Students help build public policy
interns in Washington this summer included (front row, from
left) James Cuneo, graduate student Josh Krupnick and Corrie
Clark, (back row, from left) Emmanuel Smadja, Nicola Palmer,
Markus Weisner, Glen Michael, John Jesus, Ginger Moored, Leonard
Woody and Stacey Benzel.
often do people think of engineers as architects of public policy?
students of engineering and applied ethics got to step up to the
plate this summer, joining 15 of their contemporaries from the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Washington Summer
Internship program, working at a variety of offices in Washington,
D.C. Students had an opportunity for nine weeks to explore science
and engineering policymaking at the national level through study
and practical experience.
Childress, director of the Institute
for Practical Ethics, said it was valuable for his students
to see what values are at work in making science and technology
faculty adviser Michael Gorman praised the program for offering
students substantive intellectual work, such as writing
government reports, and not restricting them to mundane tasks
such as getting coffee for legislative staffers.
helped draft legislation on energy policy, said Gorman,
chair of the Division of Technology, Culture, and Communication
at the Engineering School.
One worked on a report on de-mining technology and another
wrote out a plan for a senators mail room.
biggest project I did was author a paper on humanitarian de-mining
technologies, said fourth-year student Stacey Benzel. I
was tasked to determine which de-mining technology, if any, would
be available in this presidential term. In addition, I did some
work on energy efficiency, critical infrastructures and attended
a lot of hearings and different conferences.
said she was surprised that the White House Office of Science
and Technology Policy gave the interns as much autonomy as it
did while working on land mine policy.
trusted we would do a good job and, overall, I think we proved
them right, Benzel said. I learned more this summer
about so many different things, and they were lessons that could
never be taught in a classroom.
did useful and meaningful work, Gorman said. It shows
that if young people are talented and energetic, they will be
put to work using their talent and their energy.
engineering school, is concerned about the social and ethical
implications of technology, according to Gorman, especially in
the TCC division. This experience gave students an opportunity
to see how policy decisions are made.
play a role in policy and their input could be valued, Gorman
noted that students could appreciate that values compete with
each other in making some public policy. Glen Michael, a bioethics
student who plans on attending medical school next year, said
his experience as a health policy researcher for the Alliance
for Health Reform will provide background for his work as a physician
in the future.
internships also exposed students to the political hurly-burly.
is certainly the name of the game in Washington, said Leonard
S. Woody III, who worked for Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.). Technology
policy was not immune to this and was heavily influenced by politics.
This was somewhat disillusioning, but very good information to
know for the future.
said several of the students have decided to write their theses
on the same topics on which they worked during their internship,
such as space tourism. These public policy exercises will be important,
he said, even if the student works in the private sector. John
Jesus, an international biomedical ethics student switched into
a premed program after his internship, realizing that he could
make his best impact as a physician.
and Childress said their efforts to join the intern program, which
MIT has been doing for seven years, were aided by James Turner,
chief counsel for the House of Representatives Democrats, who
has a family member attending school at U.Va, and Scott Giles,
a U.Va. alumnus who works on the Republican side of the House.
wants to use the first round of interns to help select those for
next year. Benzel said she has already recommended the program
to others and Woody described it as very rewarding. He said many
of the same government offices have expressed interest in taking
students in the future.
interns were housed with MIT students at George Washington University,
placing them within walking distance or a train ride of their
jobs. It also gave the students an opportunity to compare notes
with each other.
said surveys have been sent out to the participants, including
those from MIT, to get feedback on the program. We want
to see if they thought it was a good experience, Gorman