The Importance of Interns

July 26, 2011

If conventional wisdom and all the pundits are correct, studying journalism or communications in university these days renders you nuts or divorced from reality. After all, if the media is dying, as so many seem to say, how will any student get a job when they graduate? Or, at least, how will they get a job that they can survive on?

And pity the poor college educators who are valiantly striving to make sure they are educating their students to compete in tomorrow’s media. That is virtually mission impossible when new media trends grows old over the course of a single semester. Twitter goes from hot to old-hat. Facebook surpasses Google in hits. Blogs rapidly morph into old media.

I had a recent conversation with a former student who works in new media for NPR. She told me that I now need to teach a new form of writing: “writing to the swipe.”

The reality is that mobile news requires yet another nuance in how tomorrow’s journalists are going to have to cater to both old demands (no, print is not dead yet) and new ones from technologies not yet even invented.

Which all makes DC a new frontline in media education for so many of those who will make tomorrow’s media. New York may have Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and a wealth of magazines, but DC has the news. And politics. And documentaries. Local journalism. New online news enterprises. Non-profits now putting out their own content. The government.

And DC has the interns.

Welcome to journalism education circa 2011, where the turnover in media is so rapid that a 25-year-old at the new media meteor known as Politico considers himself one of the old guard. The tradition of working your journalistic way up the ladder has largely disintegrated. For many, there is no ladder any more – just a large boulder to try and hop on. And many media companies are using internships today, even more than in the past, as a preferred recruiting tool for good jobs, often new jobs with a future.

“Some places may still have students push paper and get coffee, but the ones that understand what internships can be use it strategically to identify talent. For new media companies it also helps us understand the mentality and ideas of the next generation,” says Brittany Cooper, Director for Recruitment and Corporate Culture for New Media Strategies, one of the fastest growing social media marketing companies in the world.

With one estimate that there are as many as 40,000 interns a year in DC (although in many areas besides media) and many more on the way, DC has become the world’s capital for experiential education, a bridge between traditional media education and the work place, and the passport to that first real job.

Tucker Carlson, of Crossfire/MSNBC/Dancing with the Stars fame, and founder of the newest new media news organization The Daily Caller, admits he was never an intern himself. However, he says, “depending on the office they’re in, they’re apt to learn a lot. Maybe more than in class. Interns have been great for us, not necessarily for the work they do, but because we watch them carefully and hire the smart, hardworking ones. We’ve hired a bunch so far. “

The price for this entrée is that, unfortunately, most DC media internships are unpaid, today often out of financial exigencies but previously out of competition among applicants for these opportunities. The Labor Department’s rules governing internships date back to the 1930’s; they frown on unpaid internships, although there is an ambiguous exemption for internships with academic purposes. But it is a catch-22 where federal regulations would otherwise prevent the very goal of experiential learning and the kind of job creation that students might not otherwise get.

The smartest students often find the best opportunities in less obvious choices. Sirius/XM Radio offers one of the best internship programs in the country, with a program that ensures students get the training and support they need. Nature’s Best Magazine, a private version of National Geographic, offers its interns a magazine experience that will define a career. This very newspaper and its effervescent publisher Sonya Bernhardt have nurtured a decade’s worth of young journalists who have gone on to media success.

Ross Herosian is the Manager of College Programs and HR projects at Sirius/XM, and a former intern himself. “What traditional collegiate academia provides,” he says, “is a very strong base foundation, skills and practices that are ever present, no matter how much media changes. We can build on that and find and nurture the best talent. Today we have a good number of employees who are former interns, who are now mentoring themselves. From my perspective, it is completing the circle and a strong part of our culture.”

So then, perhaps college journalism programs should not even try to keep up with a media evolving so fast that their professional columnists can’t keep up. Instead, no matter how much it changes, the media will always need from their interns what Universities do best: a solid foundation of a well-rounded education. That is something no internship, no matter how good, can provide.

An Individual Work Experience

The One City Youth Employment Summer Program, a product of the Department of Employment Services, has a tougher twist.

Offering a more individualistic work experience, with a heavier focus on youths being matched to appropriate jobs, the number of employees accepted to the program for the coming summer has been scaled down.

“We have put cap of 12,000 [students] for this summer to give the young people a more enriching experience,” said Neville Waters, Communication Director of the Department of Employee Services (DOES).

The Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) received 12,000 applications in the first three days they were available at the end of February. The deadline closed March 11 when more than 20,000 applications had been received.

