Washington is MY classroomby Hannah Greene
Five Coastal Carolina University students are working in Washington, D.C., this semester in internships that were set up via a new partnership between CCU and the Washington Internship Institution (WII). This new system matches student interns with organizations that fit their individual interests and qualifications.
“I frequently had students come to me and say, ‘I’d really like to intern in Washington D.C., but I don’t know how to do it’, so I was giving tips to each one of them individually,” said Holly Tankersley, associate dean of the Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts and associate professor of politics.
Tankersley teamed up with Robert Bulsza in the Office of Career Services to create a program devoted to placing CCU students in internships in the Capitol city. They initiated a partnership with WII, a nonprofit organization that helps to provide internships in the private, public and nonprofit sectors. The students work their internships while taking two courses at the WII (one is a professional development seminar, the other is in either American politics, international politics, or environmental policy and politics). “This enables our students to live and work in Washington, D.C., for a full semester while still earning enough credits to remain a full-time student,” said Tankersley.
The first student to experience the program, Jermaine (Deane) Perez, worked in the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia during the Fall 2011 semester. A junior political science major, Perez worked in the office’s civil litigation department with attorney Kerslyn Featherstone. Perez, who is planning a career in law, helped with such tasks as finishing motions, filing legal motions and research, which eventually led to working on his own cases. As a result of his WII internship, Perez has another internship lined up in D.C. this summer. “I learned a lot . . . and I can’t wait to go back and jump back into it this summer,” said Perez.
While Perez is a politics major, Tankersley stresses that the program is not only for students interested in government. Students in the program pursue internships in many fields, such as working at federal agencies, media firms, embassies and organizations that specialize in environmental policy.
Five students are currently in Washington as part of the program. Brian Harrison, a junior communication major, is working for New Media Strategies, a social media marketing firm. Sherita Curry, a sophomore politics major, is at the Capitol branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Christina Butler, a junior history major, and Ben Counts, a senior politics major, both have internships with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Office of International Affairs. Lucas Patterson, senior management major, is at Interpol, the international police cooperation organization.
“Anyone who is interested in journalism, marketing, business…they can all benefit substantially from this program,” said Tankersley.
Harrison, who’s at New Media Strategies, is working on digital marketing. While the company does represent some political clients in its public affairs department, other clients include Lowe’s, Nivea, ABC Family, Sony Films and Disney. Harrison has been assigned to monitor blogs and conduct online give-aways for Lowe’s, WASA and Nivea. “My main goal for the internship is to learn as much as I can about this industry,” said Harrison. “I also want to narrow down my options as far as my career path is concerned because right now I don’t know exactly what I want to do. I just know I want to do something in the media and communication industry.”
Though the students involved in the program have career ambitions that are extremely diverse, they all have one attribute in common: motivation. “They’re self-motivated and want to explore the professional and social opportunities beyond where they are now,” said Tankersley. “They have the motivation and willingness to work hard.”