Emily Feenstra (CMU’13) meticulously straightens her skirt and re-tucks her blouse as she walks closer and closer to the grand entranceway. She gazes in excitement at the alabaster bastion of prestige coming more into focus. It’s like a fairytale castle. But she’s certainly no Cinderella. As she nears her destination, a slew of tourists huddle outside the gates, taking pictures, hoping to see one of the residents waving from the multitude of windows.
Beaming with pride, Feenstra produces her access card and walks through the barricades toward the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex. Out of thousands of applicants vying for the White House Internship Program, she was among the 148 aspiring politicians selected.
She always knew she wanted to get involved with community development. Before working at the White House, she taught English in the Sacred Valley in Peru and later volunteered with a women’s health non-profit in Nicaragua. However, she knew there was so much work to be done in her own country, which is why she applied for the summer internship. With a strong volunteer and academic background, she was selected and placed in the White House’s Office of Management and Administration.
On day one, as she walks by the West Wing, she feels a tingle of excitement. Once she gets settled and learns what’s expected of her, she can’t help but laugh to herself. She will be the intern who helps manage the internship program—accountable for programming and placing volunteers just like her.
One week later, it’s orientation day, and one of her responsibilities involves distributing demographic surveys. During the hand out, she takes in everyone’s name tags, amazed by the varied offices: domestic policy, national economic policy, digital strategy, legislative affairs, to name only a few. After a few introductory lectures, everyone scurries off to their respective duties, and Feenstra starts recording all of the surveys and making charts.
As the days pass, she’s not called into any meetings with President Barack Obama. And the administrative work can seem tedious at times. No matter, though, because even after the internship ends, she says the thrill of that workplace remains: “Although I wasn’t working directly for the President, I think he was my boss seven times removed, there still existed a very high-pressure environment that all tasks needed to be executed with the same precision as if they were going to be delivered to the President.”
—Molly McCurdy (A’10)