Alain Xiong-Calmes is a senior in the American University School of Public Affairs, majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies: Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government, with a Certificate in Advanced Leadership Studies. This summer, he is interning at the US Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Office as a Sustainable Operations and Climate Change Assistant.
What major projects are you working on in your internship? What responsibilities are you most excited about and why?
In the Forest Service’s Region 5 office, I help to support projects related to sustainability. My two biggest projects have been helping to organize and coordinate the logistics for a symposium on drought and tree mortality in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where there are 102+ million dead trees. This represents a massive change in the ecosystem, which presents a ton of risks for the future. Right now, it looks like we’re going to have around 200 experts coming together to talk about the crisis. Hopefully some great ideas will come out of it.
I’ve also been working on performing an analysis of micro-grants that the Forest Service gives out for sustainable operations projects. The projects help sustainability by doing things like helping people purchase new plumbing, putting in new LED lights, or purchasing more efficient refrigerators.
I’ve spent some time also trying to meet lots of folks around the office. The people here are all awesome, which really excites me!
When did you realize you wanted to explore public service?
When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a firefighter. I realize now that the reason I wanted to do that was because I could help people that way, which is why public service appeals to me. I’m not quite sure when this clicked with me, probably at some point in high school.
I used to do mock trial and debate in high school and a lot of people I was surrounded by were interested in public service, and I think that was a huge influence on me as well.
What are your plans/ goals after this internship? Are there any goals you want to accomplish this summer?
I plan to enter my senior year at American University! This next year, I’m serving as fundraising co-coordinator for the School of Public Affairs Leadership program, and I’ll be sure to bring what I’ve learned to that position. I’m also hoping to get another internship in before I graduate.
My Asian-American identity is also so important to me, and it’s nice to be part of a community this summer where we can relate to each other’s experiences. As I’ve entered young adulthood, I’ve become increasingly aware of how much my Chinese heritage has shaped me and changed my view of the world.
I think the Forest Service and CAPAL have really helped to increase my professional confidence this summer, which has been my biggest goal. The mentoring is truly invaluable. In general, I want to make sure I’m as ready as possible professionally and mentally for the “real world.”
What are you looking forward to where your internship is located?
I used to do some education work for a non-profit called Life Pieces to Masterpieces. One of my favorite compliments I ever got was when I was conversing with one of my bosses, Selvin. Selvin came up to me and asked me “Alain, did you grow up in California?”
I said “no, why?”
He responded “I’ve always liked the people I’ve met from California, they always seem so cool.”
I can definitely see why he said that now that I’m here. I grew up in Philadelphia and go to D.C., so this is my first time on the West Coast.
What do you do for fun?
I absolutely love music. I am principal cellist of my University’s Symphony Orchestra. I love going to concerts, playing and performing with friends, and listening to new music. I also love to hike, exercise, and make new friends!
What is something that most people would not know about you?
I’m a huge Star Wars nerd. I used to be obsessed as a kid. I would read every Star Wars book I could get my hands on. I was actually so into it I was a little embarrassed. I still have tons of novels and books spread throughout my mother’s home that are Star Wars related.