As a senior at the College, I’m faced with a lot of upcoming life decisions. I know that I want to continue my education and also find a job. But should I go to grad school right away? Do I instead apply for jobs? How will I fit in more schooling with a job schedule? It’s stressful! And it took until an interview for me to realize what exactly the best path for me could be.
An interviewer asked me if I would like to attend law school eventually as I was applying for a legally based position. I do, so she told me all about the flexible opportunities this employer had for their staff to attend part time law school while also working at the same time. At this moment, I understood that what they offered was essentially a larger Academic Internship Program (AIP), and I recognized the extremely high value of this type of experience.
During my junior year, I took an AIP course (Women and the Law) while interning with an immigration law firm. I had heard all about how learning is enhanced by real world experience, and I felt that in my learning. What this interview helped me realize was that Holy Cross provides an opportunity to trial how part time school and working at the same time could go. It will be less of an adjustment taking on a job and school when it comes time to begin another round of higher education.
AIP at Holy Cross not only elevates our academic experience, but it mirrors what employers may see as desirable learning conditions, at least in the case of law school. Being able to connect how you can become a better asset through a growing understanding of the subject matter is a desirable point to articulate when asked about your future plans if you intend to stick with a job for a while but also want to continue schooling. Further, being able to speak on the real world experience that you gained while also participating in a full class load remains to be impressive to the job market because you’ve demonstrated time management skills and professionalism.
AIP is a truly valuable program and a strong point of a Holy Cross education. It is one that employers recognize as an advantage to your potential as a part of their team, and it can really be a factor in how you choose to determine your future. If doing classes and interning was difficult to manage or you didn’t like it, then maybe part time school while working isn’t for you. And that’s ok! But, if you did find it achievable, the experience certainly builds confidence towards an uncertain future.
This spring, the Washington Semester Program will be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. To celebrate, Holy Cross will be hosting two events to commemorate the tremendous success of the program and its contributors from over the years. The first event will take place on April 12th in Washington, DC. Former Director of Speechwriting for Barack Obama and Holy Cross and Washington Semester alumni, Jon Favreau, will be giving the keynote speech. John Connelly, President of the National Fisheries Institute, will also be speaking about the NFI’s long relationship with Holy Cross students as the program hopes to continue building relationships with alumni and their agencies. A second event will take place on May 6th at Holy Cross for program alumni, faculty advisors and other contributors from around New England to celebrate. A panel of alumni will speak on their experiences with the program and contributions it made to their personal and professional lives. Additionally, the panel will feature experienced faculty advisors, highlighting the importance of the thesis component of the program. Finally, this event will celebrate the next recipient of the Vannicelli Washington Semester Away Program Award, recognizing the most outstanding thesis from each semester. The recipient will have the opportunity to share their findings and their presentation will spotlight the research component of the program. Both events will end with a reception and opportunity for people to mix and mingle.
The highly selective Washington Semester Program provides students opportunities for intellectual, personal, and professional growth. Fifty years ago, Professor David O’Brien was approached by a student interested in doing a directed study program in politics or public policy. Professor O’Brien coordinated with the student and his roommate to live in Washington, D.C. for a semester and intern for Representative Michael Harrington of Massachusetts. As time went on, interest continued to rise and within a few years the program was sending about five students to D.C. each semester. Current director Gary DeAngelis was hired thirty-four years ago to lead the then called Office of Special and Office of Experimental Studies. He organized marketing campaigns and altered the program’s structures and requirements to encourage more students to apply. The Washington Semester Program was eventually incorporated into the J.D. Power Center, dedicated to providing Holy Cross students with opportunities to explore experiential learning. Although it has evolved with time, the program’s emphasis on the seminar, theses, and internship as a way of providing a holistic experience has remained the same.
