Recently, History and English double-major Ginger Gates ’17 (Pembroke, NH) was profiled in the Saint Anselm Crier because of her summer internship at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.
One Thing after Another took advantage of this opportunity to ask Gates a few questions about her experiences over the summer
Q: One Thing After Another understands you interned with the NH Department of Environmental Services in Concord, NH this summer. What drew you to that internship?
A: I think it’s important for students and young people to be aware and well-informed about the environmental issues that the state and country as a whole face. I saw this internship as a crucial opportunity to learn more about the state of New Hampshire’s environmental concerns and to help address them in any way that I could. The NHDES Groundwater and Drinking Water Bureau’s archive of rules and regulations date back to the late 1800s; it was my job to organize these rules and create an online matrix of each rule and its different versions. This project combined two of my passions: history and law. From reading the rules alone, you can see distinct shifts in attitudes about water conservation and water safety. A state’s laws and regulations can really tell you a lot about what that state values. New Hampshire values its great outdoors, its lakes and mountains, and its bright fall foliage. Especially during this period of extreme drought, it’s important to understand the rules and why they are in place so that individuals and businesses can do their part in conserving water.
Q: How did your major in history and the skills you’ve learned in that major help you in this internship?
A: As a history major, one of the most important skills I’ve learned is how to articulate thoughts and ideas clearly and concisely. While interviewing for this position, my employers were impressed by my ability to communicate well and effectively. Studying history has taught me to evaluate and solve problems efficiently. Because of the nature of my internship, I was given a lot of freedom to change how I approached creating the matrix. There were many times when these problem-solving skills were helpful in creating a clear, user-friendly, and accessible document.
Q: This must have been an interesting summer to work for that agency, given two key water issues happening in the state—extreme drought and ground water contamination with volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). Were you working on anything related to these issues?
A: I wasn’t directly working on these issues, but when water safety and level is affected, everyone is affected. When my boss gave me opportunities to shadow fieldwork, it was evident how detrimental this summer’s drought has been. Lake Massabesic, the reservoir that supplies drinking water for the Manchester area, has dropped four feet over the summer to a level that hasn’t been seen in a hundred years. Many private well systems in the southern part of the state have gone dry in the past months. We take for granted how accessible water is, and when it’s not readily available, that entirely changes your perspective and how you go about your daily routine.
Q: Did you have an interest in environmental issues before this internship?
A: Yes. The problems of the environment are everyone’s problems. Regardless of whether or not climate change has been caused by human action, the issue remains. It is truly the most pressing concern my generation faces now and in the next fifty years.
Q: What benefits did you get from your internship?
A: As in all internships that require interacting with others, my communication and writing skills developed throughout the summer. The NHDES is a large and diverse office, and the people I worked with were a joy to get know, which makes any internship or job much more pleasant. Learning about individual water systems, how vital water is to our everyday lives, and how important the laws and regulations that govern water use and water filtration really gave me a new perspective on water use and enforcement. Only fifty years ago water filtration was just a few metal screens of varying size and a chemical treatment. We can thank the EPA and the Safe Drinking Water Act for the strict regulations that are now in place.
I’ve always been interested in pursuing a law degree after graduation, and this internship strengthened that desire. I had never thought of going into environmental law until this summer, but seeing how vital our natural resources are to our entire lives, it’s something I have an interest in.
Q: You are a senior this year. What are you most looking forward to in your last year at Saint Anselm College?
A: I’m really looking forward to completing my thesis—not only to have it done and not have to worry about it anymore, but to have a cohesive and substantial piece of writing to show future employers or schools.
I’ve developed a new appreciation for the beauty of nature, so I’m really looking forward to seeing this campus move through all the seasons, especially autumn. Hopefully the foliage will still be as colorful, despite the drought!
For the past four years, I’ve really developed great relationships with professors and fellow students. I’m looking forward to continuing to build those relationships and learning as much as I can before I’ve completed my undergraduate degree. There’s a lot to look forward to in the future, so I’m excited to see what it holds.