As the 2016 national presidential election approaches, Kaela Cote-Stemmermann ’18 and Meagan McIntyre ’17 are getting an up-close look at the inner workings of the U.S. government. Both students received internship grants from Scripps College’s Office of Career Planning & Resources, enabling them to spend their summers in Washington, D.C., working for the State Department, where Cote-Stemmermann is an intern for the Greening Diplomacy Initiative (GDI), and McIntyre is interning with the Bureau of Cultural and Educational Affairs (ECA).
McIntyre’s junior year semester abroad through Scripps’ Study Abroad and Global Education program piqued her interest in learning about global issues through shared experiences.
“I really valued my time abroad, and the idea of interning for a bureau whose sole mission is to foster mutual understanding through cross-cultural interactions was very appealing to me,” she explains.
For Cote-Stemmermann, an Introduction to Foreign Policy class at Pomona College sparked her curiosity in foreign policy as a possible career, leading her to look into State Department internships. “The professor, Mietek Boduszynski, worked for the State Department as a diplomat. I had such an incredible experience in this class that I decided to apply for the State Department internship for the following summer.”
McIntyre and Cote-Stemmermann each work in different offices within the State Department’s charge. McIntyre’s work for the ECA is with the Youth Programs Division, which aims to develop youth appreciation for other cultures and languages through global education opportunities. Assisting with various programs, her day-to-day work experience has included managing grants, drafting outreach materials, and helping to plan a variety of participant events. One of the highlights of her internship has been working with the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program, helping to organize an event for more than 600 international high school students from countries with significant Muslim populations who have just completed a year of study abroad in the U.S.
“At the event, students were able to share highlights from their experience, and it was such a good feeling to hear them tell stories about educating others in their host community about their home countries and cultures. There is so much work that goes into implementing these programs, so it was gratifying to see that the objectives of the programs are being accomplished,” she says.
McIntyre has also found that having the opportunity to meet and work with individuals in both the foreign and civil service offices has been invaluable in helping her explore potential career paths.
Cote-Stemmermann’s position with the GDI is as an eco-analyst. Enacted by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the GDI focuses on improving the State Department’s environmental performance, keeping sustainability at the forefront of the U.S. foreign policy agenda. In her role, Cote-Stemmermann works on the MeterNet project, which tracks utility data in hundreds of U.S. embassies around the world and shows how we can increase sustainability and cut costs. She attends GDI staff meetings and has joined in meetings at the White House, accompanies her boss to events, and has visited international embassies. Along the way, Cote-Stemmermann is picking up new skills, including how to properly negotiate and network.
“Being in this office has given me a diverse range of opportunities unavailable to me otherwise, and I am lucky enough to have superiors who support my interests and always take the time to teach me new skills,” she says.
“I have had an opportunity to see this work that I am passionate about play out on a larger scale, which has been an incredible experience.”
Both McIntyre and Cote-Stemmermann say that their internships have given them a better understanding of how our political system functions and a “concrete, more realistic idea of what the government does,” according to Cote-Stemmermann. Using her newfound knowledge of international greening developments and initiatives, Cote-Stemmermann wants to help Scripps College find ways to be more environmentally sustainable, while McIntyre believes she can use her internship experiences to continue to learn about and help contribute to existing campus movements towards better understanding and appreciation for other cultures, religions, and backgrounds. Based on the work the two have done this summer, it’s clear both are poised to share what they’ve learned with the Scripps community and beyond.