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2009 Student Testimonials


On graduation day, July 31, 2009, one student from each Georgetown Institute was asked to give a testimonial on what their summer meant and how it affected their lives. The following speeches were given by students from IPVS, ICPES, IPJ and IBGA. Stay tuned for more on the Georgetown Institutes graduation in the September edition of the E-Newsletter.


IPVS – Megan Wood, Wellesley College

IPVS student Megan Wood reflected on her time in the Institute.
IPVS student Megan Wood reflected on her time in the Institute.

“I know we are all feeling mixed emotions of being excited about finally getting a chance to relax after a demanding eight weeks, and also being sad that we have to leave a city we have come to love and people we have grown so close to.

My name is Megan Wood and I am a Peace and Justice Studies major at Wellesley College. I am extremely honored to stand in front of you today and share some of my reflections on this summer.

We have all learned and encountered an inconceivable amount these past two months- some experiences were more serious and somber while others were more light-hearted and enjoyable.

My absolute favorite aspect of this summer and participating in the Institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary Service was our summer long project. 80 of us formed our own small non-profit called FLAME (Fostering Leadership and Meaningful Education) dedicated to educating the youth in DC. We had nine committees that worked to fundraise, hold service projects with children in the city, and one committee dedicated to picking the non-profit that would receive our grant at the end of the summer. We accomplished so much through FLAME: we were able to give almost $2500 to Mentors of Minorities in Education, a local non-profit whose purpose is to transform education for at risk children.

This summer I interned at Suited for Change, a non-profit that works with low-income women to increase their economic independence. They are dedicated to providing professional clothing and ongoing career and life skills education. What I have learned in my internship, and I know others have discovered from theirs, is that our duty is not to feel sorry or to pity those in need. Our responsibilities do not include pretending that we hold the answers for the people we seek to help. We have learned, however, that the ultimate service we can provide is respect and the expectation that the people we help have the ability to empower themselves.

Yes, we all want to change the world and be leaders; however you choose to define change or leadership is up to you. Indeed, we have all encountered the exorbitant amount of homeless people on the streets of DC and the excess of people who suffer from poverty in this city. But before we can even begin to instill transformation or revolution, we MUST take time to reflect on ourselves. What do we believe, why do we believe it, and how exactly do we plan on making a difference? Let us reflect on what dedication, passion, motivation, and commitment mean and whether we have even begun to understand the depth of these terms.

I hope that we have all gained a newfound sense of self-confidence this summer. We need to utilize this self-confidence to allow ourselves to take more risks and be bold. With risk inevitably comes failure: if we are not well acquainted with failure we are not trying hard enough. Through risk, however, emerges innovation and creativity, and these traits are absolutely essential to transformation.

This summer has meant so much to all of us, but I think our toughest work is still ahead as we consider all of our successes and more importantly, our failures. I believe that how we respond to our experiences over the last two months is exponentially more important than what we actually did.

I would like to close with a quote from one of my favorite motivational speakers: ‘Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.’”

ICPES – Valerie Brusilovsky, University of Denver

Valerie Brusilovsky gave the ICPES testimonial where she recalled some of her favorite classes and professors.
Valerie Brusilovsky gave the ICPES testimonial where she recalled some of her favorite classes and professors.

304. That’s about the number of hours on average we have spent at our respective internships this past summer. 72. That’s about the number of hours we’ve spent sitting in a classroom. 24. That’s about the number of hours that we have left, before our programs at The Fund for American Studies come to a close.

We have worked arduously this summer; whether it’s been at our internships, during a course, during a lecture, during a site briefing, or simply relaxing with friends.

I will certainly never forget my first day at the State Department, my internship site. Let’s just say geography has never really been my forte. Of course, I was counting on all of the other State Department interns to know where we’re going and how to get there, since I had no idea.

Monday morning rolled around and I was to meet the others at 7 am; unfortunately this was the time my alarm was going off, leaving me to figure out my own way of getting to the State Department.

