A Capital Semester Presidential Leadership Journey: Jefferson’s Monticello


Written by Matt Phister – Coordinator, Capital Semester | Leadership & the American Presidency – Fall | Legal Studies Institute

The third and final stop on the Capital Semester students’ “presidential tour” was a visit to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Monticello served as Jefferson’s home during his five decades of public service including author of the Declaration of Independence, third US President, Secretary of State, and founder of the University of Virginia. The students had a chance to tour the estate and surrounding grounds to learn about Jefferson’s life, inventions and legacy.

What did you learn about leadership from visiting Monticello?Monticello 2

“I learned that no matter how great a leader someone is, they’re still human. They still make mistakes. Thomas Jefferson was instrumental in building this country but he wasn’t always making the best decisions in relation to how we see things today. This doesn’t mean he wasn’t a great leader; just that he’s a person that didn’t make perfect choices his entire life. Even the best leaders aren’t flawless, and I think that’s important to remember.” – Haley Britzky, Texas Tech University, Internship: The Hill

“I learned that leadership cannot stand on its own without communication and innovation. Communication is essential to leadership because it is the driving factor that helps the team transition from the creation of an idea to the execution and deliverance of the targeted final product. Innovation is something that I discovered walking through Jefferson’s home at Monticello, and it taught me that there are a number of ways to approach a problem, and finding new, more efficient ways can contribute to the effectiveness of a leader.” – Chris Julius, University of Colorado – Denver, Internship: The Roosevelt Group

“I learned that being a leader doesn’t mean that you know everything; a good leader continues to grow and learn.” – Marianne March, Georgia State College, Internship: Hewlett Packard Enterprise

“Monticello made me realize that there are all types of leadership styles. After visiting Lincoln’s cottage and Thomas Jefferson’s estate, their different choices in their ways of living and where they desired to reflect says a lot about how they led the country.” – Gabrielle Quintana, University of Florida, Internship: US Office of Government Ethics

What did you learn about Thomas Jefferson during the visit?

“I learned that he was constantly improving Monticello. We all hear how smart he was, how he read so many books, but he turned an estate into his project – the more he learned and grew, the more the plantation grew. He modeled his home after architecture in other countries that he was studying at the time; he was always improving and innovating.” – Haley Britzky, Texas Tech University, Internship: The Hill

“Something I learned about Thomas Jefferson is that Jefferson was clever and intelligent. From being able to teach himself multiple languages while growing up, to the number of quirky ideas fitting his household, Jefferson’s Monticello helped me realize the importance of using the intellect to aspire creative inventions.” – Chris Julius, University of Colorado – Denver, Internship: The Roosevelt Group

“One thing that I learned about Thomas Jefferson during the visit was that he extremely invested in architecture and was knowledgeable in a number of languages.” – Gabrielle Quintana, University of Florida, Internship: US Office of Government Ethics

Why do you think it’s important to study historical figures such as Thomas Jefferson? 

“Studying Thomas Jefferson gives us a better sense of how we got to where we are today. The founding fathers didn’t just show up and have it all figured out, they struggled and fought for what they wanted. It shows us how brave they were and how strong in their convictions they were. It demonstrates the kind of bravery and strength we should strive for as Americans.” –  Haley Britzky, Texas Tech University, Internship: The Hill

“Studying historical figures such as Thomas Jefferson not only allows students to visualize the time periods these individuals lived in, but if taken seriously, can inspire students to emulate the leadership qualities each student deems is possible to apply in their academic, personal and professional roles.” – Chris Julius, University of Colorado – Denver, Internship: The Roosevelt Group

“It’s important to study historical figures like Thomas Jefferson because even though he lived in a different era and accomplished many things, he was still a person. The realities of his life don’t take away from his accomplishments; they show future leaders that people, despite their faults, can still contribute to society in an impactful way.” – Marianne March, Georgia State College, Internship: Hewlett Packard Enterprise

For more information on our semester and summer programs visit

A Capital Semester Presidential Leadership Journey: Lincoln’s Cottage

Written by Matt Phister – Coordinator, Capital Semester | Leadership & the American Presidency – Fall | Legal Studies Institute

The second stop on the Capital Semester students’ ‘presidential tour’ was a visit to President Lincoln’s Cottage. The students had the opportunity to learn more about the experiences and struggles that shaped his presidency within the larger context of the Civil War.LC 5 (2)

What did you learn about President Lincoln and his leadership from visiting Lincoln’s Cottage:

