Interning at the NRDC during Fall 2019

During the fall of 2019, Jessica Kaliski (MBA/MPA '20) interned at the Natural Resource Defense Council. Read on to learn more about her time there:

Name: Jessie Kaliski
Year: 2020
Hometown: Wellesley, MA
Specialization: Finance & Strategy (Stern School of Business) and International Development Policy and Management (Wagner School of Public Service)

Tell me about your semester internship experience. Where did you work and what types of projects did you work on?
For the Fall Semester I did a part-time internship with the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC). During the semester, I had two predominant workstreams, both of which were financed related.
The first focused on the American Cities Climate Challenge (ACCC), a program funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies. The program is designed to help US cities meet (and ideally surpass) their carbon reduction goals. I was tasked with researching various tax policies cities could take, including (1) a discussion of the pros and cons of each mechanism; (2) how the tax would help reduce GHG emissions (either via the impact the tax would have on, for instance, consumption behaviors, or via the tax revenue being utilized for climate mitigation efforts); and (3) case studies highlighting cities that had already untaken the measures. These policies ranged from a vehicle efficiency fee (i.e. vehicle registration fee tied to the vehicle’s efficiency) to a shared ride tax (which, upon my own look at my Uber receipts, I noticed a line item for NYC’s shared ride tax!), to a property tax reduction (i.e. reduction in property tax for a set duration provided to buildings who invest in qualifying outcome-based improvements). 

The second workstream was internally focused: helping to develop a finance 101 webinar for NRDC staff. This was particularly interesting to help develop, as I was able to draw upon the finance classes I had taken at both Stern and Wagner.

Despite working remotely -- and in fact working with NRDC colleagues that were scattered throughout the US -- I felt highly integrated within their discussions. I participated in various weekly video calls which provided me with a great opportunity to explain my thought process and obtain great feedback, as well as learn from my (very intelligent) colleagues.

How did sustainable business practices play a role in your internship?
The very premise of the ACCC is to help cities tackle climate change -- whether that’s retrofitting buildings with solar panels, passing new regulations or introducing a new tax, or encouraging city’s fleets to be carbon neutral. Moreover, as I saw from NRDC staff, the role NRDC plays is to facilitate and help the cities themselves feel empowered to take ownership of the programs and policies they seek to introduce. For my work with the ACCC, the research I helped to create was designed to showcase the variety of options a city could take -- yet it would ultimately be the city’s decision on what it would do, helping to foster an environment of ownership.

At the same time, my work creating a finance 101 webinar was part of a greater 2-day workshop for NRDC staff to be more well-versed regarding the financial landscape. This was in an effort to help NRDC staff feel more attuned with potential roadblocks or opportunities its partners might be faced with financially. This showcased another lens of sustainability: by empowering employees to better understand its partners and their corresponding financial landscape, NRDC staff is more likely to suggest solutions that are more aligned with the partners’ needs and can help mitigate future roadblocks.

What were your top three learnings from your internship?
My top three learnings from my internship included: (1) research is an important skill! Most of my ACCC work involved searching the web, and utilizing NYU’s resources, to learn more about these tax measures. Being able to effectively research and convey that information in a concrete and simple way was extremely important, especially when so many tax measures were being suggested. (2) There is often a lot of internal knowledge within a firm. It is important to share that knowledge with everyone -- such as how NRDC is doing via a finance workshop. And (3) I entered my dual degree program with the intention of going back to the social impact sector (immediately). That said, I am taking a slight deviation from my initial goal, and going into consultancy with the intention of eventually returning to the social impact world, more equipped to help tackle my passion for water and sanitation. It was great to meet so many people at NRDC who were on the same track that I will soon be joining: starting off in the private sector and switching back to the social sector. They helped me see that this path is possible and will be individuals I reach out to in the future when I make that transition.

Did your summer internship experience change your thoughts about your career trajectory moving forward?
As I mentioned in the previous question, this experience helped me see that many do make the switch from the private sector to the social sector -- which was very comforting!