Imagine waking up every morning with a chance to conduct important advocacy research that could directly help influence what legislative bills are passed in Maine this year. Imagine spending every day attending interesting meetings full of smart, passionate people speaking about their work on environmental topics, ranging from climate and clean energy to developing outreach strategies in beautiful Maine regions that contain stunning natural features. As the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) remote intern, as part of the “Jan Plan” program at Colby College, where I am a senior, this is what I had the incredible opportunity to experience for the entire month of January. I learned so much about the realms of environmental policy and advocacy and was able to work toward a goal I care deeply about—conserving Maine’s lands and natural resources.
The main project I worked on was developing in-depth research profiles of legislators who will be important players in passing climate-related bills of interest in order to enhance NRCM’s advocacy efforts in various Maine districts. It was so interesting to conduct meaningful research and become well-versed in the ins and outs of Maine representatives’ lives and their communities. From learning about their past political and career experience to their top political priorities and values, and even their favorite hobbies, it was fascinating to find out that Maine representatives really do come from all walks of life.
Many state lawmakers are life-long Mainers who have been devoted to their communities for many years. The state representatives I researched come from a broad range of occupations— they are teachers, bankers, farmers, graphic designers, and even maple syrup shop owners! One is still a college student, while others have multiple great-grandchildren. Some have served their district multiple times, while others are new to the job. Some have a high school education, while others are doctors or lawyers.
Despite the huge differences in their life experiences, all these representatives have one thing in common: passion for their community and making Maine a better place. I also learned so much about different Maine districts, such as their top industries and which Land for Maine’s Future (LMF) projects were completed there.
It was fun to write creative blurbs about the recreational opportunities and natural beauty that each LMF project protected, and it introduced me to many gems in Maine. I was really happy to know that my work would be used by NRCM’s policy staff in the upcoming legislative session. Also, while searching for winter hikes to do, I could easily recognize multiple LMF-conserved lands, such as Roberts Farm Preserve and Bog Brook Cove, that I already know are beautiful places to visit!
I also learned so much about the inner workings of an environmental nonprofit. Although I performed my internship remotely, mostly from campus, this actually lent itself well to attending a variety of interesting internal and external meetings on many topics. One minute I was able to attend an NRCM Healthy Waters team meeting, and the next I could hop onto a meeting of dozens of conservation organizations working on climate action. It was exciting to be exposed to all aspects of an environmental nonprofit and how the various environmental nonprofits around the state collaborate with one another and join forces through Maine’s Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC).
To me what really sets NRCM apart is the passion of the people who work there. It was an invaluable experience to work for an organization and people who share the same drive for protecting the environment that I have.
NRCM staff are kind, passionate people who are dedicated to the conservation of Maine and really love this state. It was especially meaningful to be able to attend a Zoom celebration for the 25th work anniversary for one NRCM employee, during which co-workers read poems, acted out a hilarious skit, provided tributes, and sang a song, all celebrating their fellow co-worker.
It’s incredible how much this internship will shape my final semester of college. Learning more about Maine’s role in supporting wind power and learning about the EPC’s energy priorities, such as creating a Green Bank, inspired me to take a course in renewable energy sources, and these experiences introduced me to many exciting career options in policy, advocacy, and environmental nonprofits.
I’m so grateful to NRCM Advocacy Director Pete Didisheim, and the rest of the NRCM staff, who made sure I was as involved as much as possible in the work and community of NRCM and invited me to almost every meeting that took place during my internship. Thank you for this valuable opportunity to gain knowledge and skills I will carry with me into my environmental career!
— by Emily Cunningham, Colby College senior, NRCM intern during January 2021