Maria Winters DiMarco is an MAIR student who will be finishing her last semester of school interning at WeConnect International in Washington, DC.
This summer, I had the opportunity to intern with the State Department in the Environment, Science, Technology, and Health section (ESTH), housed within the Econ office at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. The embassy compound in Rome actually houses three separate missions — the U.S. Mission to Italy, the U.S. Mission to the Holy See, and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations Agencies in Rome, so I had the opportunity to not only learn from the Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) in my section, but also from people from various cones within the Foreign Service and those who are employed through the State Department outside of the FS.
The ESTH section is responsible for facilitating cooperation between the United States and Italy on many topics, including but not limited to: International Climate Change Negotiations and Sustainable Development, Emissions Trading System, Civilian Space Cooperation (manned and unmanned scientific missions), Resource Conservation and Wildlife Protection, Marine Science, Illegal Fishing, and Technical Aspects of Nuclear Nonproliferation. My responsibilities included attending related conferences and events in Rome and reporting back to the office on main highlights and drafting the quarterly newsletter that gets sent to DC and other embassies around the world. I also aided in the development of a memo that outlined an interpretation of Italian law enforcement for environmental crimes.
In addition to these tasks, I was also able to shadow FSOs in the consular section, and met with FSOs in the Political and Public Diplomacy tracks, as well. The embassy was very focused on ensuring that interns received a comprehensive understanding of how the mission operates and what life as an FSO is really like. As an MAIR student on the career track for Governance, Diplomacy, and International Organizations, I appreciated having this opportunity to experience the types of careers the State Department can offer after graduation. I encourage any student who thinks they may potentially be interested in diplomacy and the foreign service to apply for a State Department internship. I have met several FSO reps at job fairs and while they are helpful in answering questions, nothing replaces the actual experience of seeing their work in action and having the opportunity to assist the mission, even just for a short period of time.
This spring, I had the opportunity to intern with the Freshwater team at the World Wildlife Fund in Washington D.C. My decision to pursue an internship with WWF came after taking a course on development and sustainability with Dr. Farhana Sultana, which gave me a greater insight into the conflict between natural resource preservation and economic development. Working with WWF allowed me to explore the relationship between development and sustainability further while simultaneously honing my communications skills.
The work of WWF’s freshwater team spans the globe and ranges from promoting good water governance to protecting freshwater ecosystems to working with the private sector on water stewardship and conservation. This spring, in conjunction with the Policy and Advocacy group, the team launched its new Water and Security Initiative. Through this initiative, WWF seeks to inform U.S. development policy by showing that support for cooperative arrangements over shared water resources and other environmental considerations can reduce the likelihood of social and economic disruptions. As a communications intern, I was tasked with helping develop an outreach strategy for this initiative that would help inform policymakers, media and the general public about the critical linkage between global freshwater challenges and U.S. national security.
This experience was particularly valuable as it gave me greater insight into how NGO advocacy can be successfully conducted, even in what could be considered a hostile or at least atypical political environment. As an organization focused on environmental and ecological preservation, it was both interesting and promising to see how WWF found ways to maneuver and push its agenda forward despite the current administration’s apathy toward environmental health. At the same time, WWF provided a perfect example of the struggle between environmental sustainability and human development. While the organization was created with the protection of nature for nature’s sake in mind, it has slowly recognized that the needs of people must too be considered in any approach to environmental sustainability.