Adventures of a Washington Intern

Abby Allen in Washington, D.C.Every semester, a handful of students from the nine UT System schools are selected to participate in the Bill Archer Fellowship Program in Washington D.C. The program involves taking three classes while working full-time in an internship for an organization of the student’s choosing. I participated in the Fall 2012 class of Archer Fellows and can say without exaggerating that last semester was the most important and exciting of my college career. Living in the nation’s capital is truly incredible. The Archer housing is in an amazing location right on Capitol Hill. On my daily commute to work, I passed the Supreme Court, the Capitol, the House and Senate offices, and the Library of Congress. On weekends it was an easy walk to the National Mall and any one of the free-admission Smithsonian Museums. D.C. offers a truly unique atmosphere that blends local culture (such as street festivals and neighborhood markets) with national pride and history.

While the program, like the city itself, is focused on policy making and government, it is open to students in all academic disciplines. About half the students in my class were political science majors, but the rest represented very diverse fields. We had several criminal justice students, economics and finance majors, and even pre-med and biology majors. As an English major, I had been concerned before applying to the program that I would feel behind in class, but the diversity actually enhances the class discussions.

Each semester, The Archer Center does an amazing job making sure that each class has an unforgettable semester by providing students with talks, tours, and other events. With the connections from the Archer Center, I was able to attend the Washington Ideas Forum, where I heard speeches from former Secretary of state Madeleine Albright, Senator Marco Rubio, and MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews. We toured the Capitol, the White House, the Pentagon, the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, and the Department of Energy. One of the perennial favorites of each cohort of Archers are the classes with Dr. Joel Swerdlow at different memorials across the city. We had class at the Lincoln Memorial, the FDR memorial, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Ford’s Theater, and the Newseum. These classes are one of the exciting opportunities presented by life in D.C.

The internship portion of the program opens up the possibility of working at one of the city’s many government offices or private-sector organizations. I worked for the Center For American Progress, a nonprofit, independent think tank that focuses on advancing progressive policies through research and advocacy. I worked in their Energy and Environmental Issues department doing research, writing blog posts, and attending panels and discussions around the city. The internships accepted by Archer Fellows are as diverse as the fellows themselves, and represent a cross-section of the many spheres of power and influence in the city. My class had fellows working in the White House, in Congressional offices and committees, and the State Department, as well as organizations such as the United Nations, the National Science Foundation, and NBC News. Even if one isn’t particularly interested in politics, Washington is a city that provides all kinds of opportunities in advocacy to work for a cause that one believes in.

I would definitely encourage any UT Arlington student with an interest in participating in the program to apply. The Archer Program is a unique opportunity to live and work with young people in a fascinating and vibrant city. The program virtually guarantees once-in-a-lifetime experiences, tremendous opportunities to work and learn, and the chance to develop friendships with diverse yet equally passionate individuals.

Whitney (Abigail) Allen
Energy Department Intern, Center For American Progress
Bill Archer Fellow, Fall Semester 2012
Honors B.A. in English, UT Arlington, December 2012