“I learned that Lincoln relied on people that did not agree with him and used them to test his ideas. This idea of not using “yes men” shows that Lincoln wanted his ideas to be well rounded and appeal to the majority of people. Lincoln saw the criticism coming from his advisers and used that to improve his ideas.” – Patrick Dupeire, Flagler College, Internship: The Dershowitz Group  LC 1 (2)
“Lincoln’s cottage shows that while he was a great man, he still was human and made mistakes.” – Patrick Dupeire, Flagler College, Internship: The Dershowitz Group 

LC 4 (2)“At Lincoln’s cottage, I learned that he chose advisers that weren’t agreeable or loyal to him in the beginning, and he turned that initial animosity into teamwork by making his advisers feel valuable and respected. I think Lincoln understood, and now I understand, that a leader must have both the ability to think about proposed solutions and ideas on their own merit, and the ability to care for other’s personal feelings, goals, and aspirations to yield.” – Erika Stablow, Irvine Valley College, Internship: Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation

For more information on our semester and summer programs, click here.

A Capital Semester Presidential Leadership Journey: Mount Vernon

Written by Matt Phister – Coordinator, Capital Semester | Leadership & the American Presidency – Fall | Legal Studies Institute

Along with its numerous historical monuments, national treasures and breathtaking landscape, Washington, DC and the surrounding area is graced by the homes of several of America’s founding fathers.

This spring, Capital Semester students had the opportunity to learn, explore, and remember the life and legacy of several of these great leaders. Read the reflections on their trip to George Washington’s Mount Vernon below:

What did you learn about George Washington and leadership during your trip to Mount Vernon?

“I learned that leadership is often about not giving up. In the video “We Fight to Be Free” they showed George Washington steadfastly leading soldiers in the French and Indian MV 2War, repeatedly getting back onto horses and telling the troops where to go. It was this tenacity that proved invaluable in his future leadership.”  – Friedl Nugent, University of Ozarks, Internship: Peace Corps

“At Mount Vernon, what stuck with me most about Washington and his leadership style was how hospitable and selfless he was to his contemporaries! Leadership requires patience and a willingness to help others!” – Erika Stablow, Irvine Valley College, Internship: Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation

“George Washington was a servant leader who put the men under his command first. This style of leadership made Washington a successful leader and those under him knew they could trust him because if he would not do something, his men would not do it either.” – Patrick Dupeire, Flagler College, Internship: The Dershowitz Group  MV 1

“I never really knew how highly Americans thought of George Washington. They really admired his leadership and didn’t want to disappoint him. I also learned that after he won the war he had all the power and he could have declared himself a king but instead he gave the power back to the people.”  – Jerel Ballard, Columbia College Chicago, Internship: kglobal

Check back to read about their visit to Lincoln’s Cottage. For more information on our semester and summer programs, click here.

A TFAS Alumna’s Life on the Campaign Trail

Written by Joe Starrs, Director – Institute on Political Journalism and US Programs

Since TFAS alumna Samantha Jo Roth completed the DC INTERNSHIPS Capital Semester Program a few years ago, she has not slowed down one bit. Samantha-Jo has been covering the 2016 Presidential race for over a year as a multimedia reporter for the Huffington Post. Her work has appeared on a variety of news programs including: The Huffington Post, WOI-TV in Des Moines, ABCNews.com, CNN.com, Washington Week and CBS Evening News. Samantha-Jo grew up in Scottsdale, AZ and graduated magna cum laude from the Honors College at the University of Arizona, with a degree in political science and a minor in international reporting. We caught up with her last week and asked her what it’s been like to cover the race to the White House.

What was the best part of being on the Campaign Trail?

This picture was taken right before the Democratic Presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa on November 14, 2015.

This picture was taken right before the Democratic Presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa on November 14, 2015.

The best aspect of being on the campaign trail is being able to assess everything happening on the ground first-hand. I enjoy talking to voters, traveling to campaign field offices and discussing strategy with staffers. Being on the ground gives me the opportunity to discover trends and themes often far before any polls or pundits spot them. For example, as I traveled across the state of Iowa with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX.) in early January, I began to realize that he was gaining the support of voters who previously supported Donald Trump and Ben Carson. It was a trend that wasn’t really acknowledged until right before the Iowa caucus on February 1.

As I’ve traveled around the country, the story line continues to shift. Each state, town and city is completely different than the next, and I work hard to highlight local color and context.

Covering the Kansas caucus on March 5, 2016.

Covering the Kansas caucus on March 5, 2016.

