Written by Blair Hurst – Program Advisor, Leadership + the American Presidency
Public value is a term used to describe the value that organizations, both public and private, contribute to society. I first learned about public value in a course on public administration, and have carried the term with me throughout my academic career. If nothing else, the term serves as a compass, pointing me in the direction of opportunities that will allow me to instill public value in my work and my life. This “compass” pointed me toward an undergraduate degree in Political Science, a graduate degree in Ethics and Compliance, and a DC summer as part of the Leadership and American Presidency program.
A skeptic by nature, my quest for the summer was to answer the following question: How ethical is the government in its policymaking processes? During my time interning at the North American Association for Environmental Education, I delved a little deeper into this question by researching and analyzing state policies on mandated environmental education in public schools. This experience allowed me to learn about the policymaking process and the ethics on which certain policies are based. I gained a number of skills from this internship, but the most noteworthy being the ability to work toward a common goal with a group of very different people with varying ideologies and backgrounds.
The saying “work hard play hard” was definitely applicable during my summer in DC. When I wasn’t interning, I was either in class learning about presidential leadership, or attending an academic seminar which often included keynote addresses by impressive guests. The most memorable was a keynote address by Ann Compton, former news reporter and White House Correspondent, at a seminar at the University of Virginia. On the weekends, I ditched the pant suit for a t-shirt and joined my TFAS colleagues for some of DC’s most iconic activities like museum-hopping, visiting the Botanical Gardens, attending the Pride Parade, and of course late-night monument tours! My favorite activity of the summer was watching the Congressional Baseball Game and (almost) catching a foul ball!
My summer in DC was an exhausting, magical, crazy, spectacular journey. My internship experience confirmed that I am pursuing a career that I love, and my time spent outside of the office was just as valuable. My TFAS colleagues became my best friends, my career interest became my passion, and Washington DC became my home.