My Unique Experience as a Dogwood Alliance Intern

Written by Jewel (Yijia) Li

Although I imagined thousands of possibilities for what my internship might be like, the real one proved to be still different and beyond my expectations.

I’m Jewel, a graduate student studying Economics at Duke University. I’m very interested in the biomass policy and biomass market, and that’s the reason why I planned to work as an intern for Dogwood Alliance. My research is to provide support for the “Our Forests Aren’t Fuel” biomass campaign, which deals with the fact that European countries increased their import of wood pellets dramatically from the Southern US in order to meet growing demand for wood-based fuel sources. I also did part of my research comparing different renewable energy technologies in terms of costs and job creation. Renewable energy is relatively new, so the market is very dynamic and responsive to public policies. In the second part, I did a brief review of the world wood pellet market and summarized the relevant policies of major EU importing countries. This has been a very good opportunity for me to hone my research skills as well as dig deeper into my field of interest. The process of getting familiar with the target issue, collecting data, organizing information and finally forming the report, is key to independent research, and is just what I need to advance my studies.

I love the working atmosphere here at Dogwood Alliance. It is very exciting to work here: I’m not only doing meaningful research, but I’m also joining in on the different activities of the organization. I have attended orientation presentations, so I got to know the structure of a non-profit organization and what impact Dogwood Alliance might have on society or industry. I worked as part of an assembly line to combine the letters to members of Dogwood Alliance, which taught me that the awareness necessary to protect Southern forests is accumulated over time and with sustained efforts. I had a shift at the Dogwood booth during River Arts District Studio Stroll, and I came to understand that Dogwood’s strategies make sense and more work is still needed. In addition, I had the opportunity to attend the carbon offset conference in DC, which broadened my view of the green economy. I’ve done internships at for-profit companies, and this internship is a bridge to the other side. I got the chance to internalize the non-profit perspective that the non-profits stand and understand how it is unique when compared to profit-driven companies. This experience really enriched my life in the U.S. and is helpful for my future career.

I sincerely appreciate the work experience I had with my supervisor, Scot Quaranda, Dogwood’s Campaign Director. He provided good suggestions and comments for my research, and he gave me a great level of freedom in my research so that I could both contribute to the goal for the campaign and satisfy my own research interests at the same time. I also appreciated all my interactions with the staff at Dogwood Alliance; they are very helpful and passionate about their jobs. Talking to them is pretty enjoyable. I also made good friends with other interns in Asheville, which largely added to my happiness during my 11 week stay.

I also enjoyed the cool summer in Asheville. Asheville is such a wonderful city with its arts, music, and also beer. The life and the city style are quite different from any other cities I have visited in the US. This summer has been a prime time for me to get to know more about American life and the real non-profit organization working environment. I believe this internship has been unique, and I will cherish it forever.

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