Reflecting on my summer at NCL

As I sit at home watching Netflix and packing for Brandeis, I find myself missing the fast-paced DC lifestyle and the stream of exciting projects at NCL. Even though I never thought I’d like sitting in a cubicle, I miss diving into various projects in my little space. I learned that I like to work with and get to know many people within the workplace, which was made easy at such a small organization. While reminiscing about my summer, I have reflected on how much I have learned during my internship from everyone I worked with and from the projects I worked on at NCL.

My cubicle, with a poster that roughly translates to "Yes, we can!"
My cubicle, with a poster that roughly translates to say “Yes, we can!”

I now have many new interests within the field of health advocacy, since I’ve met lots of people working at various agencies, companies, and non-profits that promote public health. I learned about women’s health from some of the meetings I attended and I would be interested in working somewhere dedicated to this group. While improving the website for the NCL’s national medication adherence program and attending FDA hearings, my interest in working on drug education or drug policy piqued. NCL opened my mind up to a host of potential career paths related to social justice advocacy and public health.

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NCL’s Executive Director took the interns out on a museum day trip

I developed a deeper understanding of the health policy environment and of the current issues facing consumers in the U.S. I had the opportunity to attend briefings to hear from experts about topics I am interested in, such as drug safety and the ACA, and to learn about topics I knew nothing about beforehand. There is a lot to stay on top of in Congress but working at NCL kept me on my feet, learning firsthand about bills each week. I enjoyed analyzing the implications of new policies for consumers and writing blogs about policies that should be enacted to combat consumer issues. I gained new knowledge while researching for my blog posts covering birth control costs and life insurance. The most rewarding project I worked on was for my supervisor for her appearance at the United Mine Worker Association conference. I wrote a brief about the coal industry and the environment and wrote a paragraph for her speech about some of the work we had done together.

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One of my co-workers presented the charts I worked on to display facts about consumer choices in the health insurance marketplace

I would advise students interested in interning at NCL to learn about the organization’s impressive history and find out what parts of the organization relate to their interests. I expected to participate in more lobbying with NCL but the summer is a slow time in Congress and it is difficult to get meetings with representatives and senators. My first week, I sat in on a meeting about a bill with a Congressional staffer, my supervisor, and another NCL staffer. Unfortunately that was the only time I saw lobbying take place but I learned that everything NCL did, from our blog posts to our attendance at press conferences, was a form of advocacy. Sometimes I would be writing a blog post and wondering how it could make a difference in the lives of others, something I aimed to do when I applied to this social justice oriented internship. When I visited the Newseum this summer, I realized that journalism is one of the best ways to make an impact and aid in solving issues. Although I wouldn’t call myself a journalist, my research and writing skills have improved at NCL and I plan to use them for my further advocacy efforts and in the career I end up choosing.

My co-interns at a consumer advocate party sponsored by the Committee on Energy and Commerce
My co-interns at a consumer advocate party sponsored by the Committee on Energy and Commerce

While House of Cards and West Wing are fun to watch on Netflix, there is nothing quite like living and working in DC for 8 exhilarating weeks. I am grateful to have had this opportunity through WOW and NCL. Thank you for reading my blog and keeping up with the work I’ve been doing this summer!

– Rebecca Groner ’17

The Story of a Brandeisian at NCL: A Match Made in Social Justice Heaven

Washington, D.C. is an amazing place to be for the summer, despite the humid heat and the high density of 20-somethings. This summer has been a particularly exciting time to be in D.C.: I’ve shaken Bernie Sanders‘ hand at a press conference, celebrated at the Supreme Court on the day of the marriage equality decision, watched a live taping of my boss speaking at FOX News, and met the 2014 Noble Peace Prize winner on the National Mall. I also ran into Jeff the Diseased Lung, who you may recognize from the anti-tobacco campaign that comedian/TV host John Oliver introduced on his show, before heading to a briefing on health care. While not at work, I’ve been kayaking the Potomac, attending intern networking events, and performing or watching improv comedy at various theaters. These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of excitement and I am sad that I am already halfway done with my internship.

Lobby at the Fox News headquarters in DC, where my boss spoke about the benefits of the new "female viagra" drug
The lobby in the Fox News headquarters in DC, where my boss spoke about the benefits of the new “female viagra” drug
I ran into Jeff the Diseased Lung on the Metro while headed to a health care briefing
I ran into Jeff the Diseased Lung on the Metro while heading to a health care briefing last week

Working at the National Consumer’s League is similar to being at Brandeis. If you’re like me, what some might describe as the “typical Brandeis student”, you’re passionate about a variety of social justice issues and you’re always busy at some meeting or event. My colleagues and I at NCL are interested in fighting for every issue you can think of regarding consumers and workers, from product safety regulations to bans on child labor. We attend events and meetings every week dedicated to solving these issues and we talk with policymakers and industry leaders about what they can do. I now know much more about consumer and worker issues and feel passionately about making people aware of these issues and solving them. While Brandeisians aren’t exactly lobbying Congress on a weekly basis, they’re always doing something to make change, whether it will affect our campus or the greater good. I hope to bring the same energy I’ve gained from working on various projects at NCL back to the clubs I’m involved with at Brandeis and look for new clubs to join that align with my new-found passions and growing skill set.

