Janie Lee ’15, U.S. Department of Education

My three days at the U.S. Department of Education were such an incredible experience, and I am surprised at how much I was able to do in such a short amount of time. My mentor, Massie Ritsch ’98, is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for External Affairs and Outreach in the Office of Communications and Outreach. His office is the liaison between the public and the Department of Education and is in charge of outreach to many different constituents, including parents, teachers, youth, organizations, and the communities. I thank him and his assistant, Kim Morton, for preparing such a wonderful three days for me! Despite being at a specific office, I was exposed to many different offices as well as other departments throughout my three days. It was incredible!

January 10, 2012

The first day gave me a good overview of what the Office of Communications and Outreach does. I got a tour of the office and was introduced to many different people with enthusiasm and curiosity. It felt great being so welcomed, even as a three-day visitor.

Mr. Ritsch took me out to lunch near the Department of Education and discussed everything from Princeton traditions to opportunities at the Department of Education. It was really helpful talking to him and being able to see the potential my career had. He was interested in what I wanted to do and what career paths I was considering. He offered suggestions and told me about his own experiences.

Later in the afternoon, I went to a meeting with Carrie Jasper, who is in charge of outreach to parents. We met with members from a group called Mom Congress. Mom Congress consists of mothers from every state meeting to improve education through focusing on different issues in each of their communities. It was inspiring seeing how hard some parents were working in their states and schools to make their schools better. I took notes for the meeting and was able to hear some of the planning details and processes for the Department’s upcoming summer conference.

January 11, 2012:

Janie and Massie Ritsch

In the morning, I made my way to the White House to meet Eddie Lee, who formerly worked in the Department of Education and who is now in the White House Office of Public Engagement. Mr. Lee leads the Office of Public Engagement’s outreach to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. We discussed everything from his career path to major issues within the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community, and he gave me some great insight about my future and working in Washington D.C.

Following that, I returned to the Department of Education to attend a meeting with my mentor and students from Columbia College. This was one of the many constituencies he meets with to engage and develop relationships with.

For the remainder of the afternoon, I spent time researching active parent groups for Carrie. The Department is looking for more outlets to reach parents through so they can disseminate more best practices and information to them.

January 12, 2012:

The last day was very exciting as I got to make a second trip to the White House to attend the White House Asian American and Pacific Islander Youth Leadership Briefing. It was an opportunity for young Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders to find out what the White House is doing to engage the AAPI youth community and to hear from youth about how they could better engage them. It was a packed day full of great panels and speakers including Chris Lu, the Cabinet Secretary for President Barack Obama, and Raj Shah, the Administrator for the US Agency for International Development. Some of the topics discussed in the panels and by the speakers were public service and issues in higher education.

Lastly, I attended the Race to the Top Philanthropy Conference at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Building to take notes for one of the smaller discussions. At this conference, private-sector stakeholders and Race to the Top state team members explored opportunities to share ownership of the implementation and improvement of Race to the Top. I was only able to attend one out of the three days of this conference, but it was a great conference that involved bringing together many private foundations, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and many educations and state workers.

For anyone considering this Princeternship, I would highly encourage taking this opportunity. It is great for anyone interested in education or government. I got to see several aspects of government and talk to people in many different departments. As I traveled to different locations to do specific tasks or meet people, I was able to get a taste of the entire city and could really see myself living in Washington D.C. after I graduated. I loved the environment and the people in it.

Again, I am so grateful to Mr. Ritsch and Career Services for this opportunity. As a freshman, having exposure to the government as a whole and the Department of Education has reaffirmed my belief that I want to continue learning about education and enter a career devoted to improving public education.