Bart Kassel at the Nature Conservancy in DC

One of the most pressing issues facing the international community is how to address the impact of climate change. Rising oceans, food and freshwater insecurity, urbanization, and many other issues prompt global action to preserve the planet for future generations.

The weight of this issue led me to pursue a new role this Fall with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a global non-profit focused on environmental issues in 79 countries and all 50 states. The Worldwide Office in D.C. coordinates the organization’s work which brings together scientists, policy experts, and local leaders to tackle climate change, protect lands and waters, provide food and water sustainably, build healthy cities, and connect people and nature. TNC is a great place to work with smart eco-geeks, environmental policy wonks, and other upbeat and motivated colleagues.

My responsibilities as a Contract Specialist focus on ensuring money-out agreements for TNC’s global initiatives adhere to legal standards and TNC policies. The day-to-day of the job has required me to guide program teams through the contract and grant-writing processes, review and approve agreements, manage extensive records, and more. Some of the projects I supported include: mitigating the impact of climate change on indigenous communities in the Amazon; advocating for international action on environmental issues at UN summits; and cleaning up polluted river basins in Latin America. One recent work day began with me video chatting a team in South Africa, consulting with our legal office about a Chinese project, and finishing the day by guiding a West Coast office through a contract revision.

The role has been very satisfying—serving as an expert point of contact for staff around the globe addressing a large problem in diverse and meaningful ways.

Bart Kassel is a recent graduate of the MAIR program. He also interned at the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Social Media in summer 2019.

Bart Kassel at the Nature Conservancy
Bart Kassel at the Nature Conservancy
MAIR Program at the Maxwell School
Maxwell-in-Washington Program

Bart Kassel at DoS Office of Global Social Media

Maria Winters DiMarco Researches Environmental Crimes at U.S. Embassy in Rome

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.

Maria Winters DiMarco

 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.

Maria Winters DiMarco (11th from left) and group photo with the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Kelly Degnan (10th from left)

Janessa Price Learns about the Conflict Between Natural Resources & Development

Janessa Price is a recent graduate of the Maxwell and Newhouse School’s Public Diplomacy Program. She also interned at the Joint Inspection Unit of the United Nations in Geneva.

Janessa Price

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.

Learn more about the Washington Public Diplomacy program