Brendan Mitchell tours Grey Towers, the historical home of Gifford Pinchot (DOI/Brendan Mitchell)
BY BRENDAN MITCHELL
Dear Future Intern,
Welcome to the Department of Interior’s Office of Wildland Fire! I was an intern here during the summer of 2019 through Michigan State University’s Demmer Scholars Program, so I wanted to provide you some insight into what it is like interning at OWF.
Be sure to talk to the people in the office about what they do and what they have worked on in the past. Like I mentioned previously, the people you are interning for at OWF are incredible. Every person that I talked to or worked with was very supportive and informative, helping me learn the ropes and understand more about the world of wildland fire. I even found myself on the phone with people in the Boise, Idaho office, such as Kim Van Hemelryck, who helped me differentiate some of the terminology that the wildland fire community uses. Everyone at OWF has plenty of experience in a variety of aspects regarding wildland fire, and they would love to share some of that with you.
You will likely gain a better understanding of what working in a government agency is like. Through this internship, I had the chance to listen to the Secretary of the Interior speak about the Department, which was a neat experience because Secretary Bernhardt described what it is like being the Secretary, such as how none of the issues that are brought to the Secretary are “easy” to solve. I also attended a congressional hearing on wildfire, in which the Director of OWF was testifying. That one was particularly fascinating, because I was able to see what it took to prepare the Director for the hearing and then actually see all that work come together.
Over all, being a part of the Demmer Scholars Program is an incredible experience. I was continuously amazed at all the places we went, whether it was a hike through Shenandoah National Park to learn about invasive species and fire ecology, or whether it was touring important places and buildings in DC that most people don’t get to see, such as the Supreme Court courtroom. I learned a tremendous amount about the policy sector and the intricacies of our government during my summer here, from what goes into budget and appropriation bills to how reorganization works. Keep an open mind to the excursions and lectures, and you will come away knowing so much more about government than you thought possible.
Enjoy your time at OWF and in the Demmer Scholars Program, and absolutely make the most of your stay in DC.
Brendan Mitchell is a student at Michigan State University studying Fisheries and Wildlife with a concentration in Conservation Biology. Brendan was selected as a Demmer Scholar for the 2018-2019 academic year and completed his internship with the Department of Interior's Office of Wildland Fire.