government officials, Dr. Jim Kim (World Bank President), the UN Secretary General, and the Director-General of the WHO, to name a few. I have had the chance to have discussions and share my ideas with these people, so I really feel like I’m getting the opportunity to make a difference and be heard by the people that have the power to create and implement change.

What challenges have you faced so far?
The New America Foundation Health Policy section is very small and still getting up and running - I'm the only Health Policy person in the office. I work independently and meet up with my boss at different locations a couple of times a week. This has been challenging because I have to solve problems on my own and have a lot of responsibilities. It was quite a difficult adjustment at first, but I was fortunate enough to be in contact with the old fellow, who is a Dartmouth alum, so I have been able to ask her some of my questions. Another challenge that I have had is having weeks where I had had to work long hours/after hours to finish my work, and other weeks where I have not had as much work. I have managed this problem by creating priority lists and working on some independent projects/articles during the times where I am not as busy.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
I realize that the reforms I am working on will take a long time to implement, but I hope to begin to see some form of progress in some of the issues that I am working on. I also hope to have a deeper understanding of the prevalent issues in the public health industry and hope to increase my connection network of people in this field.

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship?
Buy a SmarTrip card and register it online. Download Uber (app) – it makes it way easier to get a cab (especially in the suburbs where cabs are scarce). Look for events to attend during lunch – most of them have good free food, and they are always interesting.

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