Internship Opportunities

Tricia Uzialko with Jeff Schmidt

Courtesy Joan Wilson


Although internships in the Sierra Club’s Harrisburg office are unpaid, students participating in the program have the opportunity to learn more about the legislative process, assist in lobbying efforts to influence legislators and other decision makers, strategize with environmental leaders, take part in press conferences, and help out with a variety of activities that support grassroots advocacy, including preparation of mailings, database management, volunteer recruitment, and environmental issue research.

Want to hear what former interns have to say about the program? Read about the experiences of two former interns below.

A Sierra Club Semester with Tricia Uzialko

Our Chapter owes some of its success to Tricia Uzialko, a Lebanon Valley College graduate who recently completed a 15 week internship in the Harrisburg office. Now in a master’s program for international peace and conflict resolution at American University in Washington, D.C., she reflected on her experience with the Chapter.

Q. Did you have a pretty good idea of what the internship was going to be like?
A. When I was introduced to the photocopy machine on my first day of the internship, I immediately thought, “OK, so I guess I got myself into one of those internships.”
On my second day, I attended the January Executive Committee meeting, and I saw my experience was going to be far more interesting than I had expected.

Q. What are some of the things you took away from your time at the Harrisburg office?
A.  As a political science major, I had studied how special interest groups work. Learning about them in a text is radically different from actually working as part of one. I have been greatly impressed by the enthusiasm and involvement of the Chapter’s volunteer members.

Q. What are the most memorable moments from your internship?
A.   Meeting influential people such as Secretary Michael DiBerardinis of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Secretary Kathleen McGinty of the PA Department of Environmental Protection, State Treasurer Bob Casey Jr., and a number of senators and representatives. I also enjoyed watching lobbying sessions and hearings of all types at the Capitol. 

Q. Was there one project you especially enjoyed working on?
A. I got to work with national, state, and local levels of Sierra Club in order to coordinate Sierran turnout for a Clean Car hearing in Harrisburg.

Q. What advice would you give to your successor?
A. I think you need to take time to participate in chapter activities, outside of the office. This will give you a much sharper sense of what the club is all about.
Even though I am leaving, I feel like I will always be a member of the Sierra Club family. I thank everyone of the Sierrans that I have met from the bottom of my heart for shaping my experience.

Freshman Orientation with Mary Oldman

Mary Oldham is accustomed to field work. After earning a degree in Environmental Science from Dickinson College, she completed an apprenticeship with New Morning Farm, an organic farm in eastern Pennsylvania.

Mary Oldman

Courtesy Mary Oldman

But Mary knows that positive environmental change must be political as well as botanical, so she decided to explore that terrain as well, coming to the Chapter's Harrisburg office for a four-month internship. She was eager to learn more about the legislative process, and assist the Chapter in its lobbying efforts. In May, she spent a day with another political newcomer, freshman State Representative Chris King.

Q. First of all, what’s it like to be in the state capitol building? 

A. The capitol rotunda is filled with art depicting the rich history of Pennsylvania. Elegant scripted verse and sweeping paint strokes on the dome honor the land and its people. But the buzz of activity in the capitol is entirely contemporary. You hear and see blackberries, press conferences, and hundreds of people scurrying along in business suits.

Q. What was your first impression of Representative King?

A. Also busy! When I arrived at his office, he was out at meetings, and his secretary informed me that he was having a busy day. That was an understatement. When he returned to his office, he was greeted by advocates from the American Cancer Society, and the secretary handed him a stack of papers that had piled up on her desk that morning. Yet he took the time to meet the advocates and be attentive to their concerns, and then to welcome me before he had to rush off to the House floor. I observed from the balcony as the representatives rushed around networking and voting on a variety of resolutions. Finally, the morning buzz slowed down, and we headed out with Representative Scott Conklin to lunch at Neato Burrito.

Q. Lunch with the lawmakers. What were they like? 

A. Unassuming, approachable, and light-hearted. They filled me in on life as freshmen legislators as we strolled to the restaurant.

Q. Did you talk about environmental legislation?

A. Definitely. They told me that sometimes the legislative process seems slow, but that positive changes in environmental law are in the pipeline. Rep. King is certainly committed to the cause. He’s a committed recycler and the proud owner of a hybrid vehicle and thinks that we can all do something to reduce our impact on the environment. He also supports the Governor’s Energy Independence Strategy, which creates incentives for increasing energy efficiency and promotes the use of renewable energy. He’s also involved with other environmental initiatives in the House.