First (Official) Week at NARAL Pro-Choice!

Directly behind me, Chelsea’s typing furiously while Celia makes her twentieth call of the day, informing a State Representative that we have decided to endorse her 2014 campaign. Our office, decked with colorful pro-choice pins, posters, and other memorabilia, provides a welcome contrast to the gray sky and browns and beiges of the modest Boston skyline outside my window.

I’m spending my summer working at NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts as their Intern Coordinator. NARAL is the political arm of the pro-choice movement and works to secure women’s right to abortion, birth control, emergency contraception, health pregnancies, and healthy relationships. Massachusetts is one of NARAL’s 20 state affiliates, located at 15 Court Street in the heart of Downtown Crossing, on the ninth floor of a building that houses an assortment of advocacy, legal, and professional offices. I interned for NARAL Pro-Choice New York last summer, and though I’ve lived in three cities in the past three semesters – New York in the summer, Boston in the fall, and Washington DC in the spring – I’ve stayed involved with NARAL throughout the year. When I explained to my supervisor, Chelsea, in January that I would be living in Boston this summer, we worked together to craft an internship that would expand upon my leadership abilities and desire to create innovative campaigns that would propel the political landscape of Massachusetts in a pro-choice direction.

Five months later I’m bunkered down in NARAL’s office, with two weeks to prepare for the summer ahead. Our ten political interns arrive on June 3, and before that date I have an incredible amount to do. In addition to composing their intern manual, planning a two-hour political organizing training, and scheduling one-on-one meetings with each intern prior to their arrival, I’ve also recently been assigned my first advocacy campaign. The Women’s Health Protection Act is federal bill that would codify Roe v. Wade the Supreme Court case that secured a woman’s right to choose, in all state law, and pre-emptively void any anti-choice legislation that would impede a woman’s right to access safe, legal reproductive healthcare. All but two members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation have co-sponsored this bill, which means that the two remaining Representatives – Richard Neal and Stephen Lynch – will be hearing from my interns and me in the coming weeks.

I, alongside my supervisor and NARAL’s Political Director, will be planning a campaign from the grassroots up – everything from collecting petition signatures from Constituents, creating social media graphics and one-liners, and directly lobbying members of the Massachusetts Legislature and federal legislature to urge Lynch and Neal to support the bill. It is precisely the sort of substantive, adrenaline-inducing work I’ve been hoping for.

It’s clear one week in that I still have a great deal to learn about the political organizing process. A great deal of organizing and lobbying at the organizational level entails building strong, reciprocal relationships with other organizations and professionals that can assist you in achieving your policy goals. As a rising college senior, my Boston rolodex is embarrassingly small, and I plan to spend my summer scheduling informational interviews with likeminded professionals in the reproductive justice sphere. I also plan to learn quite a bit about time management and leadership in light of my responsibility to hire, schedule, and directly supervise ten political interns, many of whom are my age or older. I hope to make this experience as gratifying, substantive, and inspiring as possible for my interns so that they feel like they are genuinely contributing to our movement.

Since I have two weeks until the interns arrive, I’ve had the excellent opportunity to get to better know the NARAL Staff. There are only four full-time staff members here – Megan, the Executive Director; Erica, the Finance Director; Chelsea, the Health Equity Organizer; and Celia, the Policy Director – and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the intimacy and acceptance of the office atmosphere. I am treated with respect and assigned substantive, important projects; I am privy to conversations regarding NARAL’s organizational structure, finances, and future campaigns; and, most importantly, I’m treated like a member of the team, an equal fighting for this cause we all so staunchly support.

My friends have warned me that this may be my “honeymoon” phase, and a few weeks into my internship I’ll be dreading the 9-5 grind – but somehow, I don’t think so. There is never, ever a dull moment in this office, and given my passion and visceral support for this cause, I bet I’ll be just as excited about my internship on the day I leave.

My first week at FDD

I am interning at Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) this summer, a think tank focusing on foreign policy and national security issues, located in Washington D.C. The FDD provides analysis, policy recommendations and research to politicians, government officials, military officers and other members of the foreign policy community. FDD fellows and researchers fuse academic research with practical experience and analysis in order to educate policymakers about national security issues. As an intern, I will be focusing primarily on issues concerning violent non-state actors (VNSAs), including terrorist organizations and violent insurgency movements. My responsibilities include producing research memos for senior fellows and compiling source documents on emerging issues. In addition, I will assist senior fellows as they write policy papers, congressional testimonies and research monographs. I will also have the opportunity to participate in FDD”s intern speaker series, a program that brings national security professionals and policymakers to FDD”s offices to share their experiences and to educate interns about various opportunities in the policy community.

The process of finding and securing an internship at FDD was relatively straightforward. I previously interned at two think tanks in DC,  the Institute for the Study of War and the Center for American Progress, and was familiar with FDD’s work before I applied for the internship. In particular, I was very impressed with the comprehensive and objective research and analysis produced by various FDD scholars on counter-terrorism issues. Given my interest in pursuing a career in counter-terrorism and national security, I felt that FDD would be a good internship opportunity and I sent in a resume in February. My resume was passed on to a senior fellow who specializes in counter-terrorism issues and I had a brief phone interview with the fellow to determine whether I would be a good fit for FDD. I was offered the job at the end of the phone interview and accepted a few days later.

My first week was very enriching and exciting, as I received a brief orientation on Tuesday before quickly jumping into a research project focusing on the organizational structure and trajectory of an insurgent movement in South Asia. I received a brief training on proper formatting for research memos and source documents before I was tasked with developing a literature review that comprised all relevant scholarly articles concerning the South Asian insurgency group. The project was briefly interrupted because our research unit was required to produce a graphic to help explain the emerging political crisis in Libya. However, we quickly compiled the research required for the graphic and I switched back to building out the literature review and helping to fill factual gaps in an existing draft discussing the insurgency group.

I hope to sharpen my skills as a political analyst this summer and to improve my writing skills further so that I can confidently produce research memos within a short period of time. FDD is a fast-paced environment and so I expect that my efficiency and productivity will improve as I continue to adapt to the new work culture.