Interning in D.C. leads to jobs

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September 18, 2007

1:49 AM

__30 percent involved in ‘W&M in Washington’ were offered jobs__

It might be hard for many students at the College to imagine working and studying in Washington, D.C., but that is exactly what a growing number of College students are now doing each semester in the year-old “W&M in Washington” program.

p. In fall 2006, the “W&M in Washington” program was initiated to give a small group of College students the opportunity, for one semester, to take an internship in Washington, D.C. focusing on arts, politics, or the media, while earning 12 credit hours. This past semester, the popularity and benefits of the program grew when a reported 30 percent of the students involved were offered summer or full-time jobs at their respective internships.

p. One of those students is Ryan Powers ’08, who, after an intensive spring internship with the political blogging website Thinkprogress.org, was offered a temporary summer position, and a full-time job following graduation.

p. “It definitely takes the pressure off of senior year. It surprised me how easy it is, if you just take those opportunities out there for you, to get started and actively participate in politics,” Powers said.

p. Powers applied to various internships, but only Thinkprogress.org responded within a day.

p. “I’ve read Think Progress a lot, and I’m a government major, so this internship interested me right away,” Powers said.

p. He admits that he was worried about the program at first.

p. “The theme [at the time] was about arts, and it didn’t really apply to my interests, but I still found an internship that worked perfectly for me.”

p. His job included fact-checking, gathering the daily news from across the country, and “keeping track of the news and politics of the day.” Soon, Powers found himself by-lined in numerous articles. Some other highlights of his internship at Thinkprogress included meeting Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and sitting in on speeches by Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Ted Kennedy.

p. “Bill O’Reilly even responded to one of our web blog posts,” Powers recalls. “It was surreal. [Working there] was a blast.”

p. Thomas Gillespie ’09 summarized the program similarly. After working for National Public Radio during his spring semester, he was offered a summer position to further his knowledge of radio journalism.

p. “I worked with NPR on a show “All Things Considered,” a kind of afternoon news magazine with a wide range of stories from across the country,” Gillespie said.

p. During a typical day, Gillespie did everything from production work to editing, booking, cold calls and even running scripts to radio personalities such as Robert Segal.

p. “At first it was kind of daunting and I didn’t have any real expectations of the application, but then I got a call and was totally floored,” Gillespie recalls.

p. He theorizes that his lucky start in the radio world was based mostly on the W&M in Washington program itself.

p. “I think what helped me get an internship was the fact that employers know you’re in a structured environment with professors, grades and classes, and it’s a sense of security in that they know you’re going to give it your all because of what’s at stake,” Gillespie said.

p. He adds that “[W&M in Washington Program Director] Roxanne Adler is great with networking, and really was instrumental in legitimatizing our connections and internships in Washington.”

p. At the station, Gillespie did background research daily on guests ranging from the national spelling bee winner to “the guy that resurrected the American elm tree.” Though each day was interesting, Gillespie highlights a few special memories.

p. “One day I got to work with Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr, who created new journalism and was truly remarkable to work with. There are also many different interns for different shows at NPR, so we had this show, ‘Intern Edition,’ where I got to be host,” Gillespie said.

p. For someone interested in radio work, an internship such as this definitely reaffirmed Gillespie’s passion.

p. “[Public radio] is a really important source of information; it really is the most democratic means of distributing information,” Gillespie said. “This internship opened up a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have had without that position.”

p. As for living in Washington, D.C., both students described the experience as priceless.

p. “Aside from being the center of the political world, D.C. is a very vibrant place to live⎯ full of venues, interesting neighborhoods and cultural centers,” Gillespie said.

p. Gillespie also cited his peers as part of the reason for his unique experience.

p. “Everyone came back each day with such different stories⎯ from internships ranging from art museums to online blogging. It was really enriching and beneficial,” he said.

p. Powers was also pleased with his experience in the nation’s capitol.

p. “I definitely recommend the “W&M in Washington” program. It meshed well with my major and interests. I got so plugged-in to Washington,” Powers said.

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