Katie Russell: Mixing Environmental Science and Policy

Via Katie Russell

Meet Katherine Russell: a sophomore studying Environmental/ Sustainability Studies and minoring in Spanish. She comes to Mason from Tempe, Arizona and has made it her mission to maximize every opportunity over her four years here. Katie proves you can really do it all: school, work, extracurriculars and still have a social life.

As a sophomore, Katie is more involved on and off campus than most seniors, which is incredibly impressive. In addition to her internship on the Hill, leading hikes with Outdoor Adventures and contributing to state parks blogs, Katie leads two student organizations. She is the Energy and the Environment Policy Director with Roosevelt at Mason where she guides members through the policy idea, writing and implementation process, as well as planning a variety of events around energy and environmental issues. Did you know you can compost on campus? Thanks to Katie, you can learn how! She is also the Vice President of Green Patriots where she works on a sustainability initiatives with the Office of Sustainability.  

Katie inspires all those in her circles to be ambitious, to strive for greatness and also to laugh often and make the best of every situation.

You just got back from a spring break trip through GMU. Where did you go and what did you do?

“I went on an alternative spring break (ASB) trip to Stuart, Florida, through the SAIL office at GMU. As part of a group of 14 other Mason students, I did environmental restoration work with Martin County, Florida and the Fish and Wildlife Service. We did four service projects. The projects were (1) creating oyster reefs out of used oyster shells and planting mangrove trees to prevent erosion of coastal lands, (2) removing dense areas of the exotic invasive species strawberry guava, (3) creating a trailhead, doing trail maintenance, and creating footbridges at a county park, and (4) planting over 400 native species in a wilderness area managed by Martin County.”Katie on the Alternative Spring Break trip.

Via Katie Russell

Where are you interning on the Hill, and what is it like?

“I am currently a Legislative Intern at the U.S. House of Representative Committee on Natural Resources Democratic staff. Most of the committee work is focused on legislation and policy with the Department of Interior. My role includes researching issues related to energy and mineral resources, federal lands, Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs and water/oceans, as well as attending various briefings, meetings and hearings on issues and policies important to the committee. I am learning a lot about how congress works, budgets/funding and about natural resource and Department of Interior issues.”Katie lobbying with Roosevelt at Mason in Richmond.

Via Katie Russell

Any tips for GMU students trying to get an internship in D.C.?

“Begin your internship search early, at least 3 months before you want to be interning anywhere, and earlier is ALWAYS better. Keep in mind that any government internships that require security clearances you will need to apply for more than 6 months in advance. Decide what your general interests are and research any and all internships that may be of interest to you, and then apply for as many internships as possible. This may seem difficult, but once you know what types of internships you want to apply to, the resume and cover letter you submit can be similar. If you have not heard back from the place you applied to after a month, reach out over email politely asking if there is anymore information they would like from you or if they would like to speak with you over the phone/in person.”  

What is your vision for the next 5 years?

“Since I am a sophomore currently, I plan on finishing my second two years at Mason with a major in Environmental and Sustainability Studies and a minor in Spanish. This summer, I will be interning at the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge with Americorps and the Student Conservation Association. In the fall of my junior year I will be doing my semester at the Smithsonian Mason School of Conservation in Front Royal focusing on Conservation, Biodiversity and Society. Additionally, in the spring of my junior year, I plan to study abroad in Argentina or Chile to improve my Spanish fluency and work towards completing my minor. In my senior year I plan to be active on campus with organizations such as the Roosevelt Institute, a student led policy and advocacy organization, and Green Patriots, an environmental student organization and plan on interning for at least one semester with environmental policy in congress or other government agencies.

Following my graduation in the spring of 2020, I hope to be a Peace Corps volunteer for two years in Central America working in the environment sector. Following this, I plan on attending law school for Natural Resources and Energy Law and hope to be an environmental policy advocate with an organization such as the League of Conservation Voters or work with a government agency such as the Bureau of Land Management on environmental initiatives.” Via Katie Russell

Have your academic/career interests changed since coming to GMU? If so, how?

“Yes! Initially when I began at Mason, I planned to focus on the science side of the environmental field and came in as an Environmental Science major. In my first semester, I realized my interests were more policy and advocacy-oriented and I wanted to have the opportunity to work abroad, so I changed my major to Environmental and Sustainability Studies and added a Spanish minor to fit my interests.” Via Katie Russell

With some impressive goals ahead of her, Katie Russell continues to shed positive light on environmental advocacy while educating those around her.