Program Advisor TFAS Testimonial – Bettina

Written by Bettina Canuto – 2016 Program Advisor, Institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary Service

I have always been interested in internships and after coming to Washington, DC in the summer of 2014 for a Higher Education Summit, I instantly fell in love with the city. I learned about The Fund for American Studies when my professor shared a flyer for their programs. The opportunity of coming back to DC was very enticing, but the idea of a whole month interning and living in the busy bustling city was nerve-wracking. However, I went on with the application, and my life changed when I received my acceptance email, an array of opportunities opened up to me.BC1

I interned for Mentors, Inc. which is a nonprofit organization that is devoted to matching high school students in the DC with a mentor, and gives them the resources necessary to succeed and pursue higher education. Through my first initial video interview with three members of Mentors, Inc., I felt confident that this organization would be a good fit for my interests, but I was nervous and concerned about what I would be doing. However, this internship changed my life for the better, created long-term friendships and a sense of professionalism that I wasn’t exposed to in the past. I worked with the mentor side of the operations and became very hands on in the process. I was also able to attend mentor interviews and sit in on council meetings with community leaders. Interning for an organization that gave me these experiences and genuinely looked out for my well-being is something I will never forget.

I was fortunate to intern with two other IPVS students. They, along with my roommate Katherine, turned from being strangers to essentially being family. My summer would not have been as memorable if it wasn’t for Katherine. We did everything together, from making dinner to visiting every possible museum. The 4-week program went by so fast that the next thing we knew, we were packing to go back home.

BC2This experience opened so many doors and opportunities for me. I advise future TFAS students to get out there and make friends. Make memories so that one day, you can tell everyone you know that you were there to make a change not only for yourself but also for your community. Get out of your comfort zone, get lost while taking the Metro, eat homemade Pop Tarts, visit free museums and take in the history that is Washington DC. The summer you spend with TFAS is a memory that will forever be engraved in your mind and the connections and friendships you make will run for life — and I know that every TFAS alumni can vouch for the same testament.

Program Advisor TFAS Testimonial – Rachel S.

Written by Rachel Sullivan – 2016 Program Advisor, Institute on Business and Government Affairs 

RS2During a semester abroad in Rome during the spring of 2015, I was trying to figure out what on earth I was going to do when I returned to the United States that summer. The constant gelato consumption and traveling had not distracted me from the fact that as a rising junior at University of Dallas, I still had never had a ‘real-life’ work experience. Fortunately, my friend Emma Polefko, a fellow UD student and this summer’s IPJ Program Advisor, recommended that I apply for a summer with The Fund for American Studies. I applied and was thrilled to find out that I was accepted to the Institute on Business and Government Affairs.

Where do I begin? To completely honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to spend a summer with TFAS. But I am so thankful that I did! In all the craziness of living, learning and interning in DC, I thrived.

I interned with the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) on their Public RS5Policy team. ASAE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to representing associations and individual association professionals. My supervisor immediately took me under her wing and gave me a variety of challenging projects. On any given day, I was researching, writing, attending meet-and-greets with Congressmen and seeing my hard work make a real impact.

There was a lot of overlap between what I was learning in my internship and what I was learning in my Economics of Regulations class at George Mason University. We had to write a final memo paper on a pending regulation for the class. It was during this summer that the Public Policy team at ASAE was keeping a close eye on some troubling and vague legislation in China which would severely regulate foreign-based nonprofits. It was so refreshing to be able to apply what I had learned in the economics class to something I was doing in ‘real life’ and a real issue facing associations all around the world.

RS4Besides my individual internship activities and attending class, perhaps the most important aspect of my summer with TFAS was developing close friendships. I became friends with students from all over the world–China, DR CongoSlovakia, Singapore and more. It was incredible to be exposed to so many different backgrounds, beliefs and ideas. Since then, three of those close friends have already come to visit me in Texas!

I have so many memories of all of our adventures together in DC – getting caught in torrential downpours, eating far too much ice cream, watching the sunset from the Lincoln Memorial, sitting on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol for fireworks on the 4th of July, visiting all of the free museums, and of course, attending all of the events that TFAS organizes.RS1

TFAS gives you every opportunity to pursue your dreams, get out of your comfort zone and have an incredible summer. That being said, you can’t wait around for good things to happen to you; you need to make them happen yourself. Work hard, learn as much as you can, and get to know the other students, professors, the TFAS staff and people you work with at your internship. These relationships will continue long after your eight weeks in DC quickly come to an end.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from my summer with TFAS is that any experience is only what YOU make of it. So my challenge to you is to jump in with both feet this summer. Treat every single day like an adventure and an opportunity to thrive.

