REP-PP Spring 201​7 Blog: Integrity

Blogger:  Henrik Strand

Law School Year:  ​​​​2L
Placement:  Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Austin, Texas

Meet Henrik

Why did you decide to participate in the REP-PP?
I want to participate in the REP-PP program because I am passionate about environmental policy and want to learn more about the administrative process that takes place at the Texas state level. I am excited to have an opportunity to work with policy makers in Austin and try to see the challenges inherent in the system and ways to work within the system.

What are you most excited about as your semester in the REP-PP begins?
I am excited to meet the people at my position and the people that I will work with as I hope that these are my co-workers as I graduate and start my career. I am also excited for the speaker series that the program offers to see different speakers throughout the state government to get a diverse perspective on available public policy careers.

What skills do you hope to gain from your experiences in the REP-PP?

I hope to gain practical experience in drafting and working with policy makers as well as networking skills and relationships that I can carry into my career.

How do you think this opportunity will help you develop as a lawyer?

I think this opportunity will help me learn on-the-job skills that are hard to learn in the classroom which will translate well into a public interest career, such as writing recommendation statements, reviewing government contracts, and other policy related documents.

How does your participation in the REP-PP demonstrate the Aggie Core Values?
(Excellence, Integrity, Leadership, Loyalty, Respect, Selfless Service)
This program requires excellence in personal responsibility, as we will be ambassadors of the school in Austin. The program also requires selfless service as the program focuses on public service and I would like to be a public servant as my career continues.

What are your personal goals for your semester in the REP-PP?
My personal goals are to work hard and make a good impression for myself on the people I work for and to represent the school with aplomb to continue the relationship that I will create between the agency and the school so more Aggies can get the position that I will have this coming spring.

Henrik StrandWhen I looked up the definition of integrity as a prompt for writing this reflection, the first definition that came up was “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” This encompasses what we all think of as integrity: honesty in the face of negative pressure; the high road over the low; sincerity even when it is uncomfortable. However, this well known definition is not what I am going to spend most of my time on in this post. Indeed, it is important for Aggies to be honest and sincere in their professional and personal lives, and moral integrity is important for personal gratification and advancement. But this second definition for integrity was the one that really struck me when I read it: “the state of being whole and undivided; unity, coherence, cohesion, togetherness, solidarity.”

It is this type of integrity that keeps Aggies’ arms locked during singings of the alma mater. It is this type of integrity that stirs up images of the 12th Man, standing steadfast with his team if he was needed. It is not so easy to be a unified whole: Just look at our national political system and the division not only over the recent presidential election but the current fight over Cabinet appointments. Recent documentaries like O.J.: Made in America or I Am Not Your Negro exemplify the racial and sociopolitical divide that still exists within our country. In many ways, our country is more divided than ever. This is why the integrity between the leadership of the TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) is all the more impressive during these trying times in our society.

During my time at the TCEQ, I have witnessed the true team that all of the staff is on a daily basis. Through organization-wide team events like the chili cook-off, which I participated in, brining together all the different departments of the TCEQ, who employs thousands of employees, for a few hours over Texas’ “national” dish. While I was chided a few times for my particular chili having beans—and chicken—I always felt like I was a part of a team, a solidified community of people working hard to protect Texas for future generations. This community approach led me to meet some fellow young professional working in the water division that I would never have met otherwise who have become some of my personal friends out of work.

Possibly the most impressive part of this event was how one of the winners were chosen. First, there was a blind taste-testing of all the different chilies to pick the overall winner. Then, there was a second award, called the “peoples’ choice award,” which went to the chili that attracted the most donations from the crowd. I felt this award continued to show the great community that was created coming together to support charity with our donations for our co-workers culinary creations.

When I worked as a chef at home and abroad, I have always been amazed at the transformative power that food has over any racial or political divisions. I once read a book about North Carolina BBQ that explained that the only day where African-Americans and whites would eat and celebrate together was over the celebratory BBQs at the end of the long tobacco-drying season. Food allows people to overcome their personal hang-ups and divisions to focus on what is important -- community sustenance. And in its own little way, the TCEQ’s chili cook-off embodies this idea of community created though cooking. It is good to see that at least one governmental agency is still holding up the Aggie value of integrity, and I am proud to be a part of it, at least for this one glorious semester.