My Internship with NYPIRG

CUNY BA

Wali Ullah (Political Behavior and Analysis, City College of New York, ’20)

My AOC is Political Behavior and Analysis, and from the beginning of January (just a few days before the start of the 2020 New York State Legislative Session) to the end of the Spring semester, I held a full-time internship with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) in Albany, NY, working as a policy associate with a focus in higher education and green energy policy.

My work was incredibly insightful and invaluable. I feel like I got to understand politics, policy and the legislative process much more intimately than I would have if I interned anywhere else, especially given that this internship takes place in Albany- arguably the heart of New York politics and policy.

Through my internship, I had the opportunity to analyze and monitor higher education and green energy-related legislation, as well as draft bill memoranda, press materials, policy fact sheets, and other materials such as organizational sign-on letters and call scripts to ask representatives to support specific bills. I kept track of the latest developments on higher education and energy bills that I had been monitoring– breaking down bill provisions, political pros and cons, tracking bills throughout the legislative process, assessing bill history in previous legislative sessions, and seeking staff advice. 

I also had the opportunity to testify on behalf of NYPIRG, along with the Executive Director and Board Chair, at the New York State Legislature’s Higher Education Budget Hearing on February 4th, 2020. Additionally, I lobbied a number of State Assembly members and Senators on issues pertaining to environmental protection with our Environmental Policy Director. 

Unfortunately, my work was impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, as I was unable to advocate on specific legislation (especially higher education) since the Legislature had not convened since voting to approve the Governor’s Executive Budget for FY2021 over a month earlier. Despite this, I still did a lot of research on green energy policy issues, such as analyzing the Governor’s budget proposal to streamline the process of authorizing the siting of green energy facilities, as well as drafting a policy brief on renewable heating and building electrification. This policy brief was the bulk of the focus of my work towards the end of my internship, as I had been analyzing and comparing energy efficiency standards and building electrification codes in states such as California, Massachusetts, and Washington, and assessing New York’s recent history of green energy policy initiatives to determine and draft appropriate policy recommendations for New York State. I also drafted a fact sheet on renewable heating and building electrification, which will hopefully be published separately by NYPIRG.

During the summer, I will be interning remotely for the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of environmental advocacy groups and labor unions that does research and advocacy around sustainable energy development and infrastructure. I was able to secure this internship through the City College Climate Policy Fellowship, through which I also worked on my policy brief on renewable heating and building electrification. 

The CCNY Climate Policy Fellowship provides student fellows of all academic disciplines – such as Business, Architecture, Engineering and Social Sciences – with workshops on environmental policy and climate science literacy, training on writing their own policy briefs on any environmental policy issue they care about, and environmental policy internships in New York, Washington D.C., or California. In addition, students receive a $500 stipend for both semesters of their participation in the fellowship. The CCNY Climate Policy Fellowship graduated its inaugural cohort at the end of the academic year. 

Before starting the Climate Policy fellowship, as well as my internship with NYPIRG, I didn’t have much of a focus in environment or energy policy. Despite this, I now feel more willing and equipped, as an aspiring consultant and strategist in politics and policy, to act on the issue that poses the greatest threat to our planet right now. I really look forward to continuing this work and to seeking professional opportunities in the environment and energy policy arena in the near future.  

I would highly recommend the NYPIRG Legislative Internship to any CUNY BA student with a NYPIRG chapter at their home college who’s interested in politics and policy, especially policy issues such as higher education, consumer protection, public health, government reform, and environment and energy sustainability. I would equally recommend the CCNY Climate Policy Fellowship to any City College student with an interest in working on environment and energy sustainability, regardless of academic discipline.

Wali Ullah testifying on behalf of NYPIRG, with NYPIRG Board Chair Santana Alvarado and Executive Director Blair Horner (not seen in photo), at the State Legislature Joint Budget Hearing on Higher Education, February 4th 2020
Wali Ullah testifying on behalf of NYPIRG, with NYPIRG Board Chair Santana Alvarado and Executive Director Blair Horner (not seen in photo), at the State Legislature Joint Budget Hearing on Higher Education, February 4th 2020
NYPIRG Legislative interns touring Empire State Plaza on the first day of the 2020 Legislative Session, January 8th 2020
NYPIRG Legislative interns touring Empire State Plaza on the first day of the 2020 Legislative Session, January 8th 2020
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