Lindsey Sexton, who recently graduated from the Conflict Resolution Institute, finished an internship at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington D.C. Specifically; she worked for the Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center (CPRC). The CPRC is a department within the EPA that employs many of the conflict resolution skills students learn at the Conflict Resolution Institute. The main function of the CPRC is to assist any department of the EPA that may need a neutral third party and to identify possible outside sources for a third party that are most appropriate for the problem. While Lindsey was at CPRC, they convened a discussion regarding a rule regulating pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. The CPRC brought in a neutral party to help facilitate the input of real estate developers, agricultural representatives and the EPA regarding the rule.
Lindsey discovered this internship through networking at the ACR Environmental Public Policy Conference this past June at Denver University. Networking at the events that the Conflict Resolution Institute hosts is one of the more common ways that students find internships. Not only is networking beneficial, but tailoring academic work to meet the needs of organizations offering internships is crucial for students. Lindsey did just that by amending her MA in Conflict Resolution with a certificate in Environmental Policy.
The internship at CRPC provided Lindsey numerous networking opportunities and informational interviews, which helped her shape her future career direction. Lindsey hopes to work in consulting to help businesses integrate sustainable practices while maintaining or increasing profitability. Lindsey believes that conflict resolution tools learned at DU along with seeing those tools in action at CRPC could be vital in helping businesses synergize profitability and environmental concern, two ideals that are often thought of as incompatible.
There are many facets of working for the EPA, at the national level, that Lindsey found interesting. She gained a pulse into environmental problems affecting various regions of the United States. The EPA is divided into regional sections, each with its own unique environmental problems. For example, the EPA is always dealing with water rights and water usage issues in the southwest region, known as region 8. She also saw firsthand how crucial collaborative processes and conflict resolution skills are for an organization like the EPA. The EPA often will use consensus building amongst stakeholders when developing a new regulation or process to avoid detrimental conflict later. Also, Lindsey learned that the EPA oftentimes must fill in the details of a new law. For example, a law could pass regulating methane emissions from small businesses. Typically, the law will not define what a small business is, or what level of methane emissions is acceptable. The EPA prefers to convene the stakeholders to finalize the details of these laws, oftentimes using a third party recommended by the CRPC.
Lindsey sees how positive conflict resolution skills can be used to address environmental justice, which is an emerging area of concern for the EPA.
Environmental justice is a problem where groups lower on the socio-economic ladder bear the brunt of environmental problems, such as a disproportionate number of waste incinerators are located in lower income regions. This issue can be contentious and conflict resolution skills could be necessary in planning environmental projects to be more fair or safer for poorer regions.