Research and Internships: Casey Beamish Harris ’19: Fighting for Environmental Justice, One Press Release at a Time


This past May, politics major Casey Beamish Harris ’19 found the summer internship she was looking for on a visit to Scripps’ Career Planning & Resources. On a map of students’ past positions posted in the office, she noticed the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), a nonprofit that seeks to protect the environment and promote human rights through legal channels. Harris had just taken a class on environmental justice and public policy that piqued her interest in environmental issues, specifically the human rights implications of climate change, pollution, and toxic chemicals. She reached out to the organization, and this summer she is exploring many of these topics as a communications intern at their Washington, D.C., office, working with attorneys who are experts in the field to write newsletters, press releases, blog posts, and tweets about the issues CIEL covers. She is also learning about optimizing the organization’s web traffic and attending conferences and think tank events.

“I’m concentrating in international relations and public policy,” Harris says, “so it’s definitely very relevant to everything I’m studying.”

Her favorite assignment to date has been writing a press release about the new Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union. Meant to “reduce barriers to trade by removing regulations,” Harris learned from a report by CIEL attorneys that the agreement could severely weaken the EU pesticide regulations because Canada’s are less restrictive. Writing the release pushed Harris to think critically about her previous knowledge of the two regions’ politics and international affairs.

“I’ve learned so much about international law and environmental movements across the world, and human rights,” explains Harris. “I feel like I have a more robust knowledge base going into future classes at Scripps about environmental policy or international law.”

While she appreciates learning a style of writing that differs from college research papers, Harris describes CIEL’s dual environmental and human rights focus as “very Scripps-esque” because, like many of the College’s courses, its examinations dig deeper than the dominant narrative to discuss covert elements, like institutional power, at play.

Harris works among many other interns at the D.C. office. She reports to the communications director, yet feels she can talk to anyone on CIEL’s relatively small professional staff.

“I met the president of the organization 10 minutes into my first day,” she recalls.

Though far away from home in Davis, California, Harris enjoys the experience of living in the nation’s capital. In her dorm at George Washington University, she’s met other college students from across the country who are interning on Capitol Hill or at non-governmental organizations.