By Auburn Robertson
The North Carolina Policy Collaboratory was established by the North Carolina General Assembly in the summer of 2016; however, it was not until the spring of 2019, as part of Advisory Board’s efforts to promote student engagement within the Collaboratory, that the Collaboratory welcomed its first class of interns, including two environmental policy interns and one communication intern.
Since then, the Collaboratory has employed over 50 other students and hires a new cohort of UNC-Chapel Hill graduate and undergraduate students for paid internships each semester, which provides critical staff support for its work as well as provides students with the opportunity to participate in career development activities.
Some examples of Collaboratory intern tasks include conducting background research on policy topics, drafting legislative reports, developing policy briefs, assisting with research administration and leading communication efforts through the development of press releases, news articles, and podcasts. These projects are intended to further the interns’ professional skillsets and networks within their respective interests in order to better prepare them as they enter the workforce upon graduating.
Two of the Collaboratory’s previous interns who have utilized skills developed during their time with the Collaboratory in their current roles include Janis Arrojado, UNC-Chapel Hill class of 2022, and Elizabeth Kendrick, UNC-Chapel Hill class of 2020.
Janis Arrojado: Making the Most of Your Time at Carolina
Janis graduated last May with a double major in both Environmental Science and Geography, and while enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill, she was actively involved on campus as a two-year orientation leader, a member of Kasama – The Filipino American Association of UNC-Chapel Hill, and an environmental policy intern of the Collaboratory. Janis interned at the Collaboratory for three semesters, beginning in the spring of her junior year, working specifically on the Falls Lake annual report as well as one- to two-page readable summaries about various scientific research projects funded by the Collaboratory.
Janis reflected upon her experience interning for the Collaboratory during a recent virtual interview.
“I had a wonderful experience with the Collaboratory,” Janis said. “I feel like I learned a lot about policy, of course, but also the invaluable ability to translate scientific data into more readable content.”
She emphasized the relevance of the skills that she developed during her time at the Collaboratory, even though she no longer works in the environmental field and is currently working as a tech consultant at Appian: a cloud computing and enterprise software company headquartered in Northern Virginia.
During her interview, Janis noted that “the Collaboratory taught [her] the overall importance of communication and collaboration with your peers and supervisors.” She also believes that her internship experience heavily improved her analytical and writing skills.
Janis urged current Carolina students, especially current Collaboratory interns, to “take initiative and full-advantage of the mentors and connections that the Collaboratory provides you with.”
“The alumni and guest-speaker calls offered to Collaboratory interns are great ways to network and learn about careers in and outside of sustainability,” Janis said. “It’s important to reach out to the guest-speakers that interest you for any advice or help you may be seeking as a student.”
Elizabeth Kendrick: Launching a Career Focused on Climate Resiliency
Former Collaboratory Intern Elizabeth Kendrick also agreed that students should take advantage of “all of the great resources and alumni network” provided by both UNC-Chapel Hill and the Collaboratory.
According to Elizabeth, “the Collaboratory is an extremely valuable organization that helped [her] make lasting connections with individuals [she] still works with today” at Booz Allen Hamilton, where she has been working as a senior consultant focused on defense land conservation projects via the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program since July 2020. The Department of Defense’s REPI Program functions with the goal of maintaining a synergistic relationship between environmental conservation and military training, testing, and operations.
Prior to working as senior consultant, Elizabeth graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a dual-degree in Environmental Studies and Public Policy as well as a Politics, Philosophy, and Economics minor. During her time at Carolina, she was involved in student government for three years, serving as Undergraduate Vice President during her senior year, as well as various environmental organizations including Epsilon Eta, the UNC Environmental Honors Fraternity.
During her senior year, Elizabeth also began her internship at the Collaboratory, which she continued briefly after her graduation until June 2020. At the Collaboratory, she worked directly with the NC Office of Recovery and Resilience on a stakeholder engagement plan, fact sheets focused on resiliency work throughout the state, and policy memos.
“Through that writing experience, I was able to develop some of the writing skills that I still use in my career today” Elizabeth stated during her recent virtual interview. She emphasized the value of her learned ability to draft outreach materials, reports, and fact sheets in an easily digestible, concise format.
“Additionally, I was able to learn some other skillsets that I use in my consulting job today, [including] how to hone in on your client’s challenges and develop innovative and effective solutions.”
When reflecting upon her time at Carolina and the Collaboratory, Elizabeth also highlighted how quickly one’s time in school seems to pass.
“Enjoy your time,” Elizabeth urged current students and interns. “You panic about what you’re going to do after graduation, but it all works out in the end if you stay focused on what you are truly passionate about … just take advantage of all the great resources and the alumni network around you. I am extremely willing, as a lot of other great Tar Heels are, to help Carolina alumni navigate this space in any way that I can.”
To read more profiles of Collaboratory student staff alumni visit the Collaboratory Student Staff Alumni page.
Auburn Robertson (Hometown: Raleigh, NC) is a junior Environmental Studies and Media & Journalism major. Auburn is a communications intern with the NC Collaboratory during the 2022 fall semester.