Omnisha Philostin – Foundation Relations Intern
Currently a junior at Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University studying Business Administration with a concentration in Management Information Systems.
I had the amazing opportunity of being able to intern virtually with American Rivers in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2021. Joining American Rivers as the Foundation Relations Intern was my first internship.
I was partnered with American Rivers through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) summer internship program, made possible by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF). I first learned about the opportunity to be a part of a summer intern cohort in Washington, D.C. from a Career Development Services staff member at my university. After landing the internship, I was both excited but was nervous at the start because I did not know what to expect. I was going to a new city, alone, with little knowledge about environmental nonprofit organizations.
During my internship, I was able to gain experience proofreading, editing, public speaking, and using Excel. I learned how to prioritize my tasks and time, and also built a solid network of contacts from the informational interviews I was able to have with members of other departments within American Rivers. Whether they were a part of the corporate, development operations or communications team, they were all very open with me, not only when it comes to making sure I know and understand the work they do for American Rivers, but also making sure I am meeting goals of my own and taking away skills and experience I can use in my career after college.
In addition to working on research profiles, proposals and report templates I also worked on a research project focused on environmental nonprofits in the U.S. While conducting the research for this project, I looked into why environmental nonprofits lacked diversity and ways that could change. One big takeaway was seeing that improved funding and targeted partnerships with more diverse organizations can really bring about change.
I was very grateful for this opportunity. Being a part of this program has opened my eyes to the importance of the work American Rivers and similar nonprofits do. It changed a few of my own bad habits in my daily routine such as leaving the water running or using plastics. This internship has given me the chance to learn about environmental nonprofits while gaining and perfecting skills of my own. Finally, I would like to thank my fellow interns, NFWF, TMCF and AR for making my virtual internship in D.C. worthwhile!
Eric Schramm – Legal Intern
Currently working as an in-house counsel with National Geographic Partners, Eric interned at American Rivers during his second-year at The Catholic University of America, Columbia Law School. Here Eric shares some memories and recommendations from his internship experience:
I chose to intern with American Rivers not only because the internship “checked” both boxes on my key career goals list – an internship in a company or nonprofit’s legal department with a heavy emphasis on contract drafting, review, and negotiation – but because American Rivers’ mission was one I could get behind and feel good about supporting.
During my time at American Rivers I expereinced a wide-variety of in-house legal work (everything from contracts, to trademarks, to reviewing marketing/promotions material, to legal research) and developed skills as a “corporate generalist” that have served me well during my post-law school jobs in legal departments. One of the most challenging and rewarding experiences during my internship was the “Brown Bag” presentation I gave with another Legal Intern on Trademarks. It was a great learning experience for me (as I was able to gain a solid, comprehensive understanding of trademark law while preparing for the presentation) and for the American Rivers management and staff, as they learned about the importance of protecting the American Rivers brand.
Based on my experience I would absolutely recommend an American Rivers internship to others. First, if you’re interested in environmental advoacy, American Rivers is a great place to “dive in” (no pun intended) and begin learning about the industry. Second, you will develop a wide-range of practical skills that will serve you throughout your career (American Rivers was my first true exposure to contracts — something I come across on a daily basis in my current job). Third, American Rivers is made up of a great group of people who are passionate about the work they do – they will guide, support, and inspire you during your internship! Finally, future interns should take advantage of the incredible location. Gget outside the office in your free time and explore the city (especially, Rock Creek Park!) and get to know your fellow American Rivers interns and even other DC interns in a similar line of work.
Ellen Stensrud – National River Cleanup Intern
Ellen interned with American Rivers between her sophomore and junior years of undergraduate study at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in central Minnesota, where she is currently pursuing a double major in Political Science and Computer Science. Below Ellen looks back on her time with American Rivers:
I came across the internship at American Rivers by googling “environmental non-profit internships” and I chose this particularly internship because it appeared to be a well-rounded position that would provide me with experience in multiple aspects of a non-profit. Also, this internship grabbed my attention because American Rivers has a wide range of goals that they work to accomplish, from physically cleaning rivers to lobbying for regulations on hydropower plants.
At American Rivers I worked on a wide array of projects, from generating social media content to collecting cleanup data results. One of the more interesting projects I worked on was researching potential snack donors, for which I explored environmentally friendly snack companies and compiled a list of which ones would be a great fit for sponsoring our cleanups. Once that list was compiled, I then reached out to those companies and requested in-kind donations. This project allowed me to gain insight into understanding what draws donors to certain organizations. Another interesting project I worked on, was reaching out to past cleanup organizers to share their stories on AR’s blog. When speaking with these organizers, I was able to hear about all of their success in the past with cleanups and their goals for the future. Once they agreed to doing a story, I helped them compile their blog post and choose photos to be featured. I enjoyed this project because it gave me an inside look into what goes into a river cleanup and also gave me a chance to connect with the organizers.
