Five questions for Andrea Acosta, POGO intern

August 9th, 2012

Andrea Acosta joined POGO in June 2012 as an intern. Originally from Houston, TX, Andrea is double majoring in English and philosophy at Stanford, where she writes for the Unofficial Stanford Blog and volunteers at after-school programs. While at POGO, she’s contributed to research on defense sequestration, attended Congressional hearings, and assisted with POGO’s good government project. The Watercooler sat down with Andrea to discuss human rights, public policy, and falling in love with the English countryside.

Watercooler: Why POGO?

AA: I ended up taking human rights classes at Stanford. Human rights aren’t exactly what POGO focuses on, but it got me interested in policy. I was just wanting to learn about the mechanics of everything. I don’t think you necessarily have to be majoring in political science in order to work at or be interested in things that POGO does, because as a citizen of the United States, I think it’s so important that you learn the difficulties of getting a policy through, the process it has to go through, things like that. POGO for me was an opportunity to really learn about public policy and be introduced into the D.C. world and how things work here.

Watercooler: If you had to sum up your experience at POGO in three words, what words would you use?

AA: Educational, because I have learned so much about the policy process here and about good government and accountability—things that were just kind of vague words before I came and now I see as achievable things.

Hilarious. I love all the interns that I work with. I feel like my POGO experience would have been really different without them.

And inspirational, in the sense that POGO has inspired me to continue looking into policy issues and maybe work in nonprofits after college. And just teaching people about what I’ve learned here—how to be a citizen and be in the know about your government—is something that I feel compelled to carry on.

Watercooler: Since you spend most of your time in very hot places, what’s your relationship with snow like?

Andrea Acosta: It’s a very estranged relationship. I have seen snow maybe twice in my life. The first time was when I was really young. I went to Oregon and saw it for like a day. It was really crappy snow; it was frozen and hard. And then our freshman dorms at Stanford do a ski trip every year, so that was my second encounter with the strange, foreign substance.

Watercooler: What one thing you’ve read has influenced you the most? Continue Reading »

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Get to know Mary Peng, POGO intern

August 6th, 2012

After living in China, Canada, and New Hampshire, Mary Peng landed in Washington in June 2012 to intern at POGO.  Mary is a rising sophomore at Dartmouth, where she studies economics, French, and public policy and is involved with several campus organizations that deal with international affairs. At POGO, she’s been working closely with investigator Michael Smallberg on research involving financial regulation.

The Watercooler caught up with Mary to chat about how she fits in at POGO, why she plays Ultimate Frisbee, and where she’ll finally settle down in the future.

Watercooler: How did you become interested in interning at POGO?

MP: I actually applied to POGO through a program at my school, and in my application, I said that I’ve been interested in politics because I believe in the power of politics to better the rules that govern our society. Even though there are so many people who are very disappointed with politics and disgusted with it, I feel that there’s so much potential for change for the better. I think when the professors were matching me up with a program that fit, they immediately thought of POGO. I’m also interested in so many different policy branches, and that also fits perfectly with POGO because there are so many different projects in so many different areas, so I’m not limited in just one area.

Watercooler: Do you have a favorite out of all of the places you’ve lived?

Mary Peng: It’s really hard. I think Ottawa and Changsha [China] are definitely two of my favorite cities, but now, having lived in D.C. for one summer, it’s also up there on the list. And then Hong Kong is also one of my favorite places in the world. It’s just so gorgeous. It’s by the sea … and it’s just so bursting with life all the time. I can totally picture myself living there in the future.

Watercooler: We understand you’re interested in development economics. Is there a particular country or region that especially appeals to you? Continue Reading »

A Former Intern Brightens Our Day

September 14th, 2010

The Watercooler just got an update from Anay Shah, who interned with POGO back in 2003:

Hi POGO Alums & Family,

It’s been quite a while but once you’ve been inducted, POGO rarely strays far from the heart. With the sad news of Beth, I began thinking about how much my time at POGO meant to me and the lifelong relationships I built. I was an Everett Intern with POGO back in 2003 and learned that work could be meaningful, interesting AND fun. As everyone on the Watercooler knows, POGO is quite a magical place.

After interning at POGO I graduated from Wesleyan University and went to work in international development for DAI and USAID. Last year I decided I needed to stop flying across the world writing strategies for multi-million dollar projects and get my hands dirty. I saw the limitations of donor-funded development and realized the power of the private sector to drive social change. With an interest in clean energy and a desire to learn about my heritage, I packed my bags for India.

I was fortunate to get a fellowship with D.light Design, a global social enterprise providing solar lighting solutions to people living without reliable access to electricity. Working for a startup and working to build a new brand and new concept (affordable solar power) to the hardest-to-reach (rural villages) and most price-sensitive customers in the world has been a roller coaster. I secretly came here looking for another POGO—where work is your passion and passion is your work. And providing light to unelectrified rural villages fits the bill. It’s an amazing mix of marketing, sales, distribution, education, and innovative business models—and I think we are making headway. For more on our challenge, see this new video by Seth Godin’s son:

The Double Bottom Line from Alex Godin on Vimeo.

