Rachel Courtault ’13 was fairly sure she wanted to work in environmental policy after graduating from Bowdoin next spring. But she decided she needed to be absolutely certain this was the right career for her. So this spring she applied for a Psi Upsilon fellowship from Bowdoin to work at an environmental advocacy and education group in Augusta.
Psi Upsilon fellowships provide a handful of students every summer with the opportunity to explore sustainability or environmental justice by interning at a company, nonprofit, or government agency.
Since June, Courtault has been working in the small office of Maine Conservation Voters, a nonprofit based in Maine’s capital. This is the first summer the Mississippi-native has worked in a political environment. But the government and legal studies/environmental studies major came to the job with a surprisingly seasoned perspective on environmental policy. “I had a pretty realistic view; I’ve never been idealistic about environmental studies,” she said. “When I look at the environment, I see we need policies and we have to make compromises to make the world the best one we can live in.”
“When I look at the environment, I see we need policies and we have to make compromises to make the world the best one we can live in.”
-Rachel Courtault ’13
At Maine Conservation Voters, Courtault has focused on three main projects. To start, she helped the organization write its annual Environmental Scorecard, a report that grades all state lawmakers’ environmental voting records.
She is also developing a social media strategy for MCV by connecting with supporters through Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. “It’s interesting because social media hasn’t quite caught on in that community [of local environmental nonprofits],” she says. “It’s becoming more and more an important part of their culture.” Since Courtault started her internship, the organization has doubled its Facebook followers to more than 1,153, she said. With her posts, Courtault tries to remind people of the natural beauty of Maine and keep followers abreast of state legislators’ actions. “I include things like, this is how your legislator voted, and this is what you can do,” she said.
Courtault is also helping MCV gear up for a fight over sulfide mining. A bill that allows sulfide mining was passed in the last legislative session and will be honed in the next one. “[The bill] weakens mining regulations so much, and this type of mining has never been done in Maine,” Courtault explained. “So we’re unsure how it will affect people. We want to make it the least terrible bill it can be as they go to implement it.”
As she wraps up her internship, Courtault says she is no longer ambivalent about her career goals. “I know I want to do this,” she said, adding that it’s been gratifying to see how her work can affect the future of Maine’s environment. “I see myself doing this for the rest of my life really easily.”