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

Notes from the Field: Michael Machlin '17

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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: Michael Machlin '17


Internship Organization:
US Department of the Interior, Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance (OEPC) – San Francisco, CA

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch?
My supervisor and mentor, Pat Port, is a Regional Environmental Officer for the OEPC San Francisco office, covering AZ, CA, HI, NV, and the Pacific Territories for environmental policy compliance and coordination issues. She oversees the Environmental Review process developed through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to ensure that all federally associated projects are in compliance with existing environmental regulations. She enjoys looking into current events, particularly politicized and controversial issues, to see how they apply to the environmental policy world.

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization?
I complete important administrative work, including facilitating the Environmental Review process and reviewing National Response Center notifications. For Environmental Reviews, various bureaus such as the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Fish and Wildlife Service provide comments regarding federally associated projects. I oversee the process of compiling those comments to provide to the stakeholders. This process ensures that new projects consider environmental concerns. For National Response Center notifications, I review reports of environmental incidents in the region. These are primarily oil spills. After identifying significant incidents, I report them to local spill response authorities and follow up during the cleanup process. I also work on interest-based projects suggested by my mentor.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
I felt comfortable from the start because Pat was supportive of me while simultaneously demonstrating high expectations. In the OEPC office, the current interns train incoming ones instead of Pat doing so herself. Because of this, there was less pressure from the start, and I was able to learn the necessary skills from my new colleagues.

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
The internship has given me a lot of freedom in terms of individual projects. While the administrative work, Environmental Reviews and National Response Center notifications, offer limited space for creativity, the independent projects allow me to research interesting environmental issues and get in contact with employees from any bureau of the Interior. This allows me to network and make connections with environmental experts in various sub-fields while learning information from the inside. I am currently corresponding with people from the Bureau of Reclamation regarding the pulse flow released in the Colorado River earlier this year. The project was a major success, with the river reaching the sea for the first time in years.

What challenges have you faced so far?
There is a great amount of responsibility associated with the Office’s work. Pat allows us interns to work on many major projects and assignments, so my work is often associated with my supervisor. I hold myself to a high standard throughout my work because I want it to reflect well upon my supervisor and the Office.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship? 
I hope to gain a greater understanding of the environmental policy world,and identify if this is a field I want to enter after graduating from Dartmouth.

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship? 
As expected, lunch food in San Francisco is quite expensive. I bring lunch to work as often as feasible to reduce food costs.

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