The SYEP team, including Program Director Gerren Price, has been hosting a number of Eligibility Certification Events at area high schools and the DOES office.

The Certification Events are an opportunity for the youth to turn in their eligibility documents. According to Waters, the overwhelming turn out at the events caused the applicant certification hours on the final Saturday, March 19, to be extended.

“We wanted to make it as convenient as possible for folks,” said Price.

According to Price, the program is going to be “very solid” this year.

The program was revamped when Dr. Rochelle Webb was recruited as Employee Services new director. Along with Mayor Gray’s administration, Dr. Webb made reorganizing the program a high priority.

In effort to enhance the program, half the number of students would be selected to participate as were accepted in previous years. For the first time in the program’s 32-year history, applicants had to complete a more rigorous application process. After applying, the employee hopefuls had to be certified. This included submitting picture I.D., social security card, proof of residence and a submitted resume or online profile.

This is much different than the previous operations, where the students effectively registered and received a paycheck, and which included 22,000 youth employees. The students will now be matched to jobs more suitable to their interests, while learning the actual steps involved in obtaining employment.

“For the first time we’re going to be doing a lot of work to make it more of an individual experience,” said Price.

The program is open to District youths between the ages of 14 and 21. The hope of Employee Services is that students can gain real work experience and applicable skills throughout the summer. Younger ages experience their first job and learn the basic skills of what is expected. The older students are placed in positions where they can utilize these skills and potentially carry the job beyond the summer.

“I feel really positive about the future and what we’re doing,” said Waters.

A DC native himself, Waters’ first job was through the SYEP. His summer working with the public school payroll was a valuable experience, which has now come full circle, as he offers a similar experience to the District’s youth 30 years later. According to Waters, a large responsibility for DOES is also to supply a well-trained work force for employers.

Employers offering jobs though the program include CVS, Georgetown University, Howard University, Cardinal Bank, Wachovia Bank, Madame Tussaund’s and the DC government.

Great Local Summer Camps

April 20, 2011

As it turns out, it is quite possible to give your kids a memorable summer camp experience without shipping them halfway across the country. There are amazing day and stay-away camps right in DC’s back yard. Whether your child is interested in education, is a budding sports fan or a young artist, there are a myriad of fun summer options in the city and the greater DC area for you and your kids to choose from.

Beauvoir – Activities of all Types for Little Tykes

Many of DC’s private schools offer summer programs for their students and other children from the area. Beauvoir Summer Program at the National Cathedral Elementary School is one such camp for kids ages 3 – 11. Kids are encouraged to play, learn and explore at the camp’s playgrounds, pool and wading pool under the guidance of experienced camp counselors (most of which are professional teachers) and life guards.

Although it is a day camp, Beauvoir offers before and after camp programs to accommodate busy parents’ schedules. With schedules centered around titles like “Animal Detectives,” “Wild About Water” and “Fairytale Fantasy,” there are activities for every little critter. For slightly older groups, Beauvoir offers acting and foreign language programs in addition to their swimming classes which are available for all ages. Go to for more details and to register.

Visitation – All Sports, All Ages

Visitation Preparatory School, another local private school, also offers summer programs for young athletes. Every summer, the school partners with TenniStar to bring a team of great coaches to the campus to train kids ages 5 – 15. A total of six camps are available: tennis, soccer, lacrosse, basketball and field hockey. The final program, SportStar, was created by alumni for incoming freshmen and their friends as a place to meet new people through recreational sporting fun. For more information and to register visit To find out more about TenniStar, call 301.530.5472.

Georgetown University Summer Programs – Academic Excellence for Students

Plenty of local options are also available for high school students. Kids grades nine through 12 can get ahead in their academic careers by enrolling in one of Georgetown University’s summer programs. Word has it they’re even fun, too! Young adults can take an array of programs from Arabic to forensic science, earn college credit and prepare for the SATs with the faculty of the University.

Pigment Art Studio Summer Camps – Arts n’ Crafts Afternoons

For little artists, morning and afternoon summer camp sessions are offered at Pigment Art Studio in Adams Morgan, a group whose mission is to motivate and collaborate with young artists in the community. This program features small class sizes and individual attention, so the spaces fill up quickly! Visit to request more information and to register.

