Red Cross volunteer interns to provide new perspectives on strategic innovation planning Meet Scarlett Wedergren

In March 2019 the town of Omaha, Nebraska, witnessed a flood that beat out its previous one-hundred-year record. The flooding devastated farms, major roads and disrupted Nebraskan families’ lives, with the Nebraskan Public Media reporting that the damage would affect the state for years to come. Scarlett Wedergren, an Omaha native, saw that her community was in need and volunteered with the Red Cross. She began hearing and telling the stories of other disaster volunteers and developed a passion for emergency management.


Scarlett Wedergren is passionate about emergency preparedness and the state of public health. With the wide range of disciplines needed as a public servant, she spent the summer with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) learning about and developing strategies for communicating with lay people and financial experts. (Photo Credit: Scarlett Wedergren)

Wedergren is currently with American University studying for her bachelor’s in business and public health.  She wanted to learn from professionals and scientists currently in the field, so to further expand her perspective she applied for the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education’s (ORISE) HS-POWER program.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate Office of University Programs sponsors the Professional Opportunities for Student Workforce to Experience Research (HS-POWER) Program for undergraduate and graduate students. HS-POWER is open to students majoring in a broad spectrum of homeland security related science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines as well as DHS mission-relevant research areas.

As an engagement intern located at the Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Office of Innovation and Collaboration (I&C), Wedergren streamlined how DHS communicated with other branches of the U.S. government. Particularly, she was interested in identifying opportunities for improving engagement with departments who prioritized innovation, and how S&T can assist them. Her strategies were ultimately adopted into DHS’s year-long strategy plan and sent to the Homeland Security Secretary.

“DHS is full of (people with) highly diverse backgrounds and skillsets,” said Wedergren.

This gave her the opportunity to learn from many different disciplines. She discussed how she began to recognize just how important it was to be informed by varied perspectives, from journalists to researchers and leaders of education, to relay understandable information to laypeople and financial experts. Collaborating gave her the confidence to serve other governmental bodies in the future, she says.

Wedergren offered some advice to future ORISE interns.

“Spend a portion of each day learning something new about your facility or department to gain a more holistic perspective and to recognize how your research can be informed by all that is currently developing around you,” said Wedergren. “Use this opportunity to expand your horizons and consider future internship or work opportunities that you never considered before.”

Since her internship ended, Wedergren has decided to focus on emerging problems that she cares deeply about as she pursues her dual bachelor’s degree. She is also a proud Truman Scholar nominee, which is a national award that funds students who plan to dedicate themselves to public service.

Having witnessed her hometown of Omaha in desperate need after the 2019 floods, Wedergren knows the importance a helping hand can provide. Through her DHS internship and continued education, she hopes to be one of the helping hands those in need can reach for.

The DHS HS-POWER Program is funded by DHS and administered through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). ORISE is managed for DOE by Oak Ridge Associated Universities.