Throughout its history, the Washington Semester Program has continued to expand its rigorous standards and opportunities for students. Over the past few decades, the thesis and research components of the program have become more formalized, resembling its structure today. Holy Cross students work with a thesis advisor throughout the semester, helping the student develop their ideas and conduct their research. The growing rigor of the program has made it increasingly more competitive, attracting some of Holy Cross’ most outstanding and dedicated students. A final aspect of the program that has grown greatly over the years is the relationship between the program and various agencies in the Washington, D.C. area. The work done by Holy Cross students at their internship sites leaves a lasting impression on their supervisors and agencies. Each new class of students receives access to an extensive network of alumni and partners that are accessible and excited to work with them on sharing experiences and securing an internship. Throughout the program’s history, program participants have created a legacy that encourages numerous agencies to reach out to pursue Holy Cross students each year. Professor DeAngelis also travels each semester to Washington, D.C. to meet with students and their internship supervisors. Agencies see the commitment of Holy Cross to the Washington Semester Program but this also ensures that students are receiving a good experience and performing substantive work.
Today, the Washington Semester Program has over one thousand Holy Cross alumni and continues to evolve and grow. A distinctive strength of the Washington Semester Program is that it is interdisciplinary, drawing students from all majors and academic backgrounds. During the semester, the students take a seminar in public policy, taught by a long list of dedicated professors and currently by Professor Chris Murray. Because each student has a unique academic background the seminar calls on each person to expand on their perspectives and experiences at their internship, living out public policy in real time. As the three core components of the program, the seminar, thesis and internship have continued to evolve and integrate together, the program also now offers an exciting lineup of guests and speakers each semester. Students are exposed to a variety of experiences and professions while having the opportunity to network, ask questions, and discuss pressing issues with the speakers.
From its humble origins, the Washington Semester Program has achieved great success and features an impressive list of alumni. The program’s competitiveness and rigor has been mirrored by its participants, shining at their respective agencies and producing high quality research relating to their experiences in Washington, D.C. The prosperity of the program has continuously been supported by the commitment of alumni, thesis advisors, and agency partners and their contributions to the Washington Semester Program will be celebrated this spring.
Applications for next academic year’s Washington Semester Program (Fall 2022 and Spring 2023) will open on Friday, February 11th and close on Monday, February 21st. All interested students are encouraged to apply and to reach out to Professor DeAngelis and the J.D. Power Center with any questions!
My name is Rudy Antoncic and I am a senior Political Science major from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I am writing this guide with hopes that through sharing my experiences I will be able to assist fellow students who wish to enter federal service. To date I have interned at two federal agencies and assisted operations in over six different offices, including a recent stint this fall in the Director’s Front Office at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Working in these environments in conjunction with my education at Holy Cross have enhanced my College experience more than I could have possibly imagined over the past two years and has allowed me to participate in some tremendously gratifying work. Experiential learning is one of the single most effective ways to make yourself competitive and marketable to enter the extremely competitive atmosphere of the federal hiring process and this guide will show you how to use the programs available to you as a student at Holy Cross in order to do so.
Understanding Yourself and The Process
Before you start the journey of pursuing an internship on the federal level here are some things that you should understand. First, the process is extremely competitive, like any large firm or corporation it is not uncommon for thousands of people to apply for a single internship program, the federal government is no different. In order to stand out and put your best foot forward, have a well thought out reason for wanting to gain experience within an agency’s program and be prepared to articulate that reasoning effectively in writing and in an interview. Expressing knowledge of the agency’s mission and how your skillset may fit into and improve that mission while pursuing your own career ambitions is always a great strategy to market yourself for programs across the federal space. Simply ask yourself, Why do you want to work for this agency? What does their mission mean to me? And finally, How will I be value-added to this mission through my skill set? If you can answer these questions effectively and you feel that you will make positive contributions to the agency while achieving career progression you have already made yourself tremendously competitive. In short, be aware, be knowledgeable, and be an asset to the agency.
Second, the most valuable mental asset aside from your understanding of the agency, its mission, and how you will enhance that mission is flat out perseverance during the application process. The simple fact of the matter is that there are hundreds of highly competitive students vying for only a certain amount of spots each year in a given agency, inevitably this means that you may not get in on your first try, but it is imperative that you learn from the process and continue to apply yourself. Personally I have learned a tremendous amount throughout each hiring process I have been involved in and have used those experiences even if they didn’t pan out toward eventual successful applications. Do not be discouraged, keep trying and if nothing else this experience will prepare you extremely well for any other positions you may pursue even outside of the federal space.
