White House becomes office for student intern

The White House Internship Program focuses on leadership developement. (Photo courtesy of Mike Morgan)
The White House Internship Program focuses on leadership developement. (Photo courtesy of Mike Morgan)

By Alyssa Gautieri
Production Manager

Senior philosophy major Shawn Syed not only had the opportunity to meet President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden and hug First Lady Mi- chelle Obama, but his internship at the White House last semester meant seeing these world leaders on a regular basis.

“Occasionally, I might just turn down a hallway and run into President Obama,” Syed said.

Syed spent 16 weeks interning at the White House during the Spring 2016 semester.

“I was not sitting around having coffee with (the president) because he was a little busy,” Syed said. “But I cannot underscore how inspiring it was to be – tives at work.”

Syed compared his experience to a sort of study abroad program. For four months, he lived far from campus and communicated with professors to com- plete 3.5 course units for the College.

On top of taking classes for the College, Syed – dential Correspondence. A total of 150 interns were selected for the White House internship, which fo- cuses on public service and leadership development

The White House internship is open to students all over the nation. Applicants must submit a resume, two essays and two letters of recommendation. The program is highly competitive since both undergraduate students and college graduates from throughout the country are eligible to apply.

According to Syed, the selected staff represented a diverse group of people from nearly every state. Syed worked with the other interns in his department “to maintain an open dialogue between the president and the American public to ensure every voice was heard.”

The Office of Presidential Correspondence reads through the president’s mail and chooses what will get passed onto him, Syed said.

Obama has vowed to read 10 letters a day from the American people. With tens of thousands of letters and emails arriving at the White House daily, it is a hard task to narrow the pile down to just 10 letters for the president to read.

Syed worked a 40-hour workweek and was required to complete additional public service hours as part of the internship. Some of his time was spent working in food banks throughout Washington D.C.

“I think one of the most important things for me was finding out that public service is something I definitely want to go into,” Syed said.

How was Syed able to land such a life-altering internship? His previous experience interning for New Jersey Federal senators, Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, certainly helped him stand out during the application process. Syed also has experience working at local law firms, as well as the New Jersey Superior Court.

“I do not think anything ever makes anyone fully qualified to work for the White House,” Syed said. “But I think they saw my devotion to public service.”

For Syed, a highlight of his 16-week internship was having the opportunity to show his parents around the Oval Office one day.

“My parents were both born outside the United States,” Syed said. “As a first generation American, to be able to bring them into the most powerful office in the world was very inspiring to me.”