On Friday, April 7th 2017, students from the William and Mary Public Policy Program took part in their second policy dialogue of the semester. The topic for this dialogue was environmental and energy policy. During the packed day of events students met with staffers from the offices of Senators Warner and Kaine, as well as with experts from the House Committee on Natural Resources. The day wrapped up with a panel of William and Mary grads who are currently working in fields related to energy and the environment.
The day started with a meeting with Nick Barbash, legislative assistant to Senator Tim Kaine. Mr. Barbash gave an overview of what is was like to work in a Senate office and offered advice to students on how they might find a career in the Senate. He went on to discuss the importance of environmental policy, especially for the tidewater region of Virginia which could be greatly affected by climate change. When asked about the future of energy policy, he offered that while there was no instant fix, the goal was for “a cleaner tomorrow than today.”
From Senator Kaine’s office, the students made their way to the Hart Senate Office Building to meet with Micah Barbour, a legislative correspondent for the senior senator from Virginia, Mark Warner. Mr. Barbour spoke about his progress from intern to his current position in Senator Warner’s office. As with Mr. Barbash, he offered students advice about the types of skills the are most useful and most sought after in a Senate office. Mr. Barbour ended by giving students a inside perspective as to what its been like to work through a change of administration.
The third meeting of the day was with expert staffers from the House Committee on Natural Resources. During the meeting, the staffers spoke on a wide variety of topics, from the Committee’s role and priorities, to concerns about specific laws. They discussed how they were on the “frontline” for proposed budget cuts on environmental protection and implored that in a world in which science is an ever more urgent topic that, “it’s important for scientists to be more vocal.” When asked about areas of bi-partisan support, they singled out the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fund uses oil and gas revenues to help support conservation and engenders large support from both Republicans and Democrats.
The final meeting was hosted by Earthjustice and consisted of a panel of William and Mary grads who hold positions in government, NGO’s, and the private sector. The panel focused on the topics of job hunting and career advancement. The panelists all noted the importance of building relationships and connections if you want to be successful in your career. In this vein they noted that the William and Mary network has been an invaluable resource. To quote one of the panelists, “William and Mary folks take care of their own.”