Third, be aware of positions that require a security clearance process, the clearance process is only started after you are extended a conditional offer of employment by the agency. Positions that require a security clearance process are often posted months in advance of a potential start date so be aware of application due dates if the program in question requires one. There are many resources available online from official sources that will help you understand this process. Please note that different agencies often have different clearance requirements and processes so be sure to be knowledgeable about your agency’s standards and be sure to be prompt with any paperwork that the process requires. It may seem simple but quick submission of accurate paperwork will be a major asset to the entirety of the process.
Tools of the trade
Below are some of the essential items you will need to possess to have a successful hiring process. If you don’t have these components yet, work on finding them before you enter the internship application process at any agency you are applying for.
An Up to Date USAjobs Account: USAjobs is the U.S Government’s primary hiring website. Here you will find all of your internship job postings, however please note that not all agencies use USAjobs. Be sure to check agency websites for details of specific internship postings as well. Undergraduate students will usually qualify for unpaid internships and other programs within the GS-4 and below grade code range. Most applications for internship programs are fairly straightforward needing only a resume, cover letter, and transcripts. However, some of the programs (mainly unpaid internships) will require an interest statement to go along with the rest of your materials. Be sure to upload all of these materials to your USAjobs account and keep them up to date so you can quickly access them in your documents tab to apply to multiple positions of interest. Remember, perseverance is key, if at first you don’t succeed keep applying.
A Well Written Resume and Cover Letter: A thoughtfully constructed resume and cover letter combination are absolutely essential to a successful application. Federal hiring managers at various agencies review hundreds of resumes, well structured and well written content are the primary weapon to get you through the door to the interview stage at an agency. Constructing ironclad documentation to support your application takes hours of proofreading, which is a great opportunity to start using the resume and proofreading resources available at the Center for Career Development at Holy Cross. Remember, these documents are the agency’s first glimpse into who you are and what you could provide as an intern, first impressions are everything, if your paperwork stands out you will too.
An Up to Date List of Internship Deadlines: This “tool” may sound simple but it is a powerful strategy for applying to federal internship programs. As previously mentioned, federal internship applications sometimes open six months to a year in advance of a start date due to clearance processing and other requirements. If you are applying for multiple positions (which I highly recommend) be sure to chart out when due dates are and when positions open and have your most recent resume, cover letter, and transcripts ready to go to apply. I have seen time and again deadlines come and go for internship programs that qualified applicants have missed due to scheduling errors, be attentive with clock and calendar with regard to due dates and be prepared, do your research.
Awareness of Internship Options
There are many types of internships throughout the federal government but listed are some of the different categories of programs to choose from and look out for. First is the Virtual Student Federal Service or (VSFS). VSFS allows students to participate in project opportunities all throughout the federal government in a virtual environment with many top agencies including NASA, ODNI, and the U.S State Department to name a few options. VSFS is a great and affordable option for students to be involved with part time even while taking classes throughout their college career and is a great option to be paired with the Academic Internship Program offered through the J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World.
The second broad option is in person unpaid internships, most agencies have a general unpaid internship program in which undergraduate students can gain experience in their agency. These are wonderful opportunities to go to D.C. or other regions of the country and experience agency operations first hand and can easily be coupled with the Holy Cross D.C. semester program if the internship is in the D.C. area. The great part the federal government is that there are all sorts of opportunities to get involved whether you are a physics major wanting to study operations at NASA, a biology major interested in healthcare at the CDC or the NIH, or an aspiring teacher studying education policy at the U.S. Department of Education, the federal government will undoubtedly have a functional area to enrich your interests.
The third and final internship type are Pathways programs. Pathways programs are often paid internships that upon completion of your education program and the Pathways program requirements carry with them the opportunity to possibly convert into the federal government upon graduation. These programs are often the most highly sought after internship programs in the whole of the federal government for this reason are extremely competitive. If you have an opportunity to apply for one of these programs be sure to put your best foot forward as you will likely be competing with a wide variety of individuals vying for an opportunity to directly enter the federal government. Be sure to note that most pathways internship programs have application cut offs, for example if an application has a cut off of 100 applications the hiring officials will only consider applicants within the first 100 applicants, timing is often key for being considered.