What were some tough times covering the Presidential campaign?
Covering the Presidential campaign has been such a privilege, but I have to admit it’s a tough lifestyle. The schedule is inconsistent, there’s a lot of traveling involved and it’s exhausting. I have been covering the election as a one-woman band – shooting, writing, reporting and live-tweeting as I go. It’s difficult sometimes, but I know the skills I’ve developed this cycle will benefit me as I move forward in my career.


Was there anything in particular that surprised you?
I’ve been covering the election for over a year, far before any of these candidates even announced they were running. In that time, I’ve gotten to know some of them really well, and at first I was really surprised. Several candidates know me by name, and have even approached me on the trail wanting to talk about one of my stories. It’s pretty amazing to know that my work is being seen by such a large audience, including the candidate I’m covering. I have also had the opportunity to attend a few off-the-record dinners with both candidates and their staff. Those experiences are rare but especially rewarding.

Here I am on Ted Cruz's right during a press gaggle following a campaign event at a shooting range in December.

Here I am on Ted Cruz’s right during a press gaggle following a campaign event at a shooting range in December.

Any funny stories you’d like to share?
I have so many stories, but one of my favorites was when I covered former Governor Rick Perry early in the cycle. Every time I interviewed him, he would say, “Samantha-Jo, with a name like that you belong in Texas.” It happened so often that his staff apologized to me, but I thought it was so funny.

Follow Samantha Jo on Twitter: @SamanthaJoRoth

For more information on our summer and semester programs, please visit www.DCinternships.org


TFAS Aluma Returns to DC for Position with Internship site

Abigail Martin, an alumna of the Institute on Political Journalism and California State University – Fresno, recently moved back to Washington, DC. Abby interned for Adfero Public Relations during her summer with TFAS, and now serves as the Assistant Account Executive. Abby has some advice for students who are considering attending one of our programs.

If you’re still on the fence about joining The Fund for American Studies, stop and read this.

abby 2There are three important reasons why participating in the Institute on Political Journalism will open doors to career opportunities you’d never imagined. See how I landed the career of my dreams by joining the Institute on Political Journalism last summer.

Location, Location, Location

It’s D.C. The nation’s capital. Arguably, the central hub for news, public relations, nonprofits, law and of course, politics. This is why D.C. attracts the best of the best in each field – ambitious, industry-leading people. For this reason, regardless of your internship placement, it’s very likely that you’ll impress future employers simply by having work experience in D.C. I, along with my two roommates, was hired full-time after completing IPJ last summer. We all agree that having work experience in D.C. was essential in getting our resumes in the “interview” pile.

Invaluable Professional Network

Between your peers, TFAS sponsored events and your internship, you’re sure to meet people who can greatly affect your career. You’ll be surprised at how many influential people I connected with last summer – from White House correspondents to award-winning CEOs. My classmates were just as impressive, bringing a diversity of educational backgrounds and ideas that will shape our future. Every hand you shake and new business card in your wallet gets you one step closer to your career goals.

Industry KnowledgeAbby 1

Whether or not you decide to pursue your career in D.C. in the future, the knowledge you’ll gain from working in industry-leading workplaces will set you apart from your competitors. You will learn a lot from your employers if you aren’t afraid to jump into projects. In eight weeks, I fine-tuned my writing skills, defined my digital media skill set and conducted large-scale communication strategies. Just imagine what you’ll be doing a few months from now.

Where am I now? I’m working for a strategic communication agency in the heart of D.C. I’ve been published on a number of websites, written and conducted advertising campaigns for clients and successfully implemented grassroots advocacy campaigns that have impacted federal legislation. But here’s the cherry on top: On sunny days, I have my lunch in Lafayette Square, enjoying the view of the Washington Monument peaking high above the White House.

Join TFAS, it will change your life.

For more information on our six summer programs, visit www.DCinternships.org.

It’s a Small World: 3 TFAS Alumni Working for Dallas Morning News

Until mid-January, three TFAS alumni working in downtown Dallas didn’t even realize they were all alumni of the Institute on Political Journalism.

Dana Amihere, Tristan Hallman and Charlie Scudder have reconnected at Dallas Morning 3 alumsNews (DMN). Each says TFAS played a role in helping them find their path in the world of journalism.

“TFAS encourages us to take risks and to try things that are different,” says Amihere.  “So I think that element of IPJ makes DMN a really good fit. At DMN things are more lively. People are really excited about doing good journalism, chasing a story idea that’s never been done before and presenting it in a completely unorthodox way.”

Scudder says his internship experience through TFAS at the Gannett Washington bureau of USA Today helped him learn how to tell stories in a new way.