Program Advisor TFAS Testimonial – Kate

Written by Kate Kielceski – 2016 Program Advisor, Institute on Economics and International Affairs 

Ever since making the decision to major in Political Science, I knew I wanted to spend a summer in Washington, DC. I came across dozens of internships and programs in my research but none of them stood out to me quite like DC Internships. The program seemed almost too good to be true. I applied, was accepted to the Institute on Economics and International Affairs, and had unrealistically high expectations for my experience. But my summer with TFAS was everything I could have hoped for and more.

My interest and experience in politics, international affairs, anKate K 1d human rights landed me an internship placement at the Boroumand Foundation for Human Rights in Iran. I worked closely with the staff and department heads and had opportunities to voice my opinions and make valuable contributions to the organization’s mission and goals. I conducted research for a report to be sent to the United Nations, drafted posts for the organization’s blog, and helped develop the Foundation’s online memorial to Iranians who have been victims of unjust capital punishment. Through my internship, I gained insight into what it’s like to work in Washington, made lasting connections, and learned a lot about my passions and myself.

Outside of the workplace, TFAS also helped me to further both my studies and my professional development. Along with other students in the IEIA program, I took a class on International Economics at George Mason University. This course taught me a lot about economic theory and global political economy and provided me with an opportunity to earn credits toward my major back at my home university. In addition to coursework, TFAS also organized a number of professional development seminars, site visits, and briefings throughout the summer to help students network and learn about the endless possibilities DC has to offer. I got to visit the United Nations Refugee Agency, sit on the floor of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill, and tour the Embassy of Greece, all thanks to TFAS.

When I wasn’t busy with my internship, class, or other TFAS events, I was able to enjoy living in Washington and explore the city with friends. From the museums, monuments, and parks to Jazz in the Garden, all-day brunch, and kayaking on the Potomac, summer in the District has something for everyone.

After my program came to an end and my friends and family asked me about my DC experience, I had trouble summarizing my eight incredible weeks. I often found myself simply saying, “It was amazing and I can’t wait to get back to Washington.” My summer with TFAS helped me develop professionally and personally, enabled me to learn more about my interests and passions, gain real-world experience, and make life-long friends. Being a part of TFAS and Living, Learning, and Interning in DC was one of the best decisions of my college-career and I could not recommend the program more highly.

Program Advisor TFAS Testimonial – Emma


Written by Emma Polefko – 2016 Program Advisor, Institute on Political Journalism 

Emma 1 While studying abroad in Rome, Italy during fall semester of my sophomore year, a family friend suggested that I look into The Fund for American Studies. As soon as I got back to the States I applied, and when I was notified that I’d been accepted to the Institute of Comparative Politics and Economics Systems, I was beyond excited for the opportunity and adventure that lay before me.

Summer 2014, I had the pleasure of working for the U.S. Small Business Administration in the Office of International Trade. All summer Mitch, a fellow TFAS intern, and I worked on the STEP Program. STEP, State Trade and Export Promotion, is a program initiated to provide federal funding to state’s small businesses to promote and support international trade, growing the local economy. It was the last job I imagined I would have, but from the moment we walked in the doors, we were put to work and challenged to learn and analyze data. Accompanying our boss to the Russell Senate Building for pre-legislation hearings on the STEP program was the culminating moment of our summer, and working for SBA is an opportunity I’ll always be thankful for. In the past two years, the STEP program has continued to advance, and I still keep in touch with my boss from that summer.Emma P - Last day of internship (2)

With TFAS, we attended briefings at the Federal Reserve, CIA, and Capitol Hill, went on a tour of the Hungarian Embassy, and heard many lectures by distinguished leaders in their fields. At the Federal Reserve, we were fortunate enough to sit at the table of the Board of Governors. At the CIA, we met senior advisers from the four branches and were given the full CIA experience. And a morning I’ll never forget is when sat on the House Floor at the Capitol.

When I tell people about TFAS, it’s so much more than the interning and classes. The people and the adventures are what truly made this summer memorable. TFAS paired me with three of the best girls for roommates. Much to Sarah (Connecticut) and Claire’s (California) surprise, Demi and I proudly hung the Texas flag in our living room and “introduced” them to Texas culture. We shared so many laughs and had so many grand adventures together. We fell in love with poptarts from Ted’s Bulletin, celebrated 4th of July in the most patriotic way possible, went to Nationals games together, walked two miles to find the best gelato in town, and we made it to the top of the Washington Monument. Over Christmas break, I went to visit friends in Europe, and my first stop was to visit Sarah in Ireland. TFAS is an opportunity to make lifelong friendships.

All summer long, you will be constantly surrounded by greatness. Nothing should stop you from achieving your dreams. Be young, driven, and passionate. DC is yours, and the summer is what you make of it. Make it unforgettable.

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.