We talked with Mulkarin about her internship, the balance of graduate school responsibilities, and how to be optimistic in challenging times.
Tell us about your IPSS assignment.
I am working with Valley Verde, a small non-profit organization that focuses on expanding urban agriculture and food security, especially members of the San Jose community who are multi-ethnic. They try to focus on fruits and vegetables that are not readily available in grocery stores and that carry cultural significance for San Jose’s diverse community.
How has your involvement in this work been integrated into your degree program?
This means becoming a part of the work you have studied. You are part of the organization. I feel like I’m really part of the team.
One of the things I’m working on for this internship is creating a cost-benefit analysis of water in San Jose. Due to the cost of water and the limited use of water there, we are asking, “Is it affordable for people to garden in their backyard, or what steps can people take to make it more expensive – such as capturing water throughout the year – so that when summer on the water Are you able to water your vegetables even when there are drought restrictions and not lose all the spring planting work? ” That research is something I could not have done before I got this degree. Determining how to do this is still a bit daunting, but Middleberry has given me the resources and support I think I hope this project needs to be completed.
Has anything surprised you in your field experience in Valley Verde?
It’s a really small company, but what surprised me was the hard work and determination of the staff. They have a lot to push and, like most employees in a nonprofit organization, they often have to work really hard with limited resources. It makes you work harder, but you make sure the work you do is better – you want to make sure you’re not disappointing anyone, so it’s really inspiring in many ways.
How did your experience at Peace Corps help you get to Middlebury Institute?
Of course, my time at Peace Corps has made me interested in international environmental policy, especially the focus of the Middlebury Institute. When I was in Senegal, there was a lot of plastic everywhere, and while there I learned that the United States was sending our “recyclable” plastics to Senegal, and that they had no resources or waste management systems. Handle their own waste, let the United States waste alone. So learning this kind of thing opened my eyes to the fact that “it needs to stop now – we need policies to prevent these things from happening and to improve our environment.” I realized how important the need to protect the environment was and I believe that policy is the best way to do it, so I chose this degree program.
How do you find a balance between the many needs of graduate school, including academics, professional experience and social activities?
It’s something I’ve had to work through throughout my bachelor’s degree, but I think it’s really important. The number one thing I value is the complete shutdown on weekends – giving my brain a chance to shut down, to read the books I enjoy on subjects other than what I’m studying. And if you can’t do both, do at least one and go cycling, eat ice cream করুন do all that fun stuff. You still have to prioritize the people in your life, making sure you are spending time with them and making those connections with the people you love and care for. If you look back one day and realize your head was always on the computer, you’re going to miss those things.
What gives you hope for the future?
Some days – I won’t lie – it doesn’t seem like there’s much hope, especially as a young person when you’re studying the destruction of the environment and all of these things. But at the same time, people will not study international environmental policy if there is no hope for it, so having other students in the classroom means there are other people working towards change, even if you don’t see it right now. It is coming, and it will continue to come, because more and more generations are interested in peace and environmental protection, and in equity and inclusion. People there are fighting for it every day, so even when it seems like we’re not going to make it, firstly, it’s not a way to survive, and secondly, why would I suspect all my colleagues who are working so hard? I think there’s hope and I’m probably looking forward to 20 years from now when we can look back and say, “Wow, that was a tough time, but we did the right things, stuck together and did it.”