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Kelly Henderson’s Blog

Millennials in the Field

Kelly Henderson

Posted November 19, 2012 in U.S. Law and Policy

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The desk versus the field. To me, the choice should be pretty obvious — let’s hit the field! Before coming to NRDC, I interned with the Army Corps of Engineers wetland mitigation office in Southeastern North Carolina where I worked primarily in “the field.” There, the field was literally, fields… and wetlands, marshes and thick forests. I loved the hands-on opportunity that I had to collect soil samples, determine water lines and examine different kinds of vegetation. To me, it was an ideal internship because I could use my knowledge gained from the classroom and apply it in a hands-on way.

This past October, the NRDC Action Fund (NRDC's 501c4 affiliate) provided me a similar opportunity to branch away from my desk and work in “the field.” This field did not have swamps or wetlands; instead it was a rather suburban environment in the capital city Lansing, Michigan. There, I was able to help move a campaign forward to bring Michigan to 25% renewable energy by the year 2025, also known as Proposal 3. This “field” work involved traveling around Michigan to talk to people and bring awareness and collect support for one of the state’s most important renewable energy standards ever.

Michigan1.jpgNRDC colleague, Vannida, and I on University of Michigan's campus collecting poll greeters.

Upon arriving in Michigan, I really had no idea what I was in for. This kind of field work was new to me, but working as part of a campaign team seemed like a great way to develop a new set of skills—something that all millennials such as myself should be focused on doing. And this trip really did just that. My colleagues, Melissa Waage and Melissa Harrison (“the Melissa’s”), really took me under their wing and gave me clear assignments that I knew I was making a difference by doing. They provided me multiple opportunities to engage in different aspects of the campaign: from building spreadsheets to ensure all priority precincts were filled with volunteer poll greeters, to making phone calls to residents of Michigan encouraging them to support Proposal 3, to driving to Ann Arbor to collect poll workers on and around the University of Michigan’s campus. I feel that this trip was able to give me a well-rounded view of what it is like to work on a campaign and in the field. Traveling around the state and talking to people about Proposal 3 also allowed me to better develop my communication skills in that I learned how best to communicate with a wide array of people from different backgrounds and with different opinions.

Michigan3.jpgOne of the communications offices we worked out of in downtown Lansing, MI

While the hours were long and the work was extremely detailed and focused, traveling to Michigan to work on this ballot initiative on behalf of the NRDC Action Fund has been by far the best experience I have gained since arriving at NRDC. As a young person in the organization, am thrilled to have been able to contribute to such an important effort and learn new skills in the process. Even though the Proposal ultimately failed (as did all five others in Michigan), I established new friendships and working relationships with folks from our other offices across the country that I will continue to value as I move forward with NRDC. I encourage other millennials to do the same if possible; field work is invaluable to better understanding how advocacy groups function outside of the office walls. I am very grateful for this opportunity and am looking forward to doing more field work down the road… in wetlands or in suburban sprawl.

Michigan2.jpgThe NRDC team at dinner after a long day celebrating Halloween with our festive wigs.

 

- All photos were personally taken in Michigan.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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