FLOW is pleased to announce our ambitious and talented 2022 Milliken Interns for Law and Policy, Mary Basso and Irene Namae.
“At FLOW, our interns jump into the fray and immediately work together with our staff to protect our precious waters,” said Executive Director Liz Kirkwood. “We are thrilled to welcome Irene and Mary to the team, and excited to benefit from their fresh energy and ideas. As our Milliken law and policy interns, they have the skills and attributes to help extend the legacy of environmental protection left by Gov. William and Helen Milliken.”
“We are thrilled to welcome Irene and Mary to the team, and excited to benefit from their fresh energy and ideas. As our Milliken law and policy interns, they have the skills and attributes to help extend the legacy of environmental protection left by Gov. William and Helen Milliken,” said Executive Director Liz Kirkwood.
Each summer, FLOW seeks out bright, talented interns to assist us with communications, policy, and legal research tasks, supported by The Helen and William G. Milliken Fund For Love of Water. The Milliken Fund is designed to support work that protects the Great Lakes and the public trust rights of those who depend on them, inspires community action advancing environmental stewardship, and sustains internships at FLOW—the Great Lakes law and policy center based in Governor Milliken’s hometown of Traverse City—to foster a new generation of environmental leaders.
The family of former Michigan Governor William Milliken, who passed away in 2019, designated FLOW as one of two nonprofits to whom contributions could be made in the Governor’s memory. This choice reminds us that Governor Milliken dedicated much of his public service to the protection of the Great Lakes and all the other waters of Michigan. By supporting internships at FLOW, gifts made in the Governor’s memory serve to inspire remembrances of his work and affirm the potential that young people have for carrying it forward.
A Deeper Dive with Irene Namae and Mary Basso
We recently interviewed Irene and Mary to get to know them, their roots, their passion for environmental advocacy, and what attracted them to FLOW.
FLOW: Where are you from? Where are you located now?
Irene Namae: I was born in Uganda. After finishing my Bachelor’s in law in Uganda, I came to the United States to further my education. I currently reside in Tuscon, Arizona, with my child and we are enjoying the warm summer weather.
Mary Basso: I am from Owosso, Michigan. After finishing my bachelor’s degree, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to study law. I returned to Michigan to work with FLOW for the summer.
FLOW: What did you study at university?
Irene: I graduated with a Bachelor of Law from Makerere University in Uganda in 2013. I studied civil law, criminal law, family law, and environmental law during my time there. Following my graduation, I served as a magistrate judge in Uganda, hearing cases in all legal fields and rendering judgments. In 2018, I came to the United States to start my masters in law, which I completed in 2019. Today, I am working on my PhD in law at the University of Arizona, focusing on Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy.
Mary: I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan in 2020. While attending U of M, I majored in History and French and minored in Women’s Studies and Political Science. After spending a year teaching English in France, I moved to Nashville to start my legal studies at Vanderbilt University Law School.
FLOW: Outside of work and school, what are your passions?
Irene: Outside of work, I love staying active. I enjoy swimming, hiking, and dancing. When I am looking for a quieter moment, I sit down to read. I prefer literature for relaxation, but I also read legal texts so I can learn more about legal systems around the world. I enjoy traveling, and visiting new places is a special treat.
Mary: I also enjoy the chance to be active outside of work. I like to hike, kayak, and have recently gotten into running. These days, I prefer audio books so I have more time to crochet hats, hang towels, and toys that I sell at the local farmer’s market. At the end of the week, I love trying new breweries and sampling artisanal beers.
FLOW: What life experiences sparked your interest in environmental advocacy?
Irene: I grew up beside the river Manafwa in Uganda. For many years, locals depended on the river to provide nutrients to their crops, drinking water for their livestock, and hydration for their daily lives. However, as I grew up, the river became increasingly polluted and eventually ran dry. Life became more difficult for locals. They had to walk long distances to fetch potable water for their families, had decreased crop yields, and lost livestock. As I got older, I spoke with my father about the law and wondered what could be done to protect and improve the lives of those around me. My desire to serve my community and protect the water rights of marginalized indigenous groups in my nation pushed me into environmental advocacy work.
Mary: I grew up near the Shiawassee River hearing stories about the high level of pollution it contained. Realizing what an important resource these local water ways were, I went to work with my district’s environmental advocacy group. I led recycling efforts within my school district, pushed for education on conservation and pollution, and helped start an annual day of service for district students which featured environmental cleanup efforts. During my years at the University of Michigan, I was involved on the Campus Farm where students learned sustainable farming practices and helped provide produce to the university and local shelters.
FLOW: Why are you excited to work with FLOW?
Irene: I am excited to work with FLOW because I fell in love with the organization’s mission and its team during my internship search. While doing my research on summer opportunities, I came across FLOW’s website. I was entranced by the group’s vision for the future of water rights, the group’s goals and objectives, and the steps that the group is taking to advocate for water rights. Upon watching informational videos on FLOW’s website, I was hooked and knew I had to apply.
Mary: Law students in the United States have limited time to explore different fields of law and I knew that I wanted to spend the summer doing public interest work. During my summer internship search, I stumbled upon FLOW. As I poured over the website, I was thrilled to see a passionate group of people taking concrete steps to address water rights issues in my home state. I am excited to spend the summer working with people who are devoted to environmental advocacy in the state I love.
FLOW: What will you do after your time with FLOW?
Irene: After my time with FLOW, I plan to finish my PhD at the University of Arizona and return to Uganda to continue working in the Judiciary. Grounded with new knowledge, I hope to be a better advocate for indigenous people in my region seeking protection of their water rights and plan to address issues related to the privatization of water.
Mary: As the summer comes to an end, I will return to Vanderbilt Law School. I plan to pursue coursework in Water Law and Environmental Law. Outside of class, I intend to do pro-bono work with the Environmental Law Society.