All of these programs above can be used in conjunction with the Academic Internship Program and the Washington Semester program if you manage to secure a position in D.C., offered through the J.D. Power Center. These programs allow students to intern while still earning credit toward their degree. Not all schools offer this opportunity and as a Holy Cross student you should take advantage of the opportunity while you have it as the combination of real world experience and academic progression will put you in a distinct category of qualified applicants for possible conversion into full time positions when graduating college.
General Advice: Lessons Learned
After reading all of the information above you may have thought to yourself that I was sitting first in line my first year of college and with all of my paperwork ready to apply for my first federal job. This could not be any further from the truth. My journey to federal service started with me struggling tremendously my freshman year, having not a single idea of what I wanted to do with my professional career. No resume, no cover letter, no online application accounts, and not one clue of what I wanted to accomplish, needless to say I felt completely lost and struggled considerably my first several semesters on the Hill. However, my Montserrat professor one day noticed my situation and told me only two things, improve your writing skills and take a shot at the D.C. semester program or apply to the Academic Internship Program to see what I would want to do.
Three years later I completed both programs back to back my junior year amounting to over 9 full months of combined internship experience with a full class load. These programs completely changed the direction of my college career, allowed me to find direction in my work, and have the capacity to change your college experience as well. I fully understand how difficult finding what you’re passionate about can be and every time I mentor a student, I remember back to the way I felt when I myself was a struggling student who thought that I would never amount to much in my college career. My advice to students in the same situation is simple: Holy Cross is a small college where professors will know your name, will know your strengths and weaknesses, and more importantly be willing to help you. That’s one of the advantages of this institution, you have immediate access to people that will help you being it is such a small and personal environment. If you’re stuck, reach out to your advisors and use the career center, the J.D. Power Center, and other on campus resources to start exploring what is possible.
Experiential learning is a very powerful opportunity as it allows you to experience the real world in a controlled environment and allows you to find out how to perform successfully. The combination of meaningful experiences in both the classroom and practical real world work environment will allow you to out compete with the most elite students in the country and will without a doubt make you a better, more well rounded individual. Take the first step and be involved in your time here, you won’t be sorry that you did. If you follow this guide and equip yourself with the tools necessary to compete for these opportunities I have listed above as an underclassmen, you will be leagues ahead of where I was when I was in your shoes and most importantly will likely be able to have the opportunity to represent Holy Cross within the United State’s most influential institutions. Remember, be prepared, be professional, and most importantly never give up if you have a good reason to step up and get involved in federal service.
Every student knows the foundational principle of a Holy Cross education by heart; we are, and we become, men and women for and with others through the educational emphasis on learning for the greater benefit of the world. During my last four school years, each class that I have taken has given me a glimpse into how the information applies to the real world. Whether it’s discussing the politics of globalization or reading Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, my professors have always shown me the material’s relevance to the world, and what it can do for others, in whatever form that entails.
My academic experience of the mission, and the way that it’s grown within my intellectual pursuits would not be complete, however, without my participation in the various programs that the J.D. Power Center provides. Through classes, we learn how to understand the world and how we can think and act for others, but through experience, we learn how to act with others. This combination of class and experiential learning, understanding how the skills learned in the classroom apply to the world and to real people, is truly where the Jesuit mission at Holy Cross becomes evident.
My first experience with integrating my classes with the world was during the spring semester of 2021. I participated in the Academic Internship program and enrolled in the course Women and the Law while interning with an immigration law firm in Worcester. The course looked into the intricacies of the female experience under the law, and I was able to see many of the topics we discussed in real life during my work experience. I understood on a more complex level, how and why some of these clients were in the positions that they were in, and I was able to assist their cases much better because of the background knowledge I had from class. And the experience of my internship helped me better understand my class material as well because I had something to apply it to.
I have the same sentiment with my CBL component of one of my current courses. I’m working with the Accessibility Advisory Commission for the City of Worcester, and not only am I helping the city with an important project, but also, I’m applying what I learn in class to work for the and with the chairpersons of the commission all to benefit the residents of the city. The collaboration in the pursuit of service is made easier when I have the experience and the knowledge to do it.
