So, youíre looking for an internship, and you donít want to get stuck answering phones or filing endless streams of paper. Want to learn more about the public policy process, become involved in community issues, and engage in meaningful research projects? Want to find a company that offers a flexible schedule and is concerned with personal quality of life issues?
Check out The Michigan Environmental Council!
Who We Are
The Michigan Environmental Council (MEC), a coalition of over 50 environmental, public health, and faith-based organizations with more than 170,000 individual members, provides a collective voice for the environment at the State Capitol in Lansing. MEC serves as a clearinghouse of environmental information, develops public policy, educates the public and offers training and support to member organizations as well as grassroots citizens groups working to promote environmentally progressive campaigns within their community. MEC is currently fighting sprawl, protecting Michiganís water, lowering threats to childrenís health and promoting sustainable business practices.
A major component of MEC is the Land Stewardship Initiative (LSI). The LSI is Michiganís central resource for land use advocacy information. We are actively engaged in promoting sustainable land use planning that will protect Michiganís agricultural industry, open spaces and quelling sprawl by encouraging reinvestment within metropolitan areas. Currently LSI works on several substantive areas that affect how Michigan will grow:
Smart Growth: The LSI is committed to creating governmental policy that regionalizes sustainable land use policies. This includes preserving farmland with state and federally funded programs. It also encourages the redevelopment of brownfields within communities, as well as neighborhood revitalization programs, making cities friendly, inviting and accessible places to live.
Transportation: There is an undeniable cycle with urban sprawl and the road system. As highways are extended into rural areas, land speculators buy and build on farmland, creating poorly planned development. In an effort to stop sprawl, LSI is involved in a coalition that is educating the public and lobbing legislators to provide increased funding for public transit and promoting alternatives to road building. The LSI also runs advocacy programs for commuter and high-speed rail in Michigan.
Environmental Justice: Our land use policies that reinforce segregation are among the greatest impediments to realizing the goals of the civil rights movement. Michiganís strategy of disinvestments in urban neighborhoods has resulted in a state that ranks among the most segregated in the nation in terms of both race and poverty. At the LSI we are working to reverse this investment trend to create healthy, integrated communities.
What We Do
The LSI staff is an energetic group that seeks to influence the public and elected officials perceptions and decisions concerning environmental issues that affect state and regional policy. There are many ways we reach out and employ our messages.
Demonstration Projects: Public participation and community involvement are very important to MEC and the LSI. We work with citizen groups to help promote and plan environmentally sustainable, fiscally sound projects. For example, in Saginaw we are encouraging the development of an entire neighborhood through public input, and in Greater Detroit we are working with Cranbrook to design an educational watershed program. We have also helped the residents of rural Milan Township fight a railwayís proposal to build a 1,000-acre industrial complex in their backyards.
Policy Development: Another stimulating way we compel legislators to encourage and initiate environmentally sustainable policy is through influencing decision-makers. The LSI frequently communicates with all 148 state legislatures, with personal visits, phone calls, and distributing information regarding pending legislation. We directly participate in the development of public policy through work groups, task forces and public testimony.
Public Speaking: LSI capitalizes on opportunities to speak out on awareness of land use issues. Some past engagements include providing testimony to House and Senate Committees, presenting lectures to James Madison School classes at Michigan State University, participating in a debate with the Michigan Home Builders in Flint, Michigan and providing a keynote address at the Michigan Council of Women Realtors.
Media & Communications: An integral part of MEC and LSI is communication to a larger audience. LSI provides and regulates informative electronic list-serves, produces media campaigns, writes press releases, and puts out a bi-monthly newsletter that is distributed statewide and posted on the web. We also do extensive research to generate and publish reports.
What We Offer to Interns
The LSI and MEC are always accepting interns interested in expanding their knowledge in areas of government, grassroots advocacy, community relations, and environmental affairs. Some of the projects our past interns have been involved in or exposed to include:
Legislative Strategy: When the Legislators are in session, interns are always invited to sit in on meetings with legislators, go to public hearings, and observe session at the Capitol in Lansing. Understanding what legislators think about land use issues is critical to the LSIís policy successes. In 2001, Justin Winslow interviewed dozens of House and Senate members both in the Capital and their home districts, seeking out points of consensus to help us develop a policy agenda for the 91st Legislature.
Research: Students have the option of conducting land use research to help drive advocacy efforts. Steve Luck, a political economics major at MSU, developed a quantitative measure of urban sprawl based on 1990 and 2000 census data. This information will help MECís member organizations identify areas under high pressure for development and track the success of Smart Growth policies.
Publication: All interns are asked to write an article for MECís bi-monthly publication The Michigan Environmental Report. Most interns are excited to be offered the opportunity to have their work published, and use the experience as a resume builder.
Community Involvement: Kye Tidey spent the summer of 2001 organizing communities in southern Michigan to support high-speed rail. His work involved speaking at public meetings, negotiating support with community leaders and leading an education campaign that put him on the front page of local newspapers.
Policy Analysis and Development: Reading and understanding the content in proposed legislation is integral to much of our work. Students interested in policy should expect to examine and follow a bill during their internship. They are encouraged to cite areas in the bill that need attention, and even help draft proposed amendments for lawmakers to introduce. Other options include researching and recommending new policy approaches for state or local governments. In 2000, Rob Wise investigated techniques to minimize the impact of new cellular communications towers and presented draft ordinance language for local governments to use in development management strategies.
The Practical Stuff
LSI internships are unpaid, but offer unique opportunities for personal and professional development.
The scope of each internship is determined based on the learning objectives of the applicant. Before beginning work with MEC each intern develops a work plan and identifies objectives for the internship in consultation with a staff member. Internships at MEC have run the gamut from 9 hours a week to full-time. Frequently, interns are housed at the MEC offices in Lansing, but other opportunities can be arranged throughout the state with the help of MECís member organizations or strategic partners. In some cases Ė particularly research programs Ė the internship can be conducted off-site with only weekly meetings to monitor progress, allowing the intern maximum flexibility.
The MEC staff works diligently to integrate interns into the processes of the organization, including staff meetings, retreats, events and volunteer opportunities.
Want to Know More?
Internships are an important part of your college career. Please take the time to become informed about our organization. For more information, or if you're interested in applying for an internship (please send a resume and a cover letter detailing your program interests and availability) contact:
Land Programs Director
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI, 48912