Name: Samantha Marie Ensenat
Major: Interdisciplinary Studies
Where are you interning? World War One Centennial Commission
What is your title? Fundraising Intern – Development Team
How did you get your internship? I was referred to it as an option to apply to through The Washington Center, which is how I was housed for the summer and was also part of a professional development program with.
What projects have you worked on? I was part of the team of interns that led a legislative outreach on Capitol Hill before they adjourned for the summer. We compiled facts surrounding each states’ involvement in the first world war and wrote letters for each representative using those facts to generate interest and support for the commission and our push for funding a national memorial in Pershing Park by 2019.
It resulted in us getting language supporting donations for the commission in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018. I also tracked down the genealogical history of several VIP’s key to getting donations in the $50,000 to $4 million range.
How does your internship connect to your current coursework? As a recent graduate, I have a background in education. Preservation of national history and aggregation of knowledge for educational purposes is a pretty natural fit, although I had never heard of the commission prior to my Washington Center acceptance. I hadn’t considered an internship like this at any time in my search.
What was the coolest thing that has happened thus far in your internship? The freedom I had to follow my ideas to fruition. Interns outnumbered staffers by more than double so essentially we were running the show independently a lot of the time. Anytime I came up with something to check out as a possible lead, I was given time to pursue that idea.
I went to the Library of Congress and worked with a genealogy librarian to help move along the process of finding draft cards of our potential supporters’ ancestors. We were all privy to important meetings in addition to the daily staff meeting and encouraged to voice our thoughts and developments in our assignments. We got exclusive presentations about how airplanes shaped the war and all wars that followed. It was amazing.
What do you enjoy most about your experience? How much I was able to learn on a daily basis. Whether it was about the Great War or what I enjoyed about this internship over any other paid job that I have held in the past, I was constantly learning. About our history as a nation, the world, interpersonal skills and what I want out of the workplace moving forward, I was always learning.
What have you learned about yourself? That I enjoy work which makes a significant impact. Everything any of us interns did was something that would not have gotten done if one of us were missing. Our jobs were important because they needed to be done and done well, and our work always made a difference. I realized as a result of this internship that gratification and working for a common goal is something I need to be happy and successful in my career, whatever that may lead me.
How has the position increased your professional confidence? I was forced to develop a professional “voice” because of our constant mandatory meetings, and I feel so much more comfortable in a high energy and high stakes workplace now. I feel like I can make the transition from schoolteacher to businessperson much more easily, and it’s definitely a nuance which a classroom internship did not really foster.
How have you expanded your professional network? The commission is small staff-wise, so we got to work personally with the executive commissioner and the other lead executives on a regular basis. As a result, they know my work well, as well as my work ethic, and have already offered to recommend me for future positions and help foster strategic relationships to help me in my developing career.
What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? Don’t be afraid to step outside what you know, and don’t take the first thing which may come your way. I never knew about te commission, but it’s the best job I’ve ever had.
About what comes after: distinguish yourself through hard work and perseverance. And above all, don’t be afraid to talk to people, no matter who they are, because in the end we are all just people and everyone starts somewhere. Just be polite and respectful.