Furman’s 40-year-old Washington Internship Program got an update this year – a personal touch.
The program, created in the late 1970s, places students in internships for 30 to 35 hours a week. They fill the rest of their hours with evening classes and professional development. Now, thanks to an idea born simultaneously in D.C. and in Greenville, each student gets an additional benefit: one-on-one mentorship from a Furman graduate.
The nation’s capital is peppered with Furman alumni. And those connections run deep. Brian Boda ’14, found that out quickly when he took a defense consulting position with Deloitte Consulting.
“Just because I say ‘Furman,’ they are willing to sit down and have a conversation with me,” Boda said.
He wanted a way to draw current students into those conversations and pitched a mentorship idea to Danielle Vinson, professor of politics and international affairs, when she was in the city.
Boda “benefitted from being connected with Furman grads,” Vinson said. “It’s really neat to see him wanting to do the same thing for other students.”
Vinson came back to campus with the idea, only to find that Paige Blankenship, manager of student programs and events for the department, was already working on the same concept as an outflow of the Furman Advantage. The two joined forces, Boda recruiting mentors in D.C. while Blankenship coordinated from campus.
The Washington Internship places about 15 students each spring semester and another 10 to 20 every other summer. The program is designed to accommodate any major.
“Literally anything a student can imagine, there’s something in D.C. that fits their interests,” Vinson said. “It’s a nice transition to the real world. And being in D.C. makes it a whole lot easier to find a job in D.C.”
Boda and Blankenship introduced the mentorship idea in a departmental newsletter. Nearly 50 alumni responded to that first call for help.
Furman has “such a strong political science department, it’s so natural for Furman students to come up here to D.C.,” Boda said. “What we can do is leverage this massive network we have here, tie people to one-on-one relationships.”
The students and their mentors meet formally at a reception in Washington. Then they connect throughout the semester for individual support.
Mentors can give the students a “better sense of what a job is really like,” Vinson said.
Jack Ligon ’19, a politics and international affairs major, interned in D.C. in spring 2018. He plans to pursue a law degree and possibly a career in public interest law.
Ligon interned in the Office of the Inspector General for the AbilityOne Commission, an investigative body overseeing non-profits that serve people who are blind or severely disabled. His mentor was an attorney in private practice.
“We traded stories about our experiences,” Ligon said. “It was the perfect balance to my public interest internship.”
He and his mentor have stayed in touch this fall as Ligon prepares for the LSAT and law school application process.
“We tell students, ‘Furman is family,’ but I don’t think that they always notice that until they get out,” Vinson said.
Be a mentor
Furman alumni who are working in Washington D.C. and interested in serving as mentors in the Washington Internship Program can fill out a brief survey here: http://www2.furman.edu/academics/politics-and-international-affairs/alumni/Pages/Washington-DC-Mentors-.aspx