Date September 7, 2023
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Nathalia Klipp-Elias: From Brazil to College Hill, to the halls of the Rhode Island State House

The Brown University junior explored policymaking and governance through a hands-on internship with the office of the Rhode Island governor.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Navigating the grand marble staircases lined with balustrades and zipping past colossal columns to the vast rotunda, Brown University student Nathalia Klipp-Elias spent her summer in the legislative heart of Rhode Island.

As a policy intern working for Gov. Daniel McKee, Klipp-Elias helped analyze legislation that came to the governor’s desk and contributed to various health policy projects through which she engaged with state agencies, stakeholders and advocacy groups.

From contraception to health insurance, she delved into a wide range of issues that impact the public — all packed into a fast-paced two-month internship, funded by a Brown program that supports learning experiences for students.

“It was incredibly insightful and rewarding to witness how policy work plays out in practice — and to actively participate in these efforts,” she said.

A junior at Brown, Klipp-Elias said those insights are helping to inform her studies and her career exploration as she thinks about life after Brown and considers a career in public service, possibly as a lawyer.

The experience she gained through her internship at the Rhode Island State House is something she could not have imagined before she transferred to Brown in Fall 2022.

“I’m the first generation in my family to attend college and even graduate high school,” Klipp-Elias said. “I knew that I had the potential… I’m beyond thankful for this opportunity and for everything that I’ve been able to learn and accomplish through my internship and all the other academic experiences at Brown.”

A firsthand view of policy and governance

With the help of supportive mentors in the governor’s office, Klipp-Elias instantly jumped into researching and analyzing proposed legislation on the day that her internship started in June.

“I came in and it was very intense right off the bat,” she said.

She enjoyed the challenge of careful and exhaustive analysis, reading bills and researching their various elements. She was part of the team reviewing bills’ objectives, watching committee hearings, reading testimonies from proponents and opponents, and examining potential fiscal impacts on the state — all to help inform the governor.

This internship and the policy work at the governor’s office aligned closely with my interests. It provided me a firsthand glimpse into what it’s like to work in this field, and it has allowed me to delve deeper into my career exploration as I navigate my path ahead.

Nathalia Klipp-Elias Brown Class of 2025
Nathalia poses in the foreground of the State House

In all, she was part of a team of three interns who contributed to the analysis of 64 proposed pieces of legislation during the internship.

“It really allowed me to see how policy, public policy and law come together in this type of work — and how having an educational background in law could help me bring all my skills together,” she said.

Klipp-Elias said the experience opened her eyes to the complexities of policymaking and the potential for public policy to address societal challenges and barriers to social justice.

“I came to appreciate that policymaking is a dynamic and collaborative process, which is essential for crafting effective, enduring policies,” she said. “It’s about considering not only what the legislator brings to the table, but also the diverse range of stakeholders who shape the policy. And it’s equally important to understand those who oppose a policy and their reasons why.”

The internship was funded by a SPRINT Award, a program offered by Brown’s Center for Career Exploration to provide students with access to funding and opportunities for research, internships and more.

“I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to pursue this internship if it weren’t for the funding I obtained from Brown through SPRINT,” she said.

During her time in the governor’s office, Klipp-Elias also joined a refugee working group led by the state refugee coordinator to help support refugees in Providence, particularly from Ukraine.

“As an immigrant, it deeply resonated with me,” she said. “Being able to offer support and assistance to those who have escaped refugee camps, fled war regions and endured immense hardship is incredibly meaningful to me. It aligns with my commitment to advocating for social justice and empowering marginalized communities.”

Looking for a “fresh start”

Klipp-Elias’ passion for policy developed over the course of a long and winding journey to Brown. Born and raised in southern Brazil, she became a fashion model during her early adolescence.

Photo from Nathalia's modeling career
Nathalia Klipp-Elias worked as a fashion model until she was 17.

“I started working when I was 12, and being a full-time local model was part of my identity and something that I had done for so long,” she said. “But I also felt like I had missed out on a lot of educational opportunities.”

When she was 17, she stopped modeling and moved to the United States, joining her older brother who was already settled in Massachusetts. She learned English, enrolled in high school and became the first person in her family to graduate high school.

“I wanted to have a fresh start and come to the United States,” she said. “I arrived with so many dreams and an intense desire to pursue the education my parents never had the opportunity to attain.”

She began her college career at Southern New Hampshire University, where she served on the student government. But she left college during the COVID-19 pandemic and took a job at a law firm working in immigration law as a paralegal.

That experience in the workforce helped reignite her education, and she applied to Brown in search of a place where she could pursue all her interests — including international relations, politics, world languages, public policy and law — and shape them into a college degree. She enrolled at Brown in Fall 2022 through the Resumed Undergraduate Education Program.

“With Brown’s Open Curriculum, I could embrace all aspects of my passions and who I am,” she said.

A member of the Class of 2025, she is now concentrating in international and public affairs in the policy and governance track.

“This internship and the policy work at the governor’s office aligned closely with my interests,” she said. “It provided me a firsthand glimpse into what it’s like to work in this field, and it has allowed me to delve deeper into my career exploration as I navigate my path ahead.”