The experiential learning programs that I have participated in within the J.D. Power Center has significantly enriched my learning, but most importantly going forward towards life after Holy Cross, it has expanded my ability to live our mission, men and women for and with others, throughout my life.
I spent the Fall 2020 semester participating in the Washington, D.C. Semester Program. This program was an experience that I was interested in before I had even applied to Holy Cross, so I was excited to begin the journey after my acceptance. I ultimately landed on an internship with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in their Security Operations and International Operations offices. What I valued most about my internship experience was the balance of autonomy and trust my supervisors gave me while also always working tirelessly to engage with me and find projects that fit my interests. My classes and professors at Holy Cross prepared me well to tackle all of the projects that I worked on. One example of this is that my supervisors frequently asked for my feedback and review on documents before they were submitted, valuing the writing and revising skills I had developed at Holy Cross. Going into my internship I took this knowledge, but also an open mind knowing that there was so much to learn in the work environment from my colleagues and projects I was doing. Although I was working almost entirely on Zoom, I was exposed to lots of new experiences, learned so much about both the TSA’s mission and connected my academic studies to foster intellectual and personal growth. As the J.D. Power Center’s mission is centered around experiential learning, my holistic experience in D.C. embodied all of its most important traits.
Washington, D.C. has so much knowledge to offer that I knew I wanted to expose myself to and educate myself on as much as possible. Experiential learning is synonymous with hands-on and visual learning, taking education from something that happens solely in the classroom to something that we immerse ourselves in every day. Other students in the program and I visited as many of the Smithsonian’s as we could, such as the National Zoo, Museum of American History, Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Air and Space Museum (Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center) in Virginia. We also took a tour of the Sully Historic Site (formerly Sully Plantation) and were fortunate enough to do a tour of the White House. Additionally, I took advantage of the motorized scooters around the National Mall and took in the various structures and statues along the way. All of these experiences were opportunities to learn and to engage with pieces of history first hand. This learning challenged us intellectually but there was also a social – emotional aspect that made it even more powerful. The Washington Semester Program provided me with new opportunities to connect information I had learned in the classroom to real-world situations to find even deeper meanings. This learning also helped build a better sense of appreciation and built upon the liberal arts foundation that Holy Cross offers.
For my thesis project I wanted to expand on my internship with the TSA and academic interests and explore a topic with real world ramifications. I was working closely with the International Affairs office and as an International Studies major I knew this was the perfect blend. Through my work at the TSA, I learned about their dedication to aviation security and that on an international scale its administration can get messy. I found in my initial research that aviation is a crucial part of our world, so I categorized it as a global public good or a good that is critical to the well-being of the citizens of the world. Throughout the writing process I developed my central thesis statement and ultimately focused on the international ramifications of private-public partnerships and increasing international bodies’ ability to regulate the supply of global public goods. I was fortunate enough to win the Vannicelli Award for the most outstanding thesis produced in my semester in the Washington Program. Last month, I presented my research and findings to the campus community and was honored to share a piece of the hard work I put into my thesis. I learned more about this topic than I ever could have imagined, but it was also an opportunity to strengthen my writing and research skills which will be valuable for any path in the future. My experience in the Washington Program inspired me to become a Center Ambassador for the J.D. Power Center during my senior year and to begin pursuing opportunities in International Affairs after graduation. Finally, the work that I did at the TSA, lessons from the classroom and experiences traveling around the city have fostered the tools I need to be successful both academically and professionally.
The Academic Internship Program that’s supported by the J.D. Power Center consistently offers enriching opportunities to synthesize both academics and real world experiences through its seminars that are exceedingly interesting and relevant to world affairs. One of these seminars, Policy and Politics in America, taught by former congressman Tim Bishop ‘72 and longtime political consultant Peter Flaherty ‘87, is an impressive academic course centered on student engagement with the real world of politics. The winter 2019 issue of the Holy Cross Magazine reported that through the mission of fostering opportunities for experiential learning in mind, the J.D. Power Center supported the creation of this course to cover experiences in and around politics. Two educators were then selected so that the course did not have a partisan bias. This course intends to provide students with comprehensive understandings of important House and Senate races in midterm elections, particularly the 2022 midterm elections, in tandem with the following result’s consequences on policy debates. One of the goals that this seminar has is to transcend partisanship and engage in more productive political conversations. Guided by well qualified instructors and frequent guest speakers, students participate in high level discussions and develop deeper comprehension of the political system in the United States and of the various career opportunities that grow alongside government ones such as grassroots organizing, voter outreach, and campaigning.
