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This past August, Katherine DePalma ’18 strode confidently into the boardroom of 1776, the Washington, D.C.-based start-up seeking to transform major industries such as healthcare, energy, and education with innovative new ideas. There on an internship grant generously underwritten by the Scripps College Class of 1967, Katherine was ready to pitch a big idea of her own.
Her journey to the boardroom began while growing up in Birmingham, Alabama. Katherine’s mother was a lawyer for the local government.
“I grew up around politics,” she says. “My mom brought me into the fold of our city council, where I saw the impact of new legislation and policies on day-to-day life.”
At Scripps, the politics major sought out an internship at 1776 because she’s interested in a particular aspect of policymaking: the intersection of government and business where the most good for the most people is achieved. She knew about the organization from friends who had recently interned there. Digging deeper, she learned that one of the co-founders is prominent businesswoman and entrepreneur Donna Harris.
“When I saw influential women in leadership roles at 1776, I knew it was the place for me,” she says. Her friends put in a few good words to the hiring team, and she successfully networked her way in the door.
As an intern, Katherine was empowered to think creatively and bring new ideas to the table. One of her major assignments was to develop a business plan for her own start-up. She acknowledges a bit of anxiety, admitting, “Initially, I didn’t know where to begin. Scripps has instilled a sense of confidence in me, but this project was way outside of my comfort zone.” A few mentors provided advice, encouraging her to focus on what she’s passionate about and what she knows. This sparked an idea.
Katherine recalled how new legislation was often poorly communicated to stakeholders and businesses in Alabama, leaving them unaware of or unprepared to meet mandatory deadlines and requirements. She posed the question, “How might I use technology to close those gaps?”
“I spent many hours at the 1776 community table, picking the brains of the best and brightest,” Katherine recalls. “Dominique Taylor, the firm’s managing director of talent and culture, told me, ‘Be intentional: You have the power to make a greater impact if you take your time and think through all possible solutions.'”
Katherine began envisioning an app that would communicate directly with the industries impacted by new local, state, and federal policies. Over the course of her internship, she developed Policy Scout, an online hub that distills targeted news and information about new or changed government regulations to its subscribers. Katherine pitched Policy Scout to 1776’s executive team, and they loved it. And while its development may come at a later date—when she’s not busy with coursework, graduation, and her job search—Katherine is using the experience to write her senior thesis.
Reflecting on her time at 1776, Katherine is grateful. She is grateful to the Class of 1967 for funding her internship. She’s grateful to have met such inspiring and supportive colleagues and mentors. And she is grateful because she knows it’s essential for undergraduate students to hold at least one internship before graduation, as more companies are requiring work experience, even for entry-level positions. Organizations seek candidates who are tech savvy, able to work well in teams, and who can communicate their ideas effectively—all skills she was able to hone during her summer internship. According to Katherine, she is most grateful for what the internship taught her about herself: she’s stronger than she thought she was.
“I learned to be fearless in contributing my ideas,” she says. “The political world is tough, and I need ingenuity and confidence to solve some of my community’s greatest problems.”
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Learn more about the collective gift to Katherine’s internship in her video.
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