Internship Spotlight: Amelia Murphy

I am a student from the Faculty of Arts and Science, majoring in Sustainability, Science, and Society, with a minor in Anthropology. I am particularly interested in environmental legislation and policy that promotes environmental justice. I originally reached out to the Centre for Human Rights and Environment in February 2020, hoping for an internship that I could engage in while studying abroad over the summer in Buenos Aires. I was hoping for an educational experience that would add a bit of a challenge to my semester abroad, and to gain insight into the industry I hoped to work in from experts, like my supervisor Jorge Daniel Taillant and his wife and business partner, Romina Picolotti. Together, they had implemented the first glacier protection law in the world and lobbied to have access to drinking water acknowledged as a human right in the UN.

While I was preparing to begin my internship, COVID-19 spread in South America and McGill recalled all exchange students. My internship, which had originally began as a research and editing position for Mr. Taillant’s latest book, quickly evolved into a policy research position, as we were asked to begin advising the California state government on policy that would address the intersectionality of the health, economic, and environmental crises that the State is facing. My position was now part of the California Strike Team at the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD). The organization has various programs around the world that all work to promote environmental justice policy. In California, we were focusing largely on how fast action mitigation policy could be used in cities to address health disparities, stimulate the economy, and help the state reach their climate goals.

Throughout the course of my internship, I read and edited the transcript of my supervisor’s book, drafted research memos for both internal and funding purposes, and co-authored an article for our website. In order to carry out my research, I conducted phone interviews with field experts and our funders, and conducted hours of online research. My favorite work has been with the city of Stockton, where we are hoping to pilot our Urban Heat Island strategy in partnership with the city and the Smart Surfaces Coalition. I have been able to meet the mayor and his team, and to work with the Smart Surfaces Coalition team, all of whom have been very supportive and excited to teach and work with me. Most recently, IGSD has offered me a paid part-time position through the Fall semester, that I am very grateful for and excited to embark on!

I believe that this internship has been, and will continue to be, an incredible opportunity to expose myself to the industry I want to work in. It has also shown me the various jobs that are available in this field, and the various degrees I could go on to get. For example, I have been able to work with engineers, lawyers, doctors, and politicians, all of whom have played different but equally important roles in our work, and who have shown me what the potential for future engagement in this field is. I hope to maintain the connections I have built and to be able to continue working with them into my career.

I received the Susan Casey Brown Fund for McGill for my internship this summer, for which I am very grateful. For one month, the fund allowed me to focus on the internship full-time, replacing my full-time job at home. After that month, I continued my internship work part-time while also working full-time to support myself. However, this week I will begin being paid by the IGSD and will be able again to dedicate full-time hours to the work. I am very excited to continue my relationship with IGSD and very grateful for the financial support I have received from McGill, the Susan Casey Brown Fund for McGill, and the IGSD.

The remote aspect of my internship was always going to be a factor of the work, as the CHRE always operates completely remotely, even outside of COVID-19 times. Nevertheless, it has sometimes been difficult for me to engage online. What I have found most difficult was meeting people for the first time over applications like Zoom. It has been more difficult than normal to build and maintain personal relationships with the people I work with. Other than that, I have found remote work relatively easy to adapt to. It helped me to specifically schedule time into my week to sit down and work, as opposed to trying to fit it in around my work schedule.

I would like to thank Mr. Garvin Brown and the Susan Casey Brown Fund for their gracious support of my internship, and for their belief that experiential learning is valuable to a student’s academic and professional experience.

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