“I was reporting for a large number of local papers around the country,” Scudder said. “I had to find a way to take a story and make sure that it was relevant for everyone and for specific audiences and make it applicable to readers. Those skills are specifically from TFAS, and they’re still with me.”

To read the full article, please click here. If you are interested the Institute on Political Journalism, please visit www.DCinternships.org/IPJ. 

Alumni Get Social and Share Their TFAS Experience

A student recently accepted to the Institute on Political Journalism (IPJ) posted on our Facebook wall asking: “I was just accepted into the IPJ program for this summer, and I am very excited, but I’d like to hear about whether the cost was worth it from some alumni of the program. Is it worth it to have political experience in DC? I’d love to hear about your experience as soon as possible!”

Over the next few hours, IPJ alumni filled the Facebook thread sharing their experience, where they are now and how IPJ helped them get there.

Tom Corrigan – IPJ 2011
Reporter, The Wall Street Journal
It was well worth it for me -I think very highly of TFAS and IPJ. They’ve been influential and exceptionally generous since I was just starting out in journalism. I went to grad school after TFAS (one of my IPJ professors wrote a recommendation for me), and then I eventually got a reporting job with The Wall Street Journal. IPJ can definitely give you a solid stepping stone to a career in journalism, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Elizabeth Jia – IPJ 2005
Multi-Media Journalist, WUSA-TV CBS
I’d say TFAS provides a comprehensive experience of Washington beyond being a tourist. You are not only seeing the sights, you’re meeting people who may be helpful to your future journalism endeavors. These connections have allowed me to learn about my industry in-depth through interacting with alums and the director. I headed the IPJ alumni roundtable last year and I got to hear from participants working in places that I’ve wanted to know more in broadcasting. So it’s the access to people that makes this program effective. (The food is also a perk :))

Samantha Jo J Roth – Capital Semester 2013
Freelance Television Reporter
I would absolutely recommend the TFAS program to anyone. I was offered multiple jobs right out of school in TV News, I took one in Des Moines, Iowa (market 72) and was the chief political reporter. Eventually, I left and was recruited to work for the Huffington Post to cover the Iowa caucuses and the primaries. I absolutely believe my internship experience in DC helped me land that first job as a political reporter in one of the most important states leading up to the election. I would also say the program is really what you make of it. Soak up every experience while you’re in town and go above and beyond in your internship. The news business is extremely small, and making connections in DC while you’re still in college is extremely valuable! Good luck!

Jessica Taylor – IPJ 2005
Political Reporter, National Public Radio
The program was invaluable to helping me make connections I wouldn’t have been able to make on my own and in helping me break into DC journalism. My internship at the National Journal led to me being hired by them right after I graduated, and then connections I made through that internship helped me land jobs at Politico, and I went on to work at NBC News, The Hill and other publications before landing at NPR. I’m constantly meeting people in DC journalism who did the program too. The program teaches you a lot about how DC works and most importantly helps you get that foot in the door that’s so hard to do on your own. I absolutely wouldn’t be where I am in my career today without TFAS and IPJ.

Brianna Broad – IPJ 2011
Senior Account Executive, kglobal public relations
I agree with all of the above. Definitely worth and is a great experience. Not only did I meet my current boss (which got me the job!) through the program, I learned a lot, had a great young professional experience and met awesome people. Hope this helps!

Jake Batsell – IPJ 1994
Journalism Professor, SMU
I can truly say that summer changed my life. I got tons of clips working for The Arizona Republic’s D.C. bureau, learned a lot in my classes and, most importantly, met friends and colleagues with whom I remain in contact more than two decades later. I’m now a journalism professor at SMU in Dallas, and last year I encouraged one of my own students to attend IPJ. She did, and had a wonderful experience.

Aubree Eliza Weaver – IPJ 2011
IPJ was probably one of the best summers of my life and really helped open a lot of doors for me career-wise. Honestly, without the program, I’m not sure I’d have been able to get my foot in the door in such a competitive field in an equally competitive city. Even now, it always surprises me how often I run into fellow IPJ alumni and how much we all work to help each other out. Good luck and I really hope you give it a chance!

Daniel Wiser Jr. – IPJ 2012
Assistant Editor, National Affairs
For my career, it was an invaluable experience. My participation in IPJ helped me obtain internships and/or jobs at the Washington Times, Washington Free Beacon, and now National Affairs, and I also met mentors and friends that I still keep in touch with. If your goal is to make inroads in the D.C. journalism community, this is one of the best opportunities out there.