Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

Government and law major Caroline Eshman ’04 (Darnestown, Md.) learned the dynamics of grassroots organizing during an internship this summer at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of Public Citizen, a non-profit public interest organization founded by activist Ralph Nader.

The experience complemented what Eshman believes is an excellent Lafayette education.

“Lafayette has been a great fit for me because it is a small campus where I can get the individualized attention that I need,” she says. “The classes are small and the professors encourage you to ask them questions and to talk with them.”

Eshman worked for two and a half months on Pennsylvania Avenue, about two blocks from Capitol Hill, in the group’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program after learning of the opportunity through Lafayette’s Career Services. Much of her time was spent in the Stop Food Irradiation Campaign. She revised and compiled a new guide for potential food irradiation activists that is being distributed across the country. She also determined which companies were going to market the irradiated products, and where and when they planned to do so.

“I spent a lot of time tracking down various Dairy Queens in Minnesota, where a test market exists for irradiated hamburgers, and subsequently sending the stores that were selling the burgers information on the detrimental effects of food irradiation,” she says. “Another store selling the irradiated burgers with a regional presence is Wegman’s Supermarkets. I worked on obtaining contacts throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York for a letter writing campaign to the Wegman’s stores.”

Eshman also researched methyl bromide, “one of the most dangerous pesticides in the world today.” “This ozone depletor is being phased out of use in the United States via the Clean Air Act Amendments. However, one of the main alternatives to methyl bromide is food irradiation, which is a major concern to Public Citizen.”

The internship was very interesting, notes Eshman, because it provided her with the opportunity to understand how grassroots organizing works.

“It can sometimes be a very tedious, but rewarding experience when people do become involved and progress is made with a particular issue,” she says. “The people I worked beside were very dedicated to their cause and it was beneficial to understand the perspective of the environmental activist. Also, I learned a lot about how regulatory agencies respond to the opinions of the public.”

The regulatory aspect of food irradiation was greatly influenced by the Farm Bill passed last May, which contained specific provisions about the labeling of irradiated food. Public Citizen was unhappy with these provisions and as a result, Eshman attended the meeting in which the FDA met with the group to hear its concerns.

Other highlights of the summer included hearing Gloria Steinem speak about women’s issues and the upcoming elections, and meeting rock group The B-52’s, which came to Public Citizen to help work with other celebrities such as actor Mike Farrell (MASH, Providence) against the construction and use of Yucca Mountain for nuclear waste.

Eshman plans to attend law school or graduate school for a degree in health policy.

“My internship was very helpful because I now realize that I want to be involved in many of the important issues that affect our daily lives, like the environment,” she says.

Through Career Services, Eshman served an externship with a Lafayette alumus, a lawyer practicing in Virginia, during the past January interim session between semesters. “It was a great experience to see the daily affairs of an attorney and to help out with legal research,” she says.

A member of the varsity volleyball team, Eshman is public relations co-chair of Association of Lafayette Women and a member of International Affairs Club and College Democrats. She participated in the production of The Vagina Monologues last spring that raised money for local charities. She plans to study abroad in Spain next spring.

Categorized in: Academic News