Centre interns take on the nation’s capital

Providing students practical experience is a key focus of the Centre Commitment, which not only guarantees that students who meet academic and social expectations will graduate in four years but also gives them a chance to study abroad and an opportunity to pursue research or an internship in their chosen field.

This summer, dozens of Centre students pursued internships in a wide variety of places, including seven who worked as interns in the nation’s capital.

“Washington, D.C. is an exciting place for interns because it allows our students to be involved in so many fields ranging from politics, to science, to art, to non-governmental organizations (NGOs),” says Mindy Wilson, assistant director of the college’s Center for Career & Professional Development.

Jared Thompson ’17, an international studies major, spent his summer in the capital working as a research intern for the Security Assistance Monitor (SAM), a project of the Center for International Policy that tracks security assistance given by the United States government to foreign powers.

During his time as an intern, Thompson helped compile SAM publications, did publicity work and represented the organization at D.C.-area events. The most memorable event, says Thompson, was participating in a roundtable discussion with the Departments of State and Defense on human rights and African militaries. Going back and forth with high-level officials “was intimidating,” admits Thompson, “but being pushed to do that was absolutely invaluable experience for someone trying to break into my field.”

Peyton Goodman ‘17 (pictured above) also traveled to Washington, D.C., this summer to acquire practical experience in foreign affairs. The international studies major worked with the US-Asia Institute, a private NGO associated with the United Nations and devoted to strengthening ties between the United States and Asia.

As program assistant, Goodman organized meetings for participants in the Institute’s Thai-American National Internship Program and aided with briefings that educated Congressional staff members about issues related to China. A highlight of her internship, says Goodman, was becoming more informed about Asia.

“It’s a region I love to study, and I am thankful to have this opportunity to become more informed about it,” she says.

Washington, D.C. also appeals to students interested in domestic affairs. Katherine Hagan ‘17, an environmental studies major, spent her summer interning at National Capital Parks-East, a grouping of 13 public parks in D.C. that falls under the umbrella of the National Park Service (NPS). Hagan’s primary role was to represent the D.C. parks as a Biodiversity Youth Ambassador to Bioblitz, a 24-hour event in which scientists, educators and community members unite to record living species in a particular area.

This year marked both the tenth and final Bioblitz survey of species, as well as the National Parks Centennial. “The primary goal of the NPS Centennial is to inspire the next generation of conservation stewards by engaging youth,” Hagan says, “and our work reflected that goal.”

In addition to her Bioblitz-related activities, Hagan assisted Park Biologist Mikaila Milton as she worked to restore wetlands, track plant and animal populations, and develop interpretive material for park visitors.

Kelsi Moran ’17, an anthropology and sociology major, spent her summer in Washington, D.C. interning at a non-profit organization called DC SCORES, an affiliate of America SCORES that helps urban youth live healthy, well-rounded lives, building their potential through after school programs combining soccer, poetry and community service. Moran acted as communications intern at DC SCORES, maintaining the organization’s web and social media presence and producing informational and promotional material.

“What I liked most about my internship was the amount of experience I was getting,” says Moran. “As part of a small staff, interns were expected to do a great deal of work and were completely integrated into everything.”

For many college students across the country, internship opportunities are limited by financial concerns. Young people facing living expenses and tuition costs are often reluctant or unable to take positions for which they receive no or little pay, even when those positions may help them advance in their career after graduation. With this in mind, Centre offers a variety of competitive fellowships to provide students with financial support for high quality internship experiences.

“The number of academic-credit internships has grown dramatically over the past three years thanks to a grant from the James Graham Brown Foundation,” notes Wilson. “This summer, we were able to fund 68 credit and non-credit internships—a record for Centre.”

Moran was among those who received financial assistance to support her internship. “If I had not received funding from Centre I would have been much more hesitant to accept the internship,” she notes, “and I could have missed out on this amazing experience.”

“For anyone trying to get a leg up for employment after graduation, getting professional experience through an internship is an absolute necessity,” says Thompson. “You gain unique experience, you can capitalize on professional networks, and—if you’re lucky—you get to work on something you truly care about, which is fulfilling in a way that a lot of undergraduates don’t get to experience.”

by Laurie Pierce
August 26, 2016