Camp Rim Rock – Fun in the Sun for Girls

Of course, if your kids can’t wait to get out and away from the house this summer, there are plenty of great summer camps located around the outskirts of DC. Camp Rim Rock, two hours outside of the city in West Virginia, is an all-girls summer camp celebrating its 60th year of making memories for girls ages 6 – 16. The camp sits on over 600 acres of hiking and riding trails as well as places for swimming and sports. Rim Rock also offers programs in performance and arts and crafts. Over 100 counselors oversee the activities during the camp’s three, five and seven-week stay-away sessions. Specialty camps in riding and tennis are also available. To find out more, visit

Camp Hidden Meadows – Far Off Explorations

For very adventurous boys and girls ages 7 –16, an even farther summer camp experience is available at Camp Hidden Meadows in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia. Campers can choose from an enormous list of daily activities such as horse back riding, rock climbing, woodworking, white water rafting, basketball, yoga, pottery, culinary arts, farming, painting, and the list goes on. This American Camp Association accredited camp offers sessions that are one week long and up, following the philosophy that learning comes easily in a fun, supportive environment. To learn more, go to [gallery ids="99650,105309,105312" nav="thumbs"]

Graduating Green

September 9, 2010

As citizens around the globe continue to put efforts into preserving the environment, individuals living and working on college campuses are among the leaders of the pack. With energetic and invested students and supportive faculty, many campuses in the D.C area are paving the way for future environmentalists by making their campuses green. The Georgetowner took a look at the environmental efforts at three local universities — Georgetown, American, and George Washington — and compared just how green these well known campuses are. From recycling to transportation, food to solar energy, we found that each of these three schools thrives in some area of environmental preservation.

Georgetown University

Green: Recycling
Not So Green: Long Shuttle Routes

Georgetown University’s budding recycling program is what makes its green efforts unique. Ever since Recycling Manager Bill Del Vecchio took over the recycling department three years ago, the University’s recycling program has grown immensely.

Along with the help of Georgetown’s student environmental advocacy club Eco-Action, Del Vecchio established a recycling outreach program and tracked which areas of campus were most populated to ensure that additional receptacles were placed there. (All the receptacles look the same and are therefore easy to identify.) It appears to be paying off — the recycling rate at Georgetown rose from 12 percent in 2007 to 45 percent in 2010.

Cardboard, plastic, batteries and electronics are only a few of the items that Del Vecchio says are recycled.

“Since I’ve been at school, our recycling program has expanded and developed beautifully,” Eco-Action president Kristin Ng says. “When I started here, we had to sort out all of our plastics and only certain things could be recycled. Now, after a huge renovation of the system, it’s super easy to recycle anything on campus.”

Georgetown received a large grant for recycling in the fall of 2009, at which point the university replaced many of its outside bins with Big Belly Trash Compactors. These solar powered trash compactors are attached to two recycling bins, making recycling a convenient and prevalent option around campus. Recycling bins can also be found in all faculty member offices, and next year the University will place bins in the rooms of all on-campus residence halls and apartments, says former Eco-Action treasurer Jonathan Cohn.

In addition to day-to-day recycling, the University encourages students to preserve their unwanted items through its annual move-out drive. This event allows students to donate items around their dorm rooms that would have otherwise thrown out.

As a result of the University’s efforts, Georgetown moved up in this year’s Recyclemania, a competition that measures colleges recycling rates over a 10-week period. Georgetown ranked 37 out of 267 colleges and universities in the grand champion category. Though technology has been helpful in improving recycling at Georgetown, Del Vecchio says that student and faculty support is what makes the program top notch.

“Faculty, staff, and students all participate in recycling and understand the importance of environmentally sound practices on campus,” he says.

Beyond recycling, the University has also made strides in improving sustainability through the installation of energy monitors in every residence hall. These monitors allow students and faculty to see how much energy their hall is using at any given point. The university also built a LEED Silver-certified business school building in the fall of 2009.

Despite its many green initiatives, Georgetown still has work to do towards improving sustainability, particularly for campus vehicles. Former Eco-Action member Carter Lavin notes, for instance, that the shuttle bus route to the Dupont Circle Metro stop is unnecessarily long. Because West Georgetown residents complained about the busses constantly passing through the neighborhood and shaking their door frames, all University buses going to Dupont Circle during off-peak hours leave from Reservoir Road and take a left on Wisconsin, which, Lavin says, prolongs the route substantially.