I started jogging through campus in my heels and suit trying to find some street called Wisconsin and hop on some bus called the 31st. I finally stopped and asked the custodial staff of Georgetown where I was. After he attempted to explain how to get there, only to see tears welling in my eyes, he offered to drive me to the State Department. Suffice it to say I got to my first day of work before all of the other interns.

This anecdote is reflective of many of the chaotic experiences we’ve had throughout the summer…trying to adapt to a new city, a new job and having to wake up when it’s still dark.

Living in Georgetown is like living in a bubble. An hour felt like a day. A day felt like a week. By the end of week one, I felt like the people I met would be my life long friends. Sounds a bit cheesy and a little overly sentimental right? Well, that’s because it completely is! But, that’s just the way things go here in TFAS.

I think it’s important for all of us to try and take a step back, remove ourselves for a moment, and contemplate everything that we have accomplished this summer. Despite what Institute you have been involved with, we all have had a distinctive opportunity to see the interweaving of academics, internships and social life.

As I briefly mentioned, my internship this summer was at the U.S. Department of State. I worked under the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation at the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund. At State, we speak in acronyms to try to be as secretive as possible, so for short it was called NDF.

I was a unique case, along with the other State Department interns here at TFAS, because we were first accepted into our internships and then asked to apply for the Fund for American Studies and take classes and live in Georgetown. I cannot even envision what my summer would have been like if I had only had my internship and not been involved in the TFAS aspect of the program.

I cannot gloat enough about the classes and professors I’ve had the last two months. Our first class, Comparative Economic and Political Systems, was certainly demanding and we worked meticulously at it.

I have never before literally been at the edge of my seat for three hours, just waiting to hear what brilliant strand of words would come out of the professor’s mouth next, as I was in our U.S. Foreign Policy class, taught by Dr. Gary Armstrong.

Although Dr. Armstrong is immaculate at what he does as a professor, I can’t help but feel like he should probably be the one making policy decisions for our country. I could stand up here for ten minutes debriefing you on how exceptional the classes and professors were, but I know we would like to get this graduation moving along.

I don’t think there’s any other way to end than by verbalizing my token of gratitude for everything that this program provides for young and driven college students. I’m sure we’ve all taken so much away from this past summer.

IPJ – Carlo Angerer, Morehead State University

Carlos Angerer, Morehead State University student, spoke about his experience with IPJ.
Carlos Angerer, Morehead State University student, spoke about his experience with IPJ.

The last eight weeks have been exciting and challenging for all of us who were taking part in the Institute on Political Journalism – weeks filled with internships at media organizations around the city and classes here on Georgetown University’s campus.

I often had to think of my late mother, who was a family doctor in my German hometown until her death in 2000.

30 years ago, she had a similar experience that many of us had this summer. After finishing medical school in Germany, she came to the United States for part of her medical residency. For several months, she worked in an emergency room in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. She always told me she learned more during that time in the emergency room than during medical school.

Why? Because she was challenged by the real-world environment; because she had to help heal everything from headaches to gunshot wounds.

I think everyone who is graduating from the Institute on Political Journalism today had similar experiences this summer.

For me, “healing that headache” was working on stories for NBC News, where I interned during the past weeks. I had to do research for the investigative unit; I read through court documents, searched public records and spent countless hours on the phone trying to find people to go on camera for one of our stories. Working at NBC has been great and felt rewarding – especially when something I researched got on the air. And the topics I researched ranged from stimulus funds, to credit card changes to Michael Jackson.

But then there were also those “gunshot wounds” – new ideas and new challenges we had to face that we have never been confronted before. Soon we realized though that we had the tools to take these challenges had on – our Economics final exam comes to mind. Like a gunshot wound, we were shocked at first sight, but in the end, we all survived – I think.

During the course of the last eight weeks, there were also some things that we never could have taken on by ourselves. In the end we succeeded, because there was always enough support for us to fall back on: the great staff at the Fund for American Studies – especially the Director of the Institute on Political Journalism, Joe Starrs and Program Adviser Allison Huff, who took care of us journalism students. They were always there to help, whether it was how to catch the bus to the Metro station or how to make the best use of our internships.

