Consumer Advocacy With NCL in the Nation’s Capital

Behind me, Chris is busily typing away, working to compile the research on our latest project. I am sifting through lengthy documents, searching for quotes and statistics to create a briefing sheet for NCL’s executive director to use at a conference. Meanwhile, Paige is busy revising an article for NCL’s consumer blog. The past three weeks have just blown by as the work pace at the League has gradually sped up. The plethora of research projects is complemented by trips to conferences and even a  Senate Committee hearing on June 4th, where I had the honor of meeting Minnesota’s Junior Senator Al Franken. I also attended lectures on issues ranging from personal privacy to child labor policy.  The perpetual motion machine that is my workplace ensures that there is really never a dull moment.  In the past 4 weeks, I have gained an abundance of knowledge with regard to a wide variety of consumer issues. I am constantly learning something new with each project.

NCL's executive director, me (middle), and my supervisor outside the Dirksen Senate Office building prior to the Senate Subcommittee hearing on Location Privacy
NCL’s executive director, me (middle), and my supervisor outside the Dirksen Senate Office building prior to the Senate Subcommittee hearing on Location Privacy

I have progressed quite well in terms of my personal goals. The lectures and hearings that I attended have greatly enhanced my understanding of social policy and the nuances of various laws. With regard to my professional goals, I have gained experience in the areas of advocacy and politics through observation, projects, and research. In addition, the projects that I have been assigned have helped sharpen my writing and research skills. This will be quite beneficial for my future coursework, as I plan on taking several writing-intensive courses next year at Brandeis.

One of the projects that I am most proud of is a fact sheet on the EPA’s new Clean Power Plan proposal, which called for a new standard on coal power plant emissions in the United States. For the project, I sorted through a 10,000 file comment docket that had reactions regarding the proposed plan from labor unions, consumer advocacy groups, and other interest groups. I researched both the consumer side and the labor side of this issue and created a chart that showed the benefits of the EPA proposal for the general consumer population on one side and the potential negative impacts for the labor market (in this case workers at coal power plants). In addition to the chart, I also compared the EPA’s proposal and assessed how closely it converged with NCL’s own energy policy framework, which puts consumer interests at the forefront. I discovered that there were several areas in which the two policy frameworks coincided quite well.  I then proceeded to choose a few of the comments to put in the pro-con chart for the fact sheet. The numerous individual and group projects that I have researched, have allowed me to be exposed to an entirely new field of knowledge with regard to everyday issues in areas such as telecommunications, labor, and the environment.

My supervisor, fellow intern, and me (first from the right) with Minnesota Senator Al Franken at the Senate Committee Hearing on Location Privacy
My supervisor, fellow intern, and me (first from the right) with Minnesota Senator Al Franken at the Senate Committee Hearing on Location Privacy

In addition to the projects I am assigned by my supervisor, I am also responsible for drafting questions for NCL’s annual LifeSmarts competition for students from grades 6 through 12. This program seeks to educate students to become informed consumers in today’s society. I recently finished drafting my first set of 25 questions for the competition. The other interns and I are each responsible for 8 subcategories from within the five main areas: consumer rights and responsibilities, personal finance, the environment, health and safety, and technology. For this project, my fellow interns and I are working closely with the League’s LifeSmarts coordinator, who will review and give feedback on our questions. LifeSmarts questions will be one of the long-term projects that I will be working on throughout my internship.

The projects and research that I have done have developed and honed my reading and analytical skills. I have learned to analyze and dissect information quickly (deadlines are a very effective incentive). In addition, the reports that I have composed for the League have improved my writing quality. I have begun to grasp the rhetoric that is used in legislation as well as learn to produce concise and meticulously-crafted pieces of writing on various policy topics. I see this set of skills as extremely beneficial for my anticipated post-university plans of attending law school. By studying legislation and policy through my work, I believe that I am laying the foundation for a strong start in my graduate studies. Perhaps most importantly, the internship has given me a chance to truly experience a professional work setting and develop the social skills necessary to be successful in my professional endeavors. This internship with the National Consumers League has been tremendously beneficial for my personal, academic, and professional development. I believe that the skills I acquire from my time with the League will pay great dividends down the road as I progress towards my professional career after college and graduate school.

-Aaron Dai ’16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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