Each year, college and university students from around the world converge on our nation’s capital to pursue real-life experience in government, nonprofit organizations, public and private foundations and corporations.
Many of them find their way to D.C. through The Washington Center, an independent non-profit that connects young people to experiential learning opportunities in the public, private and non-profit sectors.
Since FIU began collaborating with the center in 2012, the university has become one of the top contributors to the organization’s pipeline of young talent.
“FIU exemplifies the best of our partners, with its deep commitment to providing opportunities for transformational internship experiences to their students,” said Saima Siddiqui, vice president for development, alumni and university relations at the center. “FIU has been one of the most consistent contributors to our enrollment, routinely ranking among the very top of our partner institutions.”
In fact, for the past five years, FIU has sent more students to internships through the center than any other university in Florida, with more than 200 students traveling to D.C. for positions – nearly a quarter of all the students from Florida.
This year, FIU was the No. 2 contributor of student interns to the Washington Center from more than 400 partner institutions around the country, with 28 students placed in internships in 2019.
In October, the center will recognize FIU with its Higher Education Impact Award at the center’s 2019 annual scholarship dinner.
“This year’s theme is “Bridging to the Future,” and we feel that FIU exemplifies leadership and impact in higher education and continues to play a substantial role in creating access for students to participate in these transformative experiences,’’ Siddiqui said.
While the internships are open to all students at FIU, the partnership is overseen by the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs, with support from FIU’s Career and Talent Development Department, as well as FIU in DC, the university’s hub in the capital. The Green School collaborates with other units at FIU to promote the center and its programs.
“The success of our partnership with the Washington Center is directly tied to the partnerships we have developed with units across the university and the dedication of each unit to promoting student success and workforce development through internships,” said Shlomi Dinar, associate dean for graduate studies and innovation at the Green School.
In recent years, FIU students have been placed in intern positions at the White House, U.S. Department of State, the United Nations and many others.
The Washington Center also recognized two recent Green School alumni with its top student award.
Natalia Kolbjornsen ’17 received the center’s professional growth award for spring 2017. The award is given each term to a student who strives for and shows progress toward professional goals through the center’s programming and activities.
Kolbjornsen, who is originally from Haiti, says her internship experience helped her cement her passion for international development – and create a non-profit organization for her native country.
“We were inspired by how people in D.C. are eager to make a difference,’’ she said.
International relations major Jose-Andres Camacho received the honor in fall of 2016.
“I like how The Washington Center had “real-world” assignments (like conducting informational interviews) that pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to build my self-confidence, networking skills and resume in the process,’’ said Camacho, who interned with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
Nelly Leon, assistant director of career development at the Green School, said students who complete the Washington Center internship program are more competitive in the job market than other students.
“It really is a transformational experience for them.”
FIU’s contributions run far deeper than just directing students to apply, Siddiqui added.
“We value FIU as a thought partner, advisor, supporter and friend,’’ she said. “We know that this partnership has a strong future and will create access for countless more future leaders.’’The Washington Center serves as a bridge between higher education and professional careers in Washington, D.C., providing immersive internships and seminars to students from hundreds of colleges and universities across the U.S. and around the world. For more information on its programs, visit their website at https://twc.edu/ or contact the Green School at 305-348-7266.