A Sizzling Summer for Rutgers Interns in Washington, D.C.

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Many students view the summertime as an opportunity for rest and relaxation, a time to rejuvenate before the new academic year begins. A good number of students, however, spend their summer break working in internships that enhance their education and resumes. Such was the case this past summer for nine students enrolled at the School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA).

For two consecutive summers, SPAA has hosted a cohort of students as interns in the Washington, D.C. area. This year’s class, however, was the most ambitious, with four graduate and five undergraduate students participating.

The interns spent eight weeks learning the ins and outs of government or non-profit administration, honing their leadership skills, networking with professionals, and meeting new acquaintances. Representative employers included: American Society for Public Administration (ASPA), CRD Associates, KaBoom!, National Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils, National Institutes of Health, Sister Cities International, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and United Way Worldwide. The initiative’s success -- believed to be the only formal Rutgers internship program in Metropolitan D.C. -- is largely attributable to the support of committed Rutgers alumni who assist with marketing, securing and filling available positions.

Through the efforts of Ivy Davis, an alumna of the Rutgers Newark College of Arts and Sciences and Rutgers School of Law—Newark, two undergraduate students were hired to work in the Eastern Regional Office of USCCR. After interviewing several students via telephone, Davis extended job offers to Gracie Fernandez and Khadeeja McElroy.

“We see this program as a win-win opportunity for us and the students,” comments Davis, director of USCCR’s Eastern Regional Office. “The interns help us manage our workload while improving their research, analytical and writing skills.”

USCCR typically has up to three internship positions available each summer, and many interns spend multiple summers there, which opens possibilities for future Rutgers intern classes.

Daniel P. Puzo, director of the Outreach and Partnership Division for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and an alumnus of Rutgers College, also employed two interns, Shadi Ibrahim and Paula Jones.

“The interns we hired were graduate students embarking on second careers,” Puzo said. “Consequently, we found them to be quick learners, and the agency benefited greatly from their knowledge and prior work experiences. They were both keenly interested in public health issues and adapted to our mission almost immediately.”

Other students who participated in SPAA’s Washington, D.C., internship program included: Ayman Ibrahim at ASPA; Steven Fernandez at CRD Associates; June Anne Olivia George at the Office of Congressman Donald Payne Jr.; Jeremy Katz at KaBoom!; and Isabelle Denize at United Way Worldwide.

In addition to their internships, the so-called “DC 9” received several perks thanks to other Rutgers alumni in Washington. Among the more special moments were a private tour of the U.S. Capitol, a briefing in the Old Executive Office Building by a White House staffer and an invitation to celebrate the life and career of former New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg in a memorial at the Capitol. The Washington, D.C., Alumni Club also invited the interns to a crab feast at the home of a Rutgers grad on the banks of the Chesapeake. Puzo graciously welcomed all nine SPAA interns, along with the SPAA staff present in the Washington area, to a Sunday afternoon barbeque at his home on Capitol Hill.

“D.C. was an amazing and inspiring place to be for the summer for our students,” said Marcia Brown, associate dean of program development at SPAA, the internship coordinator, and an alumna of the School of Law—NewarkD.C. in Summer has created an important branding message for our campus and our school that would not have been possible without the generosity of SPAA Dean Marc Holzer and external donors who provided scholarship assistance, the commitment of Rutgers alumni in the D.C. area, like Dan and Ivy, who generously offered their organizations as internship sites, and the talented students who created footprints in the D.C. internship program.”

“The SPAA Washington D.C. internship program was a life-changing experience,” notes Dean Holzer. “It will open doors for students who, but for the program, would not be likely to experience the events, momentum and career exposure as well as the valuable network of professional references that comes from living and interning in the nation’s capital. As one student remarked to me, ‘I felt like I was making a difference every day I went to work.’”

Washington metro-area Rutgers alumni interested in participating as intern sponsors should contact Dean Brown at 973-353-3709 or