An internship at American Rivers is a very hands on experience that provides flexibility for you to work on topics or issues most interesting to you. The internship also provides you with opportunities to learn very important work environment skills, like researching, reaching out to members via email or social media, managing your time, participating in meetings, and many others.
The most important piece of advice that I have for future DC interns is that you should do everything you possibly can with your time there. Attend conferences, go to hearings on the Hill, go to talks at think tanks, and do all of the “touristy” stuff. Also, come in with a completely open mind, so you do not miss out on any career opportunities, even if you do know exactly where you want to go with your career path.
Gerald Chichester – Legal Intern
At the time of his internship with American Rivers, Gerald was a 2nd Year Law Student at the University of Georgia School of Law. Here Gerald shares some thoughts about his time with American Rivers:
I heard about this internship through the DC Semester in Practice Program at the University of Georgia. As my career goals are to be a transactional attorney, dealing mainly with contract drafting and focusing on non-patent intellectual property, I chose the American Rivers legal internship because it offered me an opportunity to get real experience dealing with contracts and transactional matters.
This experience came in a number of different areas of law including intellectual property, while also giving me insight on the importance of legal knowledge and education in an in house context.
One of the major highlights of my time with American Rivers was giving a presentation on intellectual property in a non-profit context at the conclusion of my internship. At the time, it proved to be very useful to coworkers dealing with this type of material and the experience giving such a presentation to the DC office and other offices via telecast has been a topic of conversation in all my subsequent interviews. I learned a lot about contract drafting and language that protected the legal interests of American Rivers. I also learned a lot about trademark registration and renewal, dealing directly with American Rivers registered service marks and trademarks. This internship also taught me a lot of practical working skills and business etiquette that are applicable to any professional setting.
I would recommend a legal internship with American Rivers as it provides an opportunity to get real, hands on experience with a wide range of legal principles and skills. To other interns I would say be prepared to work hard and take in as much as you can from the opportunity. My largest development during my internship was my overall confidence and willingness to take on more responsibilities as the internship progressed. I carried that confidence and developed skills into my last year in law school and into my current job. It has made a BIG difference, and I cannot thank American Rivers enough for the opportunity.
After my internship I received acceptance into the Business Law Clinic at the University of Georgia where I applied many of the skills that I learned and developed at American Rivers. I graduated in May 2016 and I now work at a law firm dealing with both litigation and transactional matters in south Georgia.
Julia Selby – Development Intern
Having just graduated from Indiana University, Julia heard about the Development Internship with American Rivers through Idealist.org. Here’s what Julia had to say about her time as an intern:
I chose to intern with American Rivers because they’ve got a great reputation, have a diverse donor base, and do wonderful work across the country. I wanted to work in fundraising and development in Washington D.C., so my experience as a Development Intern was very valuable.
During my time at American Rivers I gained experience in donor relations writing stewardship letters and creating donor profiles. I also enjoyed learning about American Rivers’ multi-faceted advancement department — foundations, major donors, board members, and corporations. I currently work at Thrive DC, a homeless services organization, in their development department where I manage our corporate and foundation grants and cultivate relationships with our institutional funders; the skills I practiced during my internship definitely helped me land this job.
I would recommend an internship with American Rivers as the people are great and the experience was wonderful. Aside from valuable work experience I particulary enjoyed decorating the office for a holiday decorating competition, and everyone made me feel like a valued part of the team. To future interns I would say take every opportunity to network and meet new people; most will be more than willing to help you with your job search!
Bailey Kennett – Western Water Intern
Prior to her internship with American Rivers, Bailey graduated from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Economics. Here’s what Bailey had to say about her time with American Rivers:
I found this internship through the American Rivers website as I was already familiar with the organization and regularly checked online for career or internship opportunities. While interning with American Rivers I was simultaneously working in US EPA’s Office of Water, through a fellowship with the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. Though I had some experience working in water conservation in the Southeast, I wanted to work as American Rivers’ Western Water Intern to familiarize myself with the issues and policy in a region where water supply is of principal concern. This fits with my career goals of working on regional planning and stakeholder engagement around water supply management.
While at American Rivers, my research involved exploring the policy connection between groundwater and surface water in five Western states, and how this legal and hydrological relationship influences river conservation. This research project directly prepared me for my graduate studies in Arizona, where groundwater-surface water interconnections are regularly discussed as integral to environmental and water resources management. I am currently in my second year of a Water, Society, and Policy Masters program at the University of Arizona, where I also work as a graduate research assistant with the Water Resources Research Center and as an intern with US Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Santa Cruz River Basin Study. Much of my work involves stakeholder engagement around water supply management and climate change.
Although most internships in Washington DC are unpaid, the city is unique in the countless opportunities it presents to delve deeply into your field of interest and build influential connections with professionals that are truly passionate about their work – take advantage of it! I would absolutely recommend an American Rivers internship to others. The staff connections I made during my internship not only benefitted my graduate school application process, but continue to be influential nearly two years later.