Merissa Spaulding ’19 Interns with New York State Office of the Attorney General

My name is Merissa Spaulding and I am an international affairs major and a French minor in Skidmore’s class of 2019. This summer I have been interning at the New York State Office of the Attorney General (NYSOAG) in New York, New York. The OAG is a public sector agency dedicated to serving New Yorkers in aspects affecting their daily lives. The attorney General, Barbara D. Underwood, plays the role as the “People’s lawyer” with the burden of protecting and maintaining the legal rights of New York’s citizens.

The office is divided into several bureaus, each with a unique subject matter. I have been interning with the bureau of intergovernmental affairs which coordinates communications between the OAG and New York’s public and elected officials. Currently, I am interested in pursuing law, precisely corporate law, but I want to explore other sectors of law. I enjoy working in this bureau because I have the exposure to law and policy while serving the public. This means that despite limited power as an intern for a law agency, my work is still potent and impacts the lives of New Yorkers.

My bureau receives new tasks on a weekly basis, but one that’s recurring is our victims’ hotline. The hotline gives victims the opportunity to call our office and seek assistance for their circumstances and of course, gain a listening ear. Every Thursday, I take on the responsibility of answering the hotline and providing help in addition to my weekly projects. The services range from instructing victims on what their options are such as filing a complaint, or providing resources outside of our agency in order to resolve their conflicts and circumstances. Despite redirecting some victims to outside resources, the narratives gives our agency insight on the policies and laws that need to be revised or added in order to address these issues in our community.

The most touching aspect of this project is hearing the expressions of relief and gratitude from our victims once they receive the help they needed. It is touching for me because many of them are turned down by their family, friends and other agencies that are tasked with helping the public. Our agency is often the last resort for victims and they are often reluctant to the assistance we provide until the end of the phone call turns out positive. Operating the victims’ hotline on Thursdays allows me to function as a liaison with our office and the public by ensuring that we are providing adequate support and resources within our jurisdiction that will contribute to ameliorating and defending the lives of New Yorkers. I am grateful that as an intern I am a factor in the impact.

My experience this summer has been a memorable one and eye-opening after hearing the stories of many New Yorkers. It definitely increases my knowledge of what the public sector field entails and the amount of work that needs to be done in my community. We cannot make a difference until we know what the problem is. By communicating with constituents, I am learning what the issues are, and can bring these issues to the ears of those who can solve them.  I am extremely appreciative of Skidmore’s Summer Fund which allows me to take on an unpaid internship where I am able to positively impact the live of another.

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