The co-teachers, Mr. Bishop and Mr. Flaherty, both also exemplify how purple runs deep, and that the Holy Cross community is full of support networks and exciting connections. Bishop graduated from Holy Cross in 1972, followed by his brother Chris ‘74, and he has remained in contact with a fair number of his classmates, including Fr. Hayes of the Chaplains’ Office. Flaherty graduated from Holy Cross in 1987. His brother, Chip, graduated in 1986, his son, Peter Flaherty III graduated in 2021, and two nieces are alumnae and one is a current student. Even though 15 years and differing political orientations may seem to separate these two alumni, they really do practice what they preach. Coming from different backgrounds has not been a barrier between a joyful friendship built on mutual admiration. Teaching a seminar, engaging students, and inspiring up and coming political leaders, has further forged their bond, and this is reflected in the strength of their course.
Bishop’s favorite part of teaching the seminar is interacting throughout the years with “uniformly impressive” students. He says that they are consistently, “bright, engaged, committed, interested in playing their part to make the world a better place, and also committed to the central ethos of HC-education for others.” Flaherty echoes this sentiment as he says, “The prism through which the Holy Cross students see the political landscape is rooted in an admirable and refreshing selflessness with an eye toward contributing to solutions, rather than focusing on divisive rhetoric.” This praise of students is hopeful for the future of our country considering both he and Peter Flaherty have supported a fair amount of students in getting jobs in politics, government, political consulting, and more. Notably, with Flaherty’s help, a class of 2019 graduate, Carter Mitchell, obtained a position with a political consulting firm. Mitchell will also be a guest lecturer for the class on October 26. Students who have taken this course also have held a various array of internships that adds interactions with colleagues and coworkers to the academic experience. Some of the internships that students in the course hold this semester are with the Federalist Society, Worcester Court Service Center, Framingham Centre Common Cultural District, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Worcester District Attorney’s Office, Gray Panthers NYC Network, City of Worcester Elections Committee, Coresight Research. There are often students in gubernatorial and congressional internships and respective campaigns as well.
To expand upon to the course’s relevancy to current political conversations, the co-teachers consistently bring in highly qualified guest speakers. Some of the names on the expansive list include:
Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Governor Walz of Minnesota, Governor Inslee of Washington, Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, Representative Linda Sanchez of California and Representative Adam Schiff of California, former Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III, Former White House Chief of Staff under President George H.W. Bush and former Governor of New Hampshire John Sununu, Former U.S. Senator and U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown, Former Whitehouse Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Barack Obama Campaign Manager David Plouffe, President Obama Senior Advisor David Axelrod, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Jamie Harrison, Pollster for President Trump James McLaughlin, and pollster for Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg Jef Pollock, one of President Trump’s lead attorneys Jay Sekulow, political consultant John Lapp, Dana Bash, John Berman, Chris Cuomo and Kasie Hunt of CNN, Phil Rucker and Ashley Parker of the Washington Post, and more.
Students in Policy and Politics in America have the priceless opportunity to hear from high powered figures with diverse voices and opinions. The guest speakers hail from almost every aspect of politics, from elected officials, big names in media news, and everything in between. Every speaker brings important insight to the class that helps further mutual understandings of politics and the reality of the political sphere. Bishop says that, “listening to both Jim Clyburn and Jamie Harrison speak about growing up Black in rural South Carolina and then rising to the heights they have achieved was both powerful and inspiring, and hearing a no nonsense guy like Governor Sununu talk about his focus on results as opposed to politics was a real lesson in what is missing in our current political discourse.”
The mission of this course was reiterated by October 19th’s guest speaker, Congressman Andy Kim of New Jersey, who said that there’s a current desire from the nation for more humble and grounded politics. That’s exactly what Bishop and Flaherty aim to teach and instill in Policy and Politics in America, and they are having excellent success with it.