Spotlight Story

14 February 2024

Michael Moreno: Paving Collaborative Opportunities in the Federal Government

Category: Spotlight Story

Michael (Mike) Moreno grew up in a small town near Long Island, New York. Half Italian, and half Puerto Rican, Mike felt early in his life the need to connect with his Hispanic heritage and find opportunities to learn and contribute to the broader community.

“Where I come from, I think 90% of the people are Italian, so me being half Puerto Rican was a little shock to some people. I knew early in my life that I wanted to work on something related to Latin America, regardless of what it may be.”

His desire to connect with his roots led him to pursue undergraduate studies in Latin American studies and political science. Mike is now completing his master's in international Affairs at George Washington University, finding a unique niche in international security studies, science, and tech policy.

Mike started his career as an intern at a private government relations company, providing him with valuable insights into the dynamics of the private sector. However, it was his transition to the Bureau of Reclamation, thanks to an internship through Hispanic Access Foundation’s MANO Project, that ignited his passion for environmental protection and international cooperation.

In his current role as an intern at the Bureau of Reclamation, he is deeply involved in the Binational Program, a collaborative effort between the U.S. and Mexico. The program focuses on implementing agreements covering a spectrum of issues, from environmental protection to water management along the Colorado River. Mike’s work involves intricate negotiations and discussions on topics ranging from indigenous species preservation to water salinity.

The Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and Hispanic Access Foundation’s MANO Project (MANO) partnered to connect diverse college students with 11-week summer internships. This program was designed to provide paid work opportunities to culturally, ethnically, and economically diverse students at Reclamation sites in the US. Interns receive mentoring, and hands-on work experience, and gain a better understanding of Reclamation’s role in conserving water and power resources. Reclamation’s Resource Assistant Internship (RAI) Program provides a pathway for Reclamation hiring managers to non-competitively hire RAI participants for permanent positions who have completed a rigorous 11-week Summer Internship.

One project Michael worked on involved comparing U.S.-Mexico relations on the Colorado River to those between the U.S. and Canada in three basins. Through research, he aimed to identify successful strategies that could be applied to enhance collaboration with Mexico. The project reinforced the significance of building strong relationships and understanding the needs of both parties in negotiations. Another highlight throughout his experience was participating in federal negotiations for treaty amendments between the U.S. and Mexican governments. Although he wasn't physically present in Mexico, the opportunity to be part of these discussions online provided him with valuable insights into the complexities of international cooperation.

Highlighting the importance of his supervisors, Michael emphasized the nurturing environment he found within these organizations, where his career development has been a priority. This, he noted, is a unique aspect of his internship experience. One of the most exciting moments for Mike was the opportunity to meet Secretary Haaland and talk about his experience.

“I was the only person there representing the Bureau, so I had quite a bit of time to talk about my experiences and get to meet the Secretary. It was amazing highlighting the work I've been doing, which is very unique compared to some of my colleagues or the other interns, so I pretty much just gave her a brief understanding of what we're doing and how helpful this is. We also spoke about opportunities for marginalized groups, which is also great to hear that coming from the Secretary. Hearing from the highest person in the Department that this is something we're working towards was just amazing.”

As he approaches the end of his internship, he reflects on the support he received in preparing his federal resume and shaping his long-term career goals. Expressing gratitude for the mentorship he received, he acknowledges the positive impact these experiences have had on his professional growth.

“I think the great thing about leadership is there's no one size fits all. Leadership just comes from a stern, hard, results-driven attitude. You need to be kind of aware of your situation, and aware of your surroundings. Also, being responsible for other people, and caring for other people. I like to have the balance of caring, and nurturing, but also results driven in the type of leader I aspire to be.”

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