Interns at Work: Noelle Rutland ’17 Department of Defense, Washington, D.C.
“Interning at the Department of Defense gave me a sense of purpose, allowing me to serve my country and support the men and women of our Armed Forces.”
What attracted you to this internship?
My greatest career goal is to find a job where I can make a difference. Interning at the Department of Defense gave me a sense of purpose, allowing me to serve my country and support the men and women of our Armed Forces. I was attracted to the Legislative Affairs office in particular because I was able to combine my interests in security studies and government relations.
How did you learn about it?
Last summer, while interning at a think tank in DC, I reached out to W&L alumni in the area to network. I met alumna Alexandra Utsey, who currently works at the Pentagon as a Presidential Management Fellow. Alex was incredibly helpful in providing me with information on the Department of Defense’s internship programs, and also assisted me with the application process.
What gave you an edge in landing this internship?
The W&L connection was a huge help! Alex’s initial information and referral distinguished my application from the hundreds of other resumes in the pile. Beyond that, my academic background in global politics and past internship experiences helped qualify me for the position.
Describe your daily duties.
As an intern in the Legislative Affairs office, most of my daily duties involved researching Congress. This included watching Congressional hearings, analyzing legislation on the floor and summarizing views of individual senators and representatives. Several times, I was also able to attend classified briefings on the Hill and meet with members of Congress.
Have any courses and/or professors helped you prepare for this internship? Which ones?
Professor William Connelly of the Politics department was instrumental in helping me to get the most out of my internship. His Washington Term class should be a required course for anyone who wants to understand politics in our nation’s capital. The wealth of knowledge and experience he brings to the course would be hard to find at other universities.
Professors Seth Cantey, Tyler Dickovick and Thomas Williams of the Politics department also helped to prepare me for my internship, through the courses I’ve taken with them and their career advice during office hours.
What was your favorite part or perk of the internship?
Definitely the people! My coworkers went out of their way to make sure I had a great experience at the Pentagon, and I learned a lot from the people in my office and on the Hill. On my last day of work, my coworkers presented me with a framed picture of the Pentagon signed by everyone who had worked with me. It was really touching and goes to show how much the Department of Defense values their interns.
What did you learn from living in the city where the internship was located?
Washington is an amazing place. In addition to all of its historical value, it is also the site of many of today’s most pressing political battles. I learned a lot about Washington politics, especially from the other interns participating in the Washington Term program. I also learned more about the myriad of opportunities available in the city. It’s no wonder so many W&L students move to Washington after graduation.
What key takeaways/skills will you bring back to W&L?
Interning in the Legislative Affairs office strengthened my research and analysis skills, which will be crucial to writing my senior year research papers. It also provided me with practical experience working within my Global Politics major and will inform my academic study next year.
What advice would you give to students interested in a position like this?
Don’t be afraid to network! Reach out to me, or someone else who has interned or worked at a government agency. Take advantage of the amazing resources W&L provides, from professors in your department to Lorri Olan of Career Development, who is a resume and cover letter mastermind. Build your academic coursework and extracurricular activities with your career goals in mind, so that when it comes time to apply you are a competitive applicant.
Has this experience influenced your career aspirations? How so?
This experience has confirmed my interest in working for the government in the future, likely with the Department of Defense.
Describe your experience in a single word.