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

Notes from the Field: Mariel Wallace '16

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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: Mariel Wallace '16

Internship Organization:
US Department of State: Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation

How would you describe your employer, their mission, or what they do in one brief paragraph?
The US Department of State coordinates the President's foreign policy, maintains relationships with other countries, protects our national security, and enhances our nation’s image. The Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) coordinates efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. I work in the Office of Missile, Biological and Chemical Nonproliferation (MBC). Our office implements nonproliferation policy with regard to these types of weapons systems through sanctions, interdiction, export controls, and visa review.

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization?
I work primarily with the office’s missile nonproliferation policy. I help conduct reviews and risk assessments of missile and missile component transfers and prepare materials for interagency meetings. This includes editing cables (communications between State and US embassies to be delivered to foreign governments) and other documents, attending interagency and industry meetings, and doing research.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
I was both nervous and excited on the first day of my internship. I spent the majority of the first day in the State Department’s official orientation before heading to my specific office. Because I didn’t have computer access or even an employee badge, I spent the afternoon reading materials that described my office’s mission and responsibilities.

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
It’s really exciting that I have the opportunity to contribute to US national security policy. The State Department is an incredibly exciting and busy place that I’ve really enjoyed being a part of. Besides, how many college students get to say they got to spend an off-term learning all about missiles and nonproliferation policy?

What challenges have you faced so far?
Surprisingly, the biggest challenge I have faced in my internship is my lack of experience in engineering. MBC is a highly technical office and we conduct very specific reviews of missile components, so it’s been a steep learning curve for me.

Broadly speaking, what do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
I hope to develop some level of competency in this environment and establish meaningful relationships with my coworkers. I’d also like to determine if I’m cut out for this type of work and lifestyle.

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship?
Although I wanted to look extra professional on my first day of work, I definitely regretted wearing heels when I got lost multiple times in the building. I’ve also learned to bring extra shoes with me for commuting. Finally, while living in the suburbs is highly cost-effective, the lengthy daily commute can be brutal.

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