Summer Environmental Policy Fellow, Lofoten Islands, Norway; Funding: Jan A. J. Stolwijk Memorial Fellowship
What is your career goal?
I am hoping to connect international environmental, health, and technology policies to local mechanisms and tools, with the goal of greater ecological and community health. I am also interested in applying technological solutions to deepen the understanding of barriers and remedies to health problems locally and globally.
What were your duties/responsibilities during your internship?
I was responsible for interpreting, presenting, and connecting the outcomes of a system dynamics model to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) program. With organizational modeling and policy experts, I worked alongside my fellow intern, Jennah Motani, to provide context for the graphical outputs, determine the most relevant indicators that connected to both the model and the SDGs, and interpret these outcomes for policymakers. I was also responsible for researching policies related to food systems reform in connection with five “turnarounds” outlined by the organization. Finally, both Jennah and I stayed up to date on pressing environmental news conferences and developments, such as the Paris Summit for a New Global Financing Pact and the SDG Summit in New York in September.
What did you take away from your experience as an intern? What was the value of the internship to you?
I previously studied international environmental law but did not have much experience with direct policy suggestions and absolutely no experience with system dynamics modeling. I gained a far greater understanding of the difficulties and nuances of SDG policy suggestions and implementations, as well as the interconnection of different UN agencies and global policy bodies. Regardless of where I go after YSPH, this knowledge will allow me to approach my own work with a more thorough understanding of the international policy space.
What was the most rewarding aspect of your internship? What was the most challenging aspect? The most surprising aspect?
One huge reward is how widely our report is being circulated and shared, as the results were presented at the UN SDG Summit in September. It was also wonderful to be able to connect with a much larger international community and to get to know environmental experts and policymakers with a global reach much greater than anywhere I have worked before. Another rewarding element was the beauty of the physical landscape where we were based, in the northern Lofoten Islands of Norway. Being able to get off work and hike in the beautiful mountains or go surfing under the midnight sun was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.
The biggest challenge was definitely the learning curve on the system dynamics modeling work, as it took a lot of independent research in order to begin to understand and interpret our results. As for the surprising parts, there were lots of twists and turns in the report outline and development; having never been a part of a process like this, I learned much more about what the writing process entails.
How did your first year at YSPH prepare you for this internship?
I used readings from several of my courses at YSPH throughout the policy research I prepared for this report, including Social Justice (EPH 507) and Health Policy (EPH 510). The interwoven nature of the content in the first year allowed me to see the synergies between the SDGs and the policies needed to realize them fully, even as our work considered them individually.
What would you say to a student who’s considering a similar internship?
Be prepared to be dynamic and flexible, and do not be afraid to try something different than you or others might typically expect! This internship was definitely untraditional, but I am so grateful to the YSPH community and the Stolwijk Fellowship committee for providing me with the confidence and support to make it happen. You can learn so much when you go in without expectations, even if it is not what you initially expected.