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

Notes from the Field: Nicholas Bernold '16

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Student Intern: Nicholas Bernold ‘16

Victoria Nevel was funded by the Rockefeller Center for a Summer 2015 internship, with generous support from the Perkins Bass ’34 Public Affairs Internship Fund.

Nicholas Bernold '16 was funded by the Rockefeller Center for a Summer 2015 internship, with generous support from the John French Memorial Fund.

Internship Organization:
Massachusetts Attorney General's Office: Public Inquiry and Assistance Division

In your own words, briefly describe your internship organization and what they do.
I am working within the Public Inquiry and Assistance division at the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office. The Attorney General acts as an attorney in the interest of the Commonwealth and can bring legal action against individuals or businesses for a broad range of illegal activities. In my division, we look specifically at allegations of a business engaging in unfair or deceptive practices towards individuals.

What is your specific role or major project as an intern?
As an intern I have two major roles. The first is to determine whether a complaint filed with the Office is within the purview of Public Inquiry and Assistance, or whether it should be referred to another division within the Attorney General's office, or even another agency all together. Most of my time, however, is spent working as a mediator. In addition to recording complaints that may later be used in legal action taken by the Attorney General, the office provides a free mediation service for members of the Commonwealth. I have a caseload of approximately fifteen cases where I seek to help a consumer and the business they feel acted unfairly resolve their issues outside of court.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
I was intimidated to be doing cases all on my own. Many people calling this office have been unable to receive help from other sources and are facing very difficult and distressing situations. I was nervous that my mediation skills would not be up to par and I would be doing a disservice to people who needed help.

What is the most rewarding part of the internship experience so far?
This job is rewarding for the same reason that it is nerve-wracking. I am directly involved in the lives and hardships of citizens of the Commonwealth. When I am able to get someone a refund for a faulty product, convince a landlord to fix a leaking roof, or resolve a dispute outside of court (saving people money they often need to pay rent), I know I have made a tangible impact on someone's life.

What is the biggest challenge that have you faced so far, and how did you respond to it?
It is sometimes frustrating to deal with governmental procedure. In certain instances I feel that I could help resolve someone’s issue, but I must tell them our office cannot provide its services because he/she does not qualify (we consider their conflict to be between private parties, for example, or another office is already investigating the business involved). Additionally, our mediations are voluntary. I will sometimes get very close to a resolution only to have one side decide they want to walk away. I just tell myself that government has procedures for a reason. If I just tried to arbitrate issues at my own discretion, I might be satisfied with short term results, but in the long term I would damage the credibility of our agency and would not be applying the rules fairly to everyone.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
I hope to continue helping citizens with cases where they feel they've been treated unfairly, no matter how big or how small the complaint seems to the outside observer. When someone takes the time to contact us, it means this issue is very important to him or her. I also hope to more frequently use my French language skills to assist Haitian-Americans who call our office and are sometimes more comfortable communicating in French.

What practical lessons have you learned in the day-to-day life at your internship?
Boston is beautiful in the summer and very walkable! I've enjoyed walking to and from work every day. I especially love going along Marlborough Street, which has beautiful flowering trees. Also, I tried to learn the order of the Back Bay cross streets for a few days before realizing they're simply alphabetic (Arlington, Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth etc.)

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.



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