What I Did this Summer: Entry #3

Josh Huneycutt is a second year MIA student concentrating in Energy and Environmental Policy.  I asked him to share about the process of finding a summer internship and he wrote the following.

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As many of you will learn, obtaining a summer internship while at SIPA can often be a trying process filled with surprises and shifting outcomes.  After months of applying and interviewing for various sustainability- and environmentally-focused internships, I finally landed a position with a well-respected environmental policy institute.   Relieved, I phoned a week later to iron out the details, only to discover that an emergency budget meeting earlier that day had resulted in a good chunk of their staff on the chopping block, and funding for my research project (and thus my internship) abruptly eliminated.

In a state of shock and dismay for a number of hours, my rapidly snowballing and irrational fears of a summer spent living with my parents  were soon allayed by an email offering employment in the COO’s office of the New York Power Authority (NYPA), a state-owned electric utility that generates and transmits approximately one quarter of New York State’s electricity, mostly in the form of hydropower from the Niagara and St. Lawrence rivers.  Desiring experience in the energy sector, and given that I’d be working on issues I’d come to SIPA to explore more deeply (e.g. corporate sustainability, renewable energy, climate change) I accepted the offer and ordered my Metro North commuter rail pass for the daily trip I’d be making to White Plains, New York.

My internship was part of NYPA’s “Developmental Internship Program,” in which approximately 25 interns from around the country are brought into the organization and given both a mentor and substantive responsibilities for the summer.  As an intern in the Special Projects and Business Integration unit of the COO’s office, I had the opportunity to work on initiatives that had wide-ranging impacts on the organization and nearly all of its employees and activities.

After spending a week or so getting up to speed on the science, technology, policy and politics behind generating and transmitting electricity, I dove directly into helping the new chief sustainability manager to craft, finalize, and present NYPA’s comprehensive corporate sustainability plan to the CEO and the trustees.

As you might imagine, creating such a plan for an organization with billions of dollars in revenues, many hundreds of employees, and facilities scattered over a wide geographical area was a challenge in balancing various interests, ideals, and operational and budgetary realities.  In the end, we were able to successfully craft and present a truly robust plan that built on NYPA’s successes and set a bold agenda for action on various sustainability initiatives, such as carbon footprint reduction and renewable energy promotion.

Aside from my responsibilities related to the sustainability plan, I had the opportunity to work closely with the director of energy policy on a number of exciting and rapidly-developing projects, including federal smart grid funding applications and advice regarding shore power for idling cruise ships in New York City.  One of the most rewarding experiences was my involvement with the NYC Mayor’s Office Climate Change Adaptation Task Force energy working group, where NYPA and NYC worked together with other NYC energy-sector stakeholders to address potential climate change impacts.

JH NYPA

All told, it was a fantastic experience.  I learned an incredible amount about various aspects of the energy sector, built meaningful relationships with talented and knowledgeable individuals, had the opportunity to tour hydroelectric and fossil fuel generating facilities throughout the state, and felt that I made a marked impact on the organization.  Not only was I able to gain a wealth of new knowledge, I often referred to coursework and experience gained during my first year at SIPA related to climate change and sustainability in order to tackle difficult questions and challenges.

Despite not being exactly what I’d set out to do with my summer, it was an invaluable and highly-rewarding experience, and an example of how an unexpected turn of events in the sometimes-daunting internship search process can lead to something bigger and better than you might have imagined.