Money allotted for D.C. internships

Clare Lowther

Landing an internship in Washington, D.C. can give a big push to students with ambitious eyes for Capitol Hill. Getting money from their school can convert ambition into a job.

The university recently gave the government department a $10,000 donation to financially help students planning to attend the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars in the nation’s capitol.

The Washington Center sets up internships for college students with various legislators or special interest groups based in the Washington, D.C. area. The internships typically last 10 to 15 weeks, depending what time of year the student participates.

Western will send four students to the summer program.

Government Department Head Saundra Ardrey said cost has been a major factor in the past.

The internship usually costs $6,000. State funding gives $3,000 and the Washington Center gives $1,000.

With the additional $10,000, the government department is now able to provide students with $1,000 each to help pay for the internship program. The remaining $1,000 of the cost is usually paid for by the student.

“The cost was prohibitive to many students who wanted to go,” Ardrey said. “However, we hope to have more students who are interested now.”

The government department will be able to renew this donation annually.

President Gary Ransdell said these internships are an important experience for students, particularly for government majors and minors.

“It’s fundamentally important that we compliment a Western education with this work experience … ” Ransdell said. “It’s a neat program. This is the kind of thing that needs to be done for our students.”

The internships are available to students in all majors, though Ardrey said she encourages her students to take political internships.

“We’ve had students who have interned on Capitol Hill, at the Department of Education, the Washington Post, BET, the Smithsonian, at Speaker Hastert’s office and for various interest groups … ” she said. “(This) creates amazing opportunities for students.”

The majority of students who participate receive additional internships or jobs, Ardrey said. One student interned for a women’s interests group which counts Hillary Clinton among its members.

Ardrey said the student gave a presentation before the group and impressed Clinton so much that the former first lady hired the student soon after.

“We’ve never had a student who went and was not offered a job,” Ardrey said.

In addition to internships, the $10,000 will also help fund two-week seminars for students to attend during the school year.

Ardrey took the first group of students to Washington for a two-week seminar when she came to Western in 1988. Most recently she took a group of six students to Washington, D.C., for a two week seminar at the beginning of January.

Owensboro senior Ben Payne, a political communications major, is one of those students who went to the two week seminar. He said he went for the Washington D.C. experience and to establish political contacts.

During the trip, Payne attended speeches, congressional sessions and visited government agencies.

“You got a lot for your money as far as speakers and stuff like that,” he said.

Payne said he received three credit hours for the trip.

Ardrey said she anticipates an increase in the number of applicants because of the recent donation.

Depending on the number of people who apply, there may be a need for an application process to get the scholarship money, she said. The deadline for applying for an internship is March 15.

The government department is sponsoring a meeting for students interested in the internships from 11:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. today in Grise Hall room 339. Gene Alpert, Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Washington Center, will be there to meet with students.

Reach Clare Lowther at [email protected]