The Department of the Interior

My name is Beatrix Frissell and I spent my summer interning with the Department of the Interior in Washington D.C., focusing on my global theme of Culture and Politics. As a native Montanan from Polson, MT, I have been interested in politics since my experience at Girl’s State my senior year of high school, but I have spent little time outside of my home state. In taking the trip to Washington D.C., I was immersed in a city and cohort far more diverse than the one I grew up with, I learned how politics and our country’s management of natural resources have changed over time, and I gained confidence in traveling and meeting others for the future.

Perhaps my favorite part of my experience in Washington D.C. was getting to know my fellow cohort of Demmer Scholars, all of us a mix of students interested in natural resource policy from the University of Montana, Michigan State University, and Mississippi State University. Our weekly weekend field trips became my favorite part of my trip, from seeing horseshoe crabs on the Delaware Bay for the first time to eating dinner on top of the Watergate hotel. Despite the differences and diversity within the group from hometowns to internships, we clicked easily through our shared interest in the environment and policy. One such trip was to Shenandoah National Park, where I witnessed the expansive view of the East coast forests on Skyline Drive. Forests like those in Shenandoah National Park look quite different from those in Western Montana, a fact that is influenced in a large part by the history of our country. Almost everything, from natural resources to food, have been influenced by values and political views within our country. In early United States history, after Indigenous inhabitants were wrongly wiped or pushed off the land, this area was entirely homesteads that were meant for farming and ranching. However, the land has changed in recent decades with factors like poor soil and the emancipation of enslaved peoples, and it is now home to an expanse of rather young and densely populated chestnut and red oak trees. I learned far more about culture and management of policies around natural resources by witnessing their ecological impact directly.

Having grown up in a small town, living in a city as large as Washington D.C. was a stressful experience in many ways, but it was rewarding in that I am now more confident navigating and meeting others in new places. In fact, perhaps the biggest way my experience in D.C. developed my leadership skills was by instilling more confidence in me, like teaching me through my work experience and class experience to ask more questions and allowing me to understand that I can be put in a new environment, be successful, and even thrive. Over time, as I worked on projects from environmental justice to research on implementing a new orphan oil and gas well plugging program, I learned to communicate and connect with my boss, received kudos from the office director, and balanced my busy schedule. My nerves went away. Now, I am excited to continue exploring new places, with hopes to go on an international experience in the coming years to continue to grow as a person and discover how I can best make a positive impact for my local and global community.