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Washington, D.C. program offers interning adventure for Loyola students

Washington, D.C. program offers interning adventure for Loyola students
By Maggie Sullivan, SoC reporter
 

In the midst of one of the most controversial presidential elections in U.S. history, eleven Loyola students are in the center of it all for Loyola’s inaugural semester in Washington, D.C.

This intensive internship program gives students the opportunity to explore their professional areas of interest while exploring the capitol.

“Most students start their D.C. experience a little green,” said Program Director Susan Dimock. “Everything is a bit overwhelming and then little by little, students figure it all out and gain confidence. It’s just wonderful to be part of that experience to watch a student grow and develop their own professional interests.”

The Loyola School of Communication partnered with the Department of Political Science to develop the program last year. Students of varying majors gain class credit for working four days a week at an internship placement unique to their individual skills.

Senior sociology major Herrah Hussain is interning at the office of U.S. Representative Danny K. Davis, a Democrat from Chicago.

“It’s been amazing,” she said. “This is my first internship and it’s not at all what I expected, I’m getting to do a lot more than I anticipated.”

One of the benefits of interning in Washington, D.C. is the proximity to change makers, so students can help push the ball forward about any issue they are passionate about by working for non-profit organizations, think tanks, government offices and more. In her placement, Hussain is dealing with issues that are important to her, like homelessness, unemployment, and insurance.

Senior psychology major Maria Rivera is interning at Berger Hirschberg, a Democratic fundraising firm. She is enjoying her responsibilities so far and is making the most of networking opportunities so she can get closer to her goal of working for the U.S. Department of Justice.

The demanding schedule has taught Rivera to plan more and procrastinate less.

“I had to learn how to get into a new routine because work is my main focus now, not class,” she said.

Students are able to choose from a few night class offerings taught by Loyola faculty to earn additional credits. The courses build on students’ internship experiences and offer deeper insight into history, politics and communication.

But the primary learning is hands-on and done outside the classroom.

Interning at in the nation’s capital gives students exposure to a political world that Chicago doesn’t have. Especially this election year, political dialogue is more present in conversation and in the classroom.

And Washington is somewhat of an internship mecca. “D.C. runs on interns,” Dimock said. “Pretty much everyone takes interns and they have for years. They know what work they want to assign to interns and they have better organizational structures to accommodate interns.”

Although it is her first year with Loyola, Dimock has been working with interns in D.C. for many years, most recently running a program in Washington for the University of Illinois.

“D.C. has a lot to offer. I wish I’d done this when I was a student,” she said.

The experience is something Don Heider, Dean of the School of Communication would recommend to any high-achieving student who is motivated to gain practical knowledge.

“We’re so excited to be able to start a program in D.C. that almost any student might find useful, whether they are a journalism, advertising, advocacy or public relations major,” Heider said. “They can get a semester’s worth of a credit, do an amazing internship and take courses cross-listed between communication and political science.”

Last spring, when the program was introduced, Rivera was on the fence about applying. As a commuter student, leaving her family for a city she had never been to was intimidating. Now, she sees it as an adventure.

“I’m so glad I applied. There are people with all sorts of majors and perspectives and I’ve gotten really close to some of them,” she said. “This city is fantastic. I feel proud being here; it’s treated me so well.”