American University

Green: Transportation
Not So Green: Lack of compost system for food

Amid the lists and descriptions on American University’s sustainability Web site lies an overarching slogan declaring that “The American Dream is Green.” Thanks to both the University’s active environmental club Eco Sense and its sustainability department, AU’s green initiatives are continuously expanding. The Sustainable Endowments Institute acknowledged AU’s achievements when they gave the University an “A” for environmentally friendly transportation on its 2010 green report card.

AU’s green transportation policies significantly help lessen fuel consumption on and around campus, according to former Eco Sense treasurer Stephen Bronskill. A complimentary shuttle service takes students to and from the nearest Metro stop.

“The shuttle is used for the vast majority of students commuting into D.C.,” Bronskill says.
AU Sustainability Director Chris O’Brien notes that the University provides several incentives for students and staff to use public transportation, such as payroll deductions for employees who take Metro.

“Use of the free campus shuttle has doubled in the past 10 years, showing that more and more people are choosing to take Metro and then our free shuttle to campus rather than drive personal vehicles.” O’Brien says.

If traveling by train isn’t an option, students and staff can turn to the on-campus Zipcar service, which enables students to rent a car for specific time slots rather than purchasing and bringing their own car to school, making for fewer cars polluting D.C. streets. In a further effort to keep cars off the road, AU offers a condensed work week option for staff members and 10 complimentary bikes for students to rent.

“We have a very impressive and innovative bike lending program that allows students to rent bikes for the day,” Bronskill says. “The plan is so successful that there are plans to double it in size.”

But AU’s green ambitions extend far beyond environmentally friendly transportation options. The University’s Climate Action plan lays out four basic strategies that will help the University to become carbon neutral by 2020.

Eco Sense President Jennifer Jones also notes that Bon Appetit, the company that supplies the food at AU, frequently uses locally grown organic food and that students run a community garden. Still, she says, there are steps the University could take to become more sustainable, including initiating a compost program for pre- and post-consumer food scraps. Though Jones knows that students and faculty still have work to do in terms of improving green practices, she says she is confident in what the future holds for AU in terms of sustainability.

“There is always room for improvement, especially because environmental information is progressing so quickly,” she says. “But between the Department of Sustainability and Eco-Sense, there are a lot of people at AU trying to make us more sustainable.”

George Washington University

Green: Food
Not So Green: Lack of alternate energy sources

For those looking for an environmentally friendly lunch spot, the George Washington University’s dining hall may be the perfect location. The University, which recently received an “A” for environmentally friendly food on their 2010 green report card, strives to serve locally grown, organic foods whenever possible and works to ensure that dining hall products don’t produce excess pollution.

The fact that GW spends 160,000 annually on locally grown foods such as apples, tomatoes and onions indicates that purchasing these foods is a major priority. The University’s organic purchases are also plentiful, with a total of 250,000 worth of organic foods bought and served yearly.

But GW doesn’t just buy locally grown foods, they also compost them. The University currently composts all pre-consumer food scraps on the Mount Vernon Campus, and will strive to begin post composting next year, according to Sophie Waksow, the stakeholder engagement coordinator with the Office of Sustainability.

In an effort to alleviate pollution caused by excess petroleum, the University has decided to place biodegradable plates in certain campus dining halls. The switch, Green GW President Justin Fink notes, was initiated by a group of students and faculty, and is expected to eliminate close to 600 pounds of petroleum-based serviceware from campus.

“On campus, our dining services have been become increasingly more environmentally conscious over the years,” Fink said. “This past year, leaders of environmental student organizations and administrators have collaborated with Sodexo, our main food provider, to put in place a program to use biodegradable plates and hopefully flatware as well.”

In addition to its green dining options, GW’s buildings are also very environmentally friendly. In September 2009, GW opened South Hall, the first LEED Gold-certified University building in D.C. history. Among its many green attributes are walls with high insulation and bamboo paneling as opposed to hardwood floors, GW Today reported.

Student involvement in environmental initiatives is no rarity at GW. There are a total of 12 student environmental groups on campus, many of which have individual Web sites. Though Fink points out at that the university should improve its green efforts by introducing alternate energy sources like solar energy or biodiesel on campus, Waksow says that students’ continued commitment to environmental preservation indicates just how energized the GW student body is as a whole.

“While universities have a relatively small physical footprint, we have a large impact on the current dialogue and the next generation of leaders,” she says. “GW has a culture of political and civic engagement: our students exercise their leadership skills in sustainability through their activities outside the classroom and in their careers.” [gallery ids="99187,103289,103297,103294" nav="thumbs"]