At the Consumer Product Safety Commission hearing in Bethesda, MD, where I learned about regulations for laundry detergent pods, table saws and ionization smoke alarms
At the Consumer Product Safety Commission hearing in Bethesda, MD, where I learned about regulations for laundry detergent pods, table saws and ionization smoke alarms

I write blogs, articles, and press releases on behalf of NCL, and although they are much shorter than the papers I write at Brandeis, they often require a similar amount of in-depth research. Since my start at NCL, my writing and research skills have improved. My co-workers and supervisor have offered me advice on writing and given me additional work to help me practice these skills.

I have also been writing questions for NCL’s program LifeSmarts, which is a consumer education competition for middle and high school students to help them develop consumer and marketplace skills. While researching a variety of topics that relate to health, technology, the environment, worker rights, and personal finance, I have become a smarter and more responsible consumer. I now know more about my rights and responsibilities when I enter the workforce and how to manage my finances. NCL has another program called Script Your Future that has taught me about managing medicine and various health issues.

For my next four weeks in DC, I hope to learn even more that will help me navigate my future, including but not limited to surviving the heat here. I hope that the work I’m doing and the people I’m meeting in the capital and at National Consumers League will be a part of that future because it is hard to imagine leaving both behind in August.

– Rebecca Groner ’17

Advocacy: A Field of Free Food & New Friends

This summer, I am interning at National Consumers League, a non-profit group based in Washington, D.C. that advocates for the rights of workers and consumers. They promote social and economic justice in the U.S. and abroad by tackling a range of issues, from food safety to child labor. Their various public education campaigns and lobbying efforts fight for living wages, protect Americans from scams, and increase medication adherence among diabetic patients. I will be working with the executive director and focusing on projects within the realm of the food policy and health policy departments. Everyone who works at NCL is accomplished, inspiring, and very kind. One of my goals at NCL is to expand my professional network by connecting with co-workers and my co-interns at the NCL. One of my co-interns is working in child labor department and the other two are working with the Public Policy, Fraud and Telecommunications department. I planned an intern lunch to get to know them on my second day and one of my co-workers planned a staff lunch to get to know us. Throughout the week, I’ve enjoyed getting to know my co-workers and becoming friendly with them.

A representative from the National Cyber Security Alliance speaking at the Internet safety panel.
A representative from the National Cyber Security Alliance speaking at the Internet safety panel.

My first day, the head of the Public Policy, Fraud, and Telecommunications department showed me around the office and then we took a trip to Capitol Hill. On “the Hill”, we attended a panel on Internet safety, the first of the 5 panels/briefings I attended this week. As we headed to the event, my new co-worker told me one of the best parts of working at NCL is getting to meet so many people. NCL staff attends many events around DC, to speak at them, lobby congressmen, or receive free food and new knowledge. We checked out the display of drinks and desserts at the event and then my co-worker greeted and introduced me to almost everyone in the room. Although I won’t be working on Internet safety this summer, I was excited to learn more about this line of work and connect with people who work at different organizations and agencies in DC. Cyber security policy representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, Facebook, and Google spoke at the event so I had the opportunity to learn more about how private corporations interact with public agencies and NGOs. Learning about these public-private intersections is crucial to gaining a deeper understanding of how advocacy and policymaking work. Throughout the summer, I plan to explore the field of advocacy and find out if this is what I am interested in pursuing after graduation.

TPP press conference
Press conference on Trans-Pacific Partnership

I’m working on various projects that involve researching policies and current issues in the U.S., from “female viagra” to fraud among life insurance companies. I have also helped out with some behind-the-scenes work, including editing a speech delivered at a Trans-Pacific Partnership press conference that I attended the next day and greeting guests at the NCL’s congressional briefing on child labor in tobacco fields. While researching legislation and issues during my internship, I hope to hone the research skills that I’ve developed during my past two years at Brandeis. I hope to come back after the summer with an improved writing ability and a better sense of policy issues. Having more knowledge about the policy environment of U.S. health will be helpful for my work in many of my Health: Science, Society, & Policy and Social Justice & Social Policy courses and for my future career path.

– Rebecca Groner ’17