Recovery Act Supports Unique Internship Program in the Northeast

By: Keith Shannon, Recovery Act Intern, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Northeast Region, Office of External Affairs


Intern Jamie Weliver working in the regional audiovisual studio.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has a long history of hiring interns to work on biological, habitat restoration and visitor services projects. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) enabled the Service’s Northeast Regional Office in Hadley, Mass., to offer a different type of internship experience this year. The office, which leads communications for the region, used Recovery Act funding to create an undergraduate internship program in partnership with the University of Massachusetts – Amherst.

What makes this internship program unique? Students participating in the program are pursuing degrees in journalism rather than biology, wildlife or natural resources management. These interns are capturing video on Recovery Act projects in the Service, and writing articles like the one you are reading now.

The External Affairs office has employed six interns since September 1, 2009, and will hire another two over the summer of 2010.

“The internship program has far surpassed my expectations,” said Terri Edwards, public affairs specialist. “These interns hit the ground running and have brought fresh ideas, creative energy and new skills to our organization. They have become an invaluable part of our staff. Most days I wonder what we did without them.”

“It has been an honor to work with people of such professional caliber as the External Affairs staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said intern James Weliver. “Their mentorship has provided me with invaluable insight and experience. I have been given opportunities to excel in areas I am experienced in and challenged to learn new skills and practices. I have confidence that I will leave this program with the skills and experience for a successful career.”

Intern Bill Butcher at a workshop on salt marsh restoration and climate change at E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, N.J.

Intern Bill Butcher at a workshop on salt marsh restoration and climate change at E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, N.J.

Weliver has proven to be a valuable commodity. His extraordinary talent in the world of multimedia has helped elevate the Region’s Web presence, including a video production about the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative and a nifty tour through the migration of Atlantic salmon.

“Thanks to the Recovery Act, I was allowed the opportunity of joining the External Affairs office,” said intern Mike Gardner. “My duties are varied, but mostly involve writing articles for the Northeast Region’s new Web site on climate change. This particular task allows me to directly use my education in a professional environment. As a student, this is a rare and invaluable experience.”

Gardner’s work is featured on both the Service’s Recovery Act site and the region’s climate change site, including an article on green buildings in the region.

“More than a job, these internships help prepare students for successful careers and allow them to walk away with an expansive set of new skills,” said Gardner.

“As a journalism and political science student who loves the outdoors, the internship program immediately appealed to me,” said intern Bill Butcher. “It gives us the chance to gain valuable real-world experience in the realm of public service, and help out a great organization whose mission – to protect and conserve our nation’s fish, wildlife and habitats – we all believe in.”

Butcher is writing for the region’s climate change site, including an in-depth look at the risk of kudzu invasion. And that foreboding video at the top of the page? Yup, Weliver.

Interns Mike Gardner (left) and Jamie Weliver (center) recording an interview for a video production.

Interns Mike Gardner (left) and Jamie Weliver (center) recording an interview for a video production.

The most amazing thing about this internship for me was witnessing how Recovery Act funds have aided small businesses and local economies. I also enjoyed seeing how programs within the Service can directly influence people, especially children. My internship was an awesome experience, and allowed me room for creativity as well as guidance to develop my own unique skill set.

I worked primarily on covering Recovery Act projects throughout the Northeast Region, incorporating video elements when possible including one about jobs created in Back Bay, Virginia. I was also lucky to cover the Atlantic salmon egg rearing program, part of the Service’s connecting kids with nature campaign.

The External Affairs office had one additional intern at the beginning of the 2009 school year, working primarily on Recovery Act stories. It will employ two others over the summer, one who will focus on communicating about the Service’s youth programs in the region and another who will work with the public affairs team.

“I think this internship program is important because it reminds students who will soon be looking for a full-time job that they don’t need to limit their search to the private sector,” said Butcher. “There are interesting, exciting jobs in public service and this internship helps students get their foot in the door. Interning for the Service has been a great way to get out of the classroom and into the real world.”

Keith Shannon was hired as an outreach assistant in September 2009 as part of the Office of External Affairs Recovery Act Internship Program. He graduated in Winter, 2010, and has established his own company, Shannon Media.

Originally posted 04/21/2010

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Last Updated: February 02, 2012
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