Program Joins Students with D.C. Internships and Alumnae Mentors

July 31, 2013

As the U.S. Congress prepares to go on summer recess, Wellesley students prepare to finish their intensive ten-week program working in Washington, D.C. From foreign policy to education and the arts, these students have joined a long-running history of Wellesley women learning “on the job” in the nation’s capitol.

“The Washington Internship Program is a storied program that dates back to 1943, and includes a number of distinguished alumnae,” said Hahrie Han, associate professor of political science and co-director of the program. “For generations, it has provided an opportunity for students with a wide variety of interests to be placed in venues in Washington, D.C., that provide fascinating opportunities for them to advance academic and career goals.”

Those distinguished alumnae include Nora Ephron ’62, the award-winning screenwriter and essayist. “She was an intern in the Kennedy White House in 1961, and later wrote an essay telling of her despair when she realized that she was pretty much the only female around that President Kennedy didn’t hit on,” said Tom Burke, professor of political science and program co-director. “Hillary Rodham [’69] was an intern in 1968 -- for the House Republicans. Most people don’t realize that Hillary came to Wellesley as a Republican.”

While there are many Wellesley students working or interning in D.C. in the summer, the Wellesley-in-Washington interns commit to participate in additional activities and receive additional mentorship and support.  

The program is grounded in intensive work experience with many different institutions and organizations in the city; relationships and individual mentoring with the Wellesley alumnae community in D.C.; and academic discussions in seminars about the challenges and opportunities of working in D.C. And while many will think of the Washington program as politics-focused, this is not the case. “Contrary to popular opinion, it's not just a ‘politics and policy’ program,” added Burke. “We have interns this year in the Vice President's Office and the Treasury Department, but we also have interns working with arts institutions and with at-risk young people. The Washington program is for anyone who can make use of an internship in D.C., in whatever field.”

Monica Rodriguez ’14 (psychology) is passionate about helping at-risk youth succeed in school. She worked as an associate with the Urban Education Leaders Internship Program (UELIP) in the D.C. Public School Office of College and Career Readiness. In particular, she focused on a program called Summer Bridge that helps young students transition from middle school to high school, as well as researching the D.C. school-to-prison pipeline. “Working at the central office has challenged me to re-think the pros and cons of a top-down approach in education and how to improve and strengthen the collaboration and relationship between central office and school personnel,” said Rodriguez. “I am gaining a deeper understanding of what running a successful intervention program requires.”

“Being in the fast-paced corporate world of D.C. has been an eye-opening experience,” said Kristina Bracero ’14 (art history and classical civilization). Bracero is the Summer Traveling Exhibitions Marketing intern at International Arts and Artists (IA&A), a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing cross-cultural understanding and exposure to the arts internationally through exhibitions and programs. As an intern, Bracero put together marketing packets for institutions, follows up with venues and develops content for educational materials. She said, “I've only had experience in researching artwork and artists for upcoming shows and never realized the work that goes into trying to launch a successful exhibition.”

Michelle Al-Ferzly ’14 (art history) had plenty of hands-on experience working at the Middle East Institute, a nonpartisan think tank devoted to issues surrounding the Middle East and North Africa. She wrote grant proposals, researched potential corporate and foundation donors, and helped to organize the Institute’s annual conference, the largest of its kind in the nation. In addition to her internship, Al-Ferzly served as the co-chair of the Wellesley-in-Washington seminar series with Mai Yer Xiong ’14. “We had a lunch at the World Bank, a panel on Capitol Hill for students interested in politics, a dinner with young alumnae that had more than 40 in attendance, and a panel with alumnae working in the nonprofit sector,” she said. “We've also hosted a series of smaller coffee roundtables with alumnae working in international development, health, education, and we'll be concluding with consulting on Wednesday.”

So what is the significance of this intense experience with mentors, stimulating conversations, exposure to new fields and areas of interest, and the challenge of working in the capitol? “My time in Washington also provided me with the opportunity to meet a host of  awe-inspiring Wellesley alumnae, which opened my eyes to the strength of the Wellesley Network and the incredible support system that Wellesley has to offer,” Al-Ferzly said. “I would definitely recommend the program to all students, regardless of their majors or career interests: D.C. can offer something to anyone.”

“Many former interns report that the experience shaped their careers and the course of their whole lives,” added Han.

The Wellesley Washington Program is partially supported by gifts from alumnae and friends of the College, in particular: Isabelle Leeds '47, Sherley Koteen '40, the Bertha S. Adkins '28 Fund, the Anne Quackenbos Fund, the Laurence S. Rockefeller Fund, the Alona Evans Fund, the Marguerite Stitt Church '14 Memorial Stipend, the Ruth Gordon Shapiro Fund, the Jane Bishop '51 Bequest, and the many former interns who have donated to the program.

Wellesley in Washington Summer Interns 2013

Each intern receives a stipend to help defray living expenses. Housing is also provided for students; all participating interns must live in the housing arranged for them. Interns are required to participate in weekly seminars and other program activities during the summer. Contacts with Wellesley alumnae are an important part of the program and each intern will be assigned a mentor from the Washington Wellesley Club. Veteran interns participate in the orientation of new interns the following year.

  • Michelle Al-Ferzly – Middle East Institute
  • Ayan Ali – Open Government Partnership
  • Asha Ayub – Office of Women’s Health, HHS
  • Kristina Bracero – International Arts and Artists
  • "Lily" Lillian Elsner – Office of Disability, Aging and Long-Term Care Policy, HHS
  • “Callie” Bacall Furmaniuk – New Organizing Institute
  • Lelia Gessner – D.C. Department of Health
  • Mollie Hutchings – D.C. Office of Historic Preservation
  • Gabrielle Jones – EcoAgriculture Partners
  • Soomi Kim – U.S. Treasury Department
  • Eda Lee – U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University
  • Jennifer Migliore – Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator
  • Monica Rodriguez – Urban Education Leaders Internship Program (UELIP)
  • Lindsey Shepardson – Office of the Vice President
  • "Sophie" Liyang Sun – The Brookings Institution (Global Economy & Development Center)
  • Maria Taha – Washington D.C. Office of Volunteerism
  • Blair Uhlig – D.C. Department of Health, Director’s Office
  • Mai Yer Xiong – SEARAC (SE Asian Resource Center)
  • Laura Yan - American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee