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Parting Thoughts

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By Nicholas Byrne, on August 15, 2013

During the first morning of internship orientation prior to reporting to my job site later that afternoon the summer 2013 crop of interns were asked to complete a reflection task during the “work-life” segment of the program. The orientation leader presented the summer students with a yellow card which posed a question, asked us to reflect briefly, and then write a brief response. The yellow card containing my response was placed into a sealed envelope and was returned to me midway through the internship as a way of reminding me of my stated goals for the summer while allowing me to reflect on the experience.

yellow paper
Sealed and re-delivered: assessing my internship goals midway through the summer.

The statement and question were as follows: “You will get out of this experience exactly what you put into it. What are you going to put into this summer?” My written response: “Learn something outside my comfort zone and take on a project completely foreign to my experience and/or sensibilities.”

Indeed, I have gone “outside my comfort zone” this summer at SAS learning new things and developing new skills, including: working on policy rewrites and revisions in topic areas once completely foreign to me; developing educational collateral for customer and stakeholder benefit; advising on communication management for a top-notch security operation; working with seasoned law enforcement and emergency management personnel all of whom were once employed in the public sector; and learning the importance of preparation and the notion of “pragmatic chaos” in preparing for and responding to emergencies.

Working inside the highly professional environment of security and emergency management at SAS—while learning from one of the finest emergency managers in North Carolina, Mark Wilcox—has been a rich experience. As a former first responder, public administrator, and now a senior

My first challenge coin. Though typically bestowed in military settings by commanders to recognize a mission accomplished, joint effort, or a promotion, SAS has its own coin which was presented to me to mark the completion of my internship.

manager for a global security and emergency management operation, Mark continuously reinforced the parallels and shared challenges experienced in both the public and private sectors. Mark’s insight has gone a long way towards expanding my knowledge base and opening my eyes to the coordination, communication, strategic planning, and nuance of dealing in security and safety.

After a summer at SAS, I begin my second year of MPA study knowing that the relationships made, new experiences gained, and my newfound appreciation for the power of metrics and data will all be helpful to me in the future.

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