This blog was written by Joe Lee, Dogwood Alliance’s Campaign Intern during the summer of 2019. Joe is a rising senior studying Public Policy Studies at Duke University.
As my time at Dogwood Alliance comes to a close, I’ve found myself in reflection over the lessons I will take away from my 11 week experience as Dogwood’s Durham-based Campaign Intern. The end of this internship marks the beginning of my senior year at Duke — in other words, the countdown to find a full-time job and figure out my next steps. Although this next chapter can seem daunting, I’m happy to know that I will be more prepared after this internship. Here are some of the most beneficial lessons I have learned.
Celebrate your small and big wins
When I first started this position, I was given a list of projects I would need to complete by the end of the summer. This required me to set goals and create an agenda for myself. It can be easy to feel lost when you work on a variety of projects in an extended timeframe. I needed to step back at times and learn to celebrate the small wins.
From the standpoint of working to protect forests, correcting environmental injustices, and general environmental non-profit work, it is especially important to take the time to celebrate the big and small wins. It can be a long and slow process making change. It can be difficult to see results and progress. On a day-to-day basis, it’s hard to see how each petition or letter to the editor impacts Dogwood Alliance’s overall mission and vision. But throughout the summer, I realized that efforts such as petitioning for the Stand4Forest platform or campaigning people to attend the Sampson County public hearing contributed to the long-haul of building a movement to protect Southern forests and communities.
During this internship, I learned how powerful writing can be. Writing opinion letters to the newspaper and public comments to the Department of Environmental Quality are great tools to build a movement and demand action from the government. I was able to partake in multiple writing projects throughout the summer, including writing letters to the editor, public comments to DEQ, and in-person public comments to present at hearings. Although I’ve never enjoyed writing, I now appreciate the impact that it can have outside of the university setting.
I personally felt the influence that writing can have after giving my public comment at the Sampson County public hearing on Enviva’s expansion. It was empowering to call out the damaging climate impacts of the wood pellet industry in front of their executives and government officials. After the public hearing, The News & Observer and several other outlets published articles on the hearing. Just a few days later, I tabled at the Durham Farmers Market to engage the local community in Dogwood’s mission, and several people came up to me to talk about the article and to learn more about the damage Enviva is doing. I was happy to see that immediate effect on the public.
It’s okay to not know
I hoped that this internship would bring more clarity on the career I want to pursue – it did not. Despite this, it has provided me with a better understanding of my skillset and taught me that most people in my position don’t know what they want to do, and this is perfectly fine. Through this internship I’m able to appreciate the experiences, relationships, and skills I was able to take away from it. I found that it’s most important to continue to sharpen my skills and build relationships with people. These two, along with some hard work, will hopefully help me prepare for the future.
The truth is I absolutely loved working at Dogwood Alliance. The amazing people and the important work they do to protect our forests and communities, inspires me to pursue a career that brings positive change.