The Transformative Encounters of a Semester in Washington Ignite a Broad Array of Passions

July 7, 2014

Andrew Curran, Sara Morris, Gwen Nale and Anthony Elias gather near the Capitol during their recent Stonehill in Washington semester.

A pleasant din of pre-dinner chatter filled the ornate banquet hall at the National Defense University as someone leaned in to quietly share a piece of information he was sure Andrew Curran ’15 would enjoy.

Andrew, who is majoring in political science & international studies, was in the midst of an internship at NDU, an institution along the banks of the Potomac where global leaders study security strategies. He was at a cultural dinner this particular night and had just finished a brief interaction with one of the guests when he saw a familiar face coming his way.

“My co-worker came up to me and said, “Do you know he served as Prime Minister of Georgia?” The Medfield, Massachusetts, native said he stood for a moment in that sea of uniforms and traditional garments from around the world and thought “very cool.”

For the more than 30 years, the Stonehill in Washington Program has placed students in high-profile internships that give them skills useful in their field of study and put them face-to-face with people in the highest levels of national and international leadership.

“A lot of people don't realize how major the opportunities are at some of these internships,” says Andrew, who also got to accompany NDU students on a trip to Silicon Valley.  “Being so close to the daily processes of such a massive [governing] body, really triggered a fascination with root level American politics that I hadn't had before.”

Benefits No Matter What Your Major

The interns, about dozen each semester, live in housing arranged through educational institutions in Washington with which Stonehill is affiliated. Some take classes and intern part time while others intern full time.  And while commonly associated with political science and history majors, it’s a program with value for a much broader cohort.

“After everything I've learned, the experiences I've had, and the people I've met I am now more than ever inspired to create change.”
 Anthony Elias ’15 

“It’s the best place in the country if you’re interested in domestic politics and its relationship to history,” says Political Science Professor Peter Ubertaccio, who coordinates the program with Kristine Shatas of Career Services.  “But there are plenty of students who are interested in other things academically.”

Adds Shatas: “Washington is essentially a hub for anyone interested in making change.”

Gwendolyn Nale ’15 is a perfect example. A philosophy major from Maine with a lifelong love of the outdoors, she interned at the National Park Trust, doing outreach for Kids to Parks Day on May 17.

“I called over 600 mayor's offices, asking them to sign a proclamation to recognize May 17 as Kids to Parks Day,” says Gwen, who plans to study law after Stonehill. “We got over 400 to sign. It was a record. I was very proud of that.” She said the experience has her looking into a possible future in environmental law.

An Opportunity for Those in Arts and Humanities

One area where Ubertaccio hopes to see growth in the program is in the arts and humanities.

“Washington has really come into its own culturally,” he says. “My hope is, as this program continues to grow, that we will see more students from other humanities majors, students who are interested in theater, complementing students who are interested in politics… because D.C. has a lot to offer from those other perspectives.”

Even among political science majors, the program can be shaped to serve specific goals. During a H.O.P.E. Service Immersion Program in India last year, Sara Morris ’16 developed an interest in gender equality and its relationship to health issues. So when she was accepted into the Stonehill in Washington Program, the Warwick, R.I., native chose to do an internship at the Pan American Health & Education Foundation. “I did fundraising for maternal health initiatives in Brazil, something that's really important to me,” she says. “I learned a lot about grant writing and proposal writing, something that I’ll easily be able to use no matter where I go.”

There are other aspects, beyond the internships, that made the program exhilarating. From excursions to the Pentagon and the Treasury to meetings with people such as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, students say the experience stirred their appreciation for the amazing work that goes into shaping our society. “It exceeded my expectations in every way and the access we had was amazing,” says Sara.

Returning to Campus With a Sense of Purpose

Anthony Elias '15 with Maine Congressman Michael Michaud
Anthony Elias '15 with Maine Congressman Michael Michaud

Often the skills and sense of purpose that students develop in Washington help drive not only their plans after graduation but also what they want to do when they get back to campus.

“After everything I've learned, the experiences I've had, and the people I've met I am now more than ever inspired to create change," says Anthony Elias ’15, who is from Waterville, Maine, and interned for Maine Congressman Michael Michaud.

A political science major, he says he plans now to become active in College Democrats of Massachusetts, work on diversity initiatives with Stonehill’s Moore Center for Gender Equity and possibly get involved in student government.

“I'm taking everything that I've learned, and hoping to create change at Stonehill.”

It also, of course, helps students better envision their lives after graduation. Anthony, Gwen, Sara and Andrew all said the experience was transformative.

“Going into senior year, I have a much better grasp on what I'm doing and where [it] fits in the grand scheme of things,” says Andrew.

“It was a great environment [for] an undergrad student,” adds Sara. “It was so easy to reach out to people doing what we potentially might be doing in a few years, and just chat with them. It's the connections you make, people you meet [and] the things you learn about yourself.”

Recent Internship Placements

  • American Enterprise Institute
  • American High Speed Rail Alliance
  • Boston Scientific
  • Center for American Progress Action Fund
  • Congress
  • D.C. Metro Police
  • D.C. Public Schools
  • Department of the Interior
  • Ecological Society of America
  • Environmental Law Institute
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Homeland Security
  • Justice Department
  • Marshals Service
  • Merrill Lynch
  • National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators
  • National Center for Victims of Crime
  • National Defense University
  • Naval Historical Center
  • National Foundation for Women Legislators
  • The Pentagon
  • Peace Corps
  • Public Citizen – Global Trade Watch
  • Public Defender Service
  • The Treasury
  • UBS
  • VA Medical Center
  • Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars