Maggie & Rebecca

  • Rebecca Rehr, Maggie Cherney

Maggie Cherney ’18 (right) interned during spring 2017 with Rebecca Rehr ’09 (left) Public Health Advocacy Coordinator at Maryland Environmental Health Network. 

MAGGIE

Q:  Maggie, tell us about your internship.

A:  This January I started my internship with the Maryland Environmental Health Network assisting Rebecca Rehr with her Lobbyist work in Annapolis during the 90-day Maryland Legislative Session. I was drawn to this opportunity because of its dual nature in both public health and public policy. As a Public Health and Biology major, I have a strong understanding of the role our environment plays in human health. However, I was naïve to the mechanisms of policymaking and how policies improve human health outcomes.

In expanding my skill set around the political side of public health this internship allowed me to:  write testimony on behalf of the Maryland Environmental Health Network and the Maryland Public Health Association; attend weekly strategy meetings with other lobbyists; plan events to hear from Marylanders about public health concerns; observe public bill hearings (and learning to discern the atmosphere of the room); and most recently, confidently deliver effective oral testimony on in support of the atrazine study bill.

The atrazine study bill (HB1204/SB932) was an important environmental health bill because of the herbicide’s effects on our environment, aquatic life, and humans. As the second most widely used herbicide in the United States, I feel there is a need to examine atrazine’s effects and the levels at which it persists in our environment. This bill funded a literature review that would look at the abundance of atrazine as well as its effects and, if necessary, allow for policy recommendations.

Q: What advice do you have for current students?

A:  Don’t be afraid to reach out to anyone working in your field of interest, and find a way to get involved.  Even if an internship doesn’t come out of it, you will gain experience and knowledge from talking to someone who has been in your shoes and they can talk to you about the path they took to get to where they are today.  Remember, it only takes one person saying, “let’s set up a time to talk” to open up new doors to your career.  Searching for internships is not easy; focus on making connections and on being extremely motivated and persistent.

Q:  What did you learn about yourself or about excelling in a professional environment? 

A:  It taught me the importance of learning by doing. I’ve spent so many hours in classes and in Martin or Shad reading my class notes, making flashcards, and trying to anticipate any question that could be asked on an exam.  No exam question will prepare you for sitting in front of the Senate Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee to tell them why they should pass an atrazine study bill. I’ve also learned that I’m capable of excelling outside the classroom, which is nice to know as I head into my senior year. 

During my internship, I often found that I was the youngest one in the room. At first, I felt like I wasn’t taken seriously because of the fast-paced professional environment of the Maryland Legislative Session. However, I continued to do my best and people soon realized that I was there because I wanted to learn; I was working hard.  My engagement and willingness to ask questions helped me succeed.

I also learned that the F&M community is a great starting point for any potential internship or job opportunity. We are always told to use our connections to find opportunities, and if you don’t have any direct connections in your field of interest then you can reach out to F&M alumni with whom you’ll already have a connection because you’re both Dips!

Q: What role did F&M alumni, like Rebecca, play in your experience?  

A:  I got in contact with Rebecca via OSPGD’s F&MMentors page [within F&MConnects, now Handshake], which is the sole reason I was able to have this internship.  I emailed Rebecca in Spring of 2016 and asked if she would be willing to take on an intern for Spring 2017. I had no idea that this would be during the Maryland Legislative Session!  I was also able to shadow Delegate Karen Lewis-Young ‘73, which was a unique experience that was made possible via the F&M connection we had.

 

REBECCA

Q: What was it like to have an F&M student work with you?

A:  It was wonderful! Maggie increased my capacity tremendously. This is the first time MdEHN had a full-time intern during the Maryland legislative session, so Maggie helped define the role as much as we did. She took initiative and was flexible and dedicated, key characteristics for success in policy-making. Plus, it was fun catching up on what the current life on campus is like as we waited sometimes long hours together for a bill we were working on to be called up in committee. I think I was actually beaming when Maggie testified on a bill to study atrazine (a pesticide) use in Maryland. She used her science background and training she gained at F&M to craft smart, succinct, witty testimony in support of this legislation.

Q: What advice do you have for current students who are looking to work in this industry?

A:  Persist. My job is to make sure decision makers are fully considering the suite of public health consequences in the environmental policy-making process. This means I have to be armed with the most recent evidence, and know what will be the most convincing arguments.  I have to distill complex public health science into clear and interesting talking points for elected officials. This take a huge amount of strategy and effort. I also think if you do want to go into public health, you should get an MPH. There are some wonderful programs across the country and my master’s degree opened doors for me. I learned the necessary framework and logic models, and gained access to a whole new network of public health professionals willing to guide me in the field. Take advantage of the student and alumni advisers at OSPGD and their professional development, networking support, career exploration, resume reviewing, and interview practice resources.

Q: What advice do you have for students or alum who would like to enhance their F&M network?

A:  Keep up the coffee meetings, phone chats, and informal interviews. OSPGD has done an incredible job creating a Rolodex for you! Does the class of 2018 even know what a Rolodex is? I digress… (they can Google it). The point is, there are alumni who are more than willing to host interns, set up interviews with their networks, and talk about their own career paths, which can inspire new ideas and teach you about opportunities you didn’t know about before. The thing you don’t realize while you’re a student is that some of your best friends will also become your professional network and your character references for future applications and opportunities. They’ll know you better than others know you because of your shared experiences together at F&M, which means they’ll give the best advice and help in some of your toughest decisions.

Q: What skills/characteristics do F&M students like Maggie possess that help them succeed in internship experiences?

A:  Part of the reason I hired Maggie was because I know what it takes to have a high GPA at F&M and balance academics and extra-curricular activities, so I knew Maggie would be prepared for the demands of this internship during our busiest time of the year.  Maggie was dedicated and flexible. She picked up on details and nuances quickly, which was invaluable. Her writing and oratory skills were key in contributing to the team and her attention to detail while being able to see the big picture were crucial in helping me analyze various situations that arose and help us make organizational decisions.

 

  • testifying in house
  • maggie cherney md state house

Photos:  Top - Maggie giving testimony in the state house;  Bottom  - Photo Credit:  Executive Office of the Governor Hogan