UCDC Student Returns To UCR With Unforgettable Experiences

By Laila Rashid, CHASS Dean's Office Student Intern
April 30, 2014

Athena Motavvef, a fourth year public policy major with an emphasis in environmental/urban planning, had never really spent much time away from her family. When her senior year rolled around, she felt ready to travel over two thousand miles away to participate in the UCDC program, an experience she calls “life-changing”.

Thanks to the help of her enthusiastic professors, she found the selective application process, which includes two letters of recommendation, an application form, resume, and strong academic record, to be easier than she had imagined. By selecting the extended fall quarter, she had more time to network, adjust to her internship, and experience all types of weather in DC.

There, Athena worked at the Environmental Protection Agency in the office of public engagement; she worked specifically under the administrator and alongside the agency’s stakeholders.  “I was able to attend the same meetings as the EPA administrator, be a part of their recycling campaign, and even had my photo posted on their instagram a couple times” she said. Her schedule kept her busy, as she attended class twice a week and worked at the EPA four days a week from morning until evening.  “Now I’m able to incorporate my experience producing weekly newsletters into job interviews, and the high level officials there still email me and ask me what I’m doing,” she said. The internship allowed her field trips to the White House, Capitol, museums, and more.  “They knew we weren’t getting paid and wanted us to experience DC as much as possible,” she said.  They also held workshops on career panels, networking, and resume writing, where she learned what it was like to work not only for a government agency but also in a professional setting. “The EPA was really good with mentoring us and making sure we left with a helpful experience. There was no busy work like making copies; I really did relevant work so I am thankful for that.” One of her most memorable experiences from the program included seeing Joe Biden deliver muffins after the government shut down.

The UCDC program allowed Athena the opportunity to expand her network both socially and professionally, and provide her with a better idea of her future aspirations, which is why she would highly recommend it to other students. When asked about the most challenging part of her experience, she discussed the struggles in balancing work, classes, and living in one of the most intellectual, cultural, and political hubs in the world. “The best part was all the amazing opportunities I had and the ability to meet new people with similar interests,” she said. Athena believes the program is important to UCR and the larger academic community because the students in the program can bring back their new knowledge to make a difference.

After graduation, Athena hopes to work with non-profits to government and private firms involved in urban and environmental policy before pursuing her masters in public policy or public administration.

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