The Washington Center – Marcella Benner

I had the amazing opportunity to spend this past summer up in Washington, D.C.! Through an educational program called The Washington Center, I was able to spend two and a half months not only exploring and getting to know an exciting and bustling city, but also to gain experience through an internship as part of the program. Before you arrive, you are matched with an internship based on your interests and desired career path, and I had the chance to work with a small government contracting firm that performs research & development for the military. Thanks to the close-knit culture of the office, I was given a lot of freedom and trust, and as a result some of my work on one of our projects went directly to a division of the Army. It was really an outstanding experience to be able to contribute firsthand to an assignment of importance rather than perform tasks like stocking supplies and making coffee which people tend to think of when they hear “summer intern”.

Internships through this program came in all shapes and sizes. Just sampling from those I lived with during the summer, I had a roommate who worked with a law firm and had the opportunity to travel with them to a conference in Florida, a roommate who worked with a startup non-profit and would attend congressional hearings on Capitol Hill, and one who even interned with the Department of Justice.

Through the Washington Center program we had the opportunity to not only earn working experience and academic credit through the internship, but also academic credit from classes that we attended throughout the summer. Interns work Monday through Thursday and attend a night class one day a week. Our Fridays were varied and were reserved for numerous activities that helped contribute to our professional development. These activities ranged from class, workshops, and a host of career exploration activities to choose from that were located in places around D.C. such as the Supreme Court Building, NPR headquarters, and the State Department, just to name a few.

The U.S. Capitol Building
The U.S. Capitol Building

As a competitive runner, living only a mile away from the Capitol Building was absolutely incredible. I’d come home after a day at work, hit the pavement and run past Union Station, down Capitol Hill, and right along the National Mall. On days I was feeling ambitious, I’d make it beyond the Washington Monument, Reflecting Pool, and to the Lincoln Memorial. If you’re not a runner though, don’t worry – the housing they provide is only about a 5 minute walk from the Metro (D.C.’s main public transit system). The Metro can take you pretty close to just about anything in D.C. such as Nationals Park for a Nat’s game and hotdogs, or the National Mall for the Smithsonian’s plethora of free museums. The Metro even runs through parts of Maryland and Virginia where you could check out some breathtaking sites like Arlington Cemetery or even catch a bus to Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals
Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals


A personal recommendation of mine would be to stop by the Library of Congress and register for a Reader Identification Card. I was surprised by how easy it was to do so with no questions asked. Once you get your card you can get access into the reading rooms which offer numerous databases as well as some physical historical documents and books which are great for research. This was a great resource for one of my assignments at my internship and also for a side project of mine where I was able to dig up some family history! I gained access to some newspaper articles from 1952 about my grandfather’s heroics during the Korean War, where he was awarded a Bronze Star.

This summer was truly a wonderful experience and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the Honors Program. They helped put me in contact with The Washington Center and made this opportunity a reality for me. I was not only able to spend my summer in the heart of the most influential city in the world, but also able to earn academic credit and valuable experience through my internship.

The Washington Center – Troy Schneider

Troy Schneider at the US Capitol

My time here at The Washington Center, arranged and funded with the help of UT’s Honors Program, has been incredible so far. I am working at a lobbying firm in Alexandria, Virginia right outside of D.C. At the firm, I am a research assistant. I compile research for whatever project my boss needs me to and then write up briefs and packets to inform my boss of what he needs to know to present it to his clients. Some of the clients my research has been sent to include the Electronic Security Association, which is the largest home and business security trade association in the country, the top weather companies in the country, including the National Weather Service and NOAA, and the National Association of State Agencies for Surplus Property (NASASP), which deals with government surplus property issues. It has been awesome knowing that the work I have been doing these past few weeks is actually being received by the top people in these companies for lobbying purposes. I have learned so much from my supervisor and have even been given the chance to go to Capitol Hill (see photo above) to help in the lobbying process of Representatives and Senators as well as to attend congressional hearings. Being in Washington, D.C. this summer has been one of the best experiences of my life.