And we received so much knowledge during the past few weeks to be ready for the challenges we faced: Our professors, who taught us about ethics, economics and journalism; our mentors, who introduced us to different facets of working in D.C.; and our supervisors who helped us at our internship sites; and our speakers who shared the knowledge they have gained during the years they worked in politics and journalism.

And then of course, our fellow students: we shared our past and present experiences and we supported each other during the past few weeks. I felt like part of a big family during the past weeks and I am sure that as alumni of this summer program we will be there to help each other out in the future.

Because of all these people, I am now able to say, that not only have we taken on all challenges successfully this summer, but I am confident we are now ready for the challenges that will confront us once we enter the field of journalism and there are many: falling advertising revenue, new competition online and less jobs. But with the knowledge we have gained during the past few weeks we can succeed, because we have more than a degree in our hands – we have the experience gained in a real world environment – an environment that was often as tough as an emergency room.


IBGA – Lindsey Hovland, Trinity University

IBGA student Lindsey Hovland praised her internship site BNSF Railway and thanked TFAS for her summer.
IBGA student Lindsey Hovland praised her internship site BNSF Railway and thanked TFAS for her summer.

Abraham Lincoln once said ‘I will prepare and some day my chance will come.’ How fitting that we sit here today, just miles from the memorial to this great man, celebrating the preparation we have just completed for a lifetime of chances.

We all came here this summer, to Georgetown, to Washington, for some of us to America for the first time, to have the chance to Live, Learn, and Intern at the center of America’s political universe.

We lived among each other, becoming friends and sharing new experiences that would become fond memories of eight weeks not soon forgotten. We lived the lives of true Washingtonians, arriving late because of public transit, sweating in the humidity while racing to catch a hearing, avoiding the pesky little critters that inhabit Georgetown at night. We cried at the Holocaust Museum, we laughed as we trudged up and down the exorcist steps and we stood in awe of the monuments to our fallen heroes of wars long gone and tragedies all too recent.

True to the TFAS slogan we learned as well. My fellow IBGA students and I had the privilege of learning about both the concrete concepts of antitrust and regulation with Professor Daniels and about the abstract concepts of ethics and moral responsibility with Professors Collins and Doherty. We were able to have debate in our internship seminar, for the most part friendly, about the issues of the day while learning from someone with first hand hill experience Professor Kelliher. On behalf of the other IBGA students and myself I would like to thank all of you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom with us so that we might carry on as the strong, ethical leaders of our generation with a firm grasp of what we want to do and of what it takes to get things done.

But a great deal of the learning took place not within the four walls of a classroom. Our peers, colleagues and supervisors imbued us with much knowledge that we could never have gleaned from a textbook. This summer I had the privilege of working alongside an expert team of lobbyists and government affairs officers at BNSF Railway, the largest freight railroad in North America.

Both my grandfather and my father worked for this company with over 80 years combined service and now, thanks to TFAS, I can proudly say that I too have worked for this fine corporation. Whenever I meet new people at industry events or fundraisers I always find myself saying ‘they have taken great care of me’ and I don’t think I am alone in having that experience. They took me to meetings, to fundraisers, to the Hill and to hearings all the while fostering personal and professional growth. That wonderful group of people who I am honored to call my friends helped me to discover my own fascination with rail policy and reaffirmed that Washington is the only place I want to be.

Regardless of whether or not you too discovered what you want to do with your life this summer or what field you would like to be in, each and every one of us doubtlessly gained from our professional experience. From the mundane grunt work that comes with being the lowest man on the totem pole, to the truly extraordinary encounter that few people will ever experience, our internships have helped to prepare us for future chances.

‘I will prepare and someday my chance will come.’ When I think back on my experience and all of the stories I have heard from my fellow IBGA students, I can’t help but think how true this statement is and how fitting of this occasion. Thank you TFAS and all of the staff for giving us the opportunity to Live, Learn, and Intern, for those are the experiences that prepare us for our chance, the chance that some day will come.



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