By the way, saw that Omidyar Network is funding POGO—they have become our largest investor at D.light Design. Glad to see Omidyar is also supporting the best watchdogs ever!

Anay, in the back row with sunglasses, with his new friends:

Golf, Area 51, and Waffles: POGO Interns Tell All

August 11th, 2010

POGO was able to accomplish a whole lot more this summer due to having three powerhouse interns in the office: Alex Bland, Jimmy Budnick, and Rick D’Amato. The POGO Watercooler took a few minutes to find out what the interns learned this summer, who is the best golfer, and what tips they have for future POGO interns.

Alex Bland

How much golf did you play in the POGO office this summer?

A lot, but only in the intern room. 😉

I’ve heard stories about a POGO PGA tourney, and hope it comes to fruition.

What was your favorite experience at POGO this summer?

I was really happy that I was allowed to spend so much time researching and writing various things. Both of the other internships I’ve had involved a lot less actual work, and the work I did do was far less interesting than Area 51 and the other issues POGO deals with.

Where is your favorite place to eat in DC?

I found this little seedy diner “Lincoln’s Waffle Shop” around the corner that has great banana pancakes.

How has this internship shaped your future plans?

It solidified my government major. POGO showed me just how much work needs to be done to fix our government.

Jimmy Budnick

What was your favorite experience at POGO this summer?

My favorite experience was getting to see Danielle testify before Congress, especially at one of the MMS hearings where she was testifying right after the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar. Also, Breakfast Day was a lot of fun—everyone was a lot more excited for the staff meeting since there were waffles.

How much golf did you play in the POGO office this summer?

Enough to know that I should stay in college and not try to go on the PGA tour.  A helpful hint for future interns is that the floor in the aquarium (the room where POGO interns set up shop) is slanted so the ball hooks left.

What surprised you at POGO?

I was really surprised by how laid back the office is. One day you could be in business attire because you’re going to a congressional hearing, and the next day you could be in flip flops and a polo. And it’s definitely easier to get work done when you’re comfortable.

What not-free DC activities did you like best?

Going to the congressional baseball game after work was a lot of fun.  The stadium was split with Democrats on the left and Republicans on the right, and it was amusing to watch all the old Congressmen try to play baseball.  Some of them were actually pretty good.

What advice would you give to a future POGO summer intern?

Take advantage of the city, especially if you’re not from the area.  DC is a relatively cheap city for tourists with free museums and a relatively cheap metro system, so get out there and see the city.

Rick D’Amato

How much golf did you play in the POGO office this summer?

Enough to become a POGO PGA champion as soon as Chris sets up the tournament.

What was your favorite experience at POGO this summer?

My favorite experiences have been going to a bill signing at the White House and going to POGO’s Muckraker Happy Hour and meeting so many interesting journalists, staffers, and non-profit workers.

What surprised you at POGO?

I was surprised by how everyone who works at POGO manages to be relaxed and fun while simultaneously being so passionate and dedicated in working toward good government. That combination really helps create an ideal work environment.

How has this internship shaped your future plans?

This internship has given me a greater appreciation of how government works, and in particular, given POGO’s nature, how much influence citizens really can have with enough teamwork, passion, motivation, and effort. Working at POGO has given me a firsthand look at how non-profits, Congress, and government agencies all work together to make changes that impact our world. The internship has inspired me to continue pursuing a career in government or public service in order to have a positive impact on my community, country, and world.

What advice would you give to a future POGO summer intern?

Take the initiative in asking for work, always say “yes” to projects (you’ll learn a lot and they’ll usually turn out to be interesting), and practice your putting game before you start your internship.

But Can He File a FOIA Request While Hopping on the Sacred POGO Pogostick?

August 11th, 2009

Here at POGO we’re into Extreme Sports, like working until the very last minute when you have to pee so bad that you run to the bathroom dodging obstacles and running over slow people.  We also like to take a 347 word document and edit it down to 250 words without losing its meaning.

So when we interview interns, we look for Extreme athletes.  (Most people don’t realize this, but we hired Nick Schwellenbach only due to his ability to maneuver a moped and his athleticism in diving into blowup pools; Michael Smallberg we got for his professional wrestling experience and his ability to grow a Stan Van Gundy mustache; and Jake Wiens was attractive to us for his city bike-piloting skills.)  So when POGO had a chance to snag Eric Orenstein as an intern we were all like, yeah he’s a big deal in the kayak world, but can he comma up?

Well recently EO placed second in the Great Falls Race held locally on the Potomac River.  The race is part of the Potomac Whitewater Festival, an annual event held to raise awareness about environmental issues in the Potomac Watershed.  (Incidentally, there is no truth to the rumor that they could only get two people to enter such a race.)  EO fits nicely into the POGO family.

Eric comes to POGO from Colorado College.