Recently, my internship organization, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., was ranked the #1 Transdisciplinary Research Think Tank in the world. After spending six months learning and absorbing information from the world’s top minds, I fully understand why they deserve such a ranking.
A similar transdisciplinary “think tank” like that of the Wilson Center is our very own Bard Center for Environmental Policy. My interdisciplinary first-year coursework prepared me well for the challenges and opportunities my internship offered. If it wasn’t for the tools I gained during my first year of the program, my internship at the Wilson Center would not have been as meaningful and successful as it was.
So, instead of copying Wilson himself and creating my own fourteen points, I will just have to settle for my own three points on what CEP prepared me for and what I gained from my internship at the Wilson Center.
1. Communication is Everything
The key skill I used every day at my internship was communication.
After taking a communications course during my first year, I was more than prepared to write blog posts, create event summaries, conduct a literature review, and give great presentations with beautiful and comprehensive slides.
In September, I published a blog post about what military leaders have to say regarding climate change, which ended up being one of the top 5 posts read that month. However, the highlight of my career at the Wilson Center was working alongside the Hon. Sherri Goodman and many other important leaders on the project, “Improving Predictive Capabilities for Extreme Weather and Water Events.”
The deliverable of the project is to hold a workshop for key leaders and actors in the field of climate change and national security. The overall goal is to develop a framework for better predictive capabilities of the impacts of future extreme weather and water events, such as extreme droughts, floods, strong hurricanes, among many others.
For the project, I conducted a literature review on tipping points of instability for one of the project’s case studies, Pakistan. After I conducted my literature review, I used my assertion-evidence PowerPoint slide training to properly convey my findings into 3 main points of instability for Pakistan. I then presented these findings to the workshop’s steering committee to further guide the dialogue for the development of the workshop.
Another type of communication that was critical during my internship is the “team” type of communication.
At Wilson, I worked directly with the wonderful Environmental Change and Security Program team. While I am still working on perfecting the art of team communication, my internship gave me tools to improve my personal and professional communication style. I upped my professional lingo, learned to take initiative with little guidance, asked for help when needed, and stepped in when the team needed me (even when it was not in my “job description”).
2. Good Things Take Time
As I learned during my first-year policy course, the policy cycle has many complex steps that take time. It’s one thing to have an idea, but it is another to have it come to fruition. There are many moving parts in planning an event, and coordinating them is no joke.
While much has been done to move forward with the project, there is still work left to be done. My major takeaway from the experience is that creating change is a never-ending process, but progress (no matter how much) is worth it.
3. Get out of your comfort zone
The number one reason why I believe the Wilson Center received its ranking is because it truly embodies the nature of interdisciplinary thinking. Within its mission, the Center conveys that the world issues we face rarely fall under one discipline, but rather they can only be solved from an all-inclusive, team-driven, open and comprehensive dialogue. I say get out of your comfort zone, because Bard taught me, like the Wilson Center, that we must get out of our own comfort and work with other “disciplines” to create real-world solutions.
So, at Wilson, I aimed to have some fun with interests outside of my own comfort zone and “discipline.” Doing so (with a little force from Sherri), I got involved with many different programs and attended events on topics I generally knew little about but left me fascinated and inspired.
The End of My Wilson Era
In the end, I realized my strengths in communication and brushed up on a few others. I learned that good things take time and progress is worth it. Most of all, I stepped out of my comfort zone.
Now I end my “(p)residency” at the Wilson Center, but I leave feeling grateful for all the connections and lessons learned. Thank you, Wilson.