My Princeternship occurred over a period of three days with alumnus Massie Ritsch ’98, Acting Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach at the federal government’s Department of Education. The function of the Office is both to dispense information to and receive feedback from teachers, parents, foundations, corporations, and the public in general regarding the Department’s policies. The physical site of this Princeternship was the Lyndon Baines Johnson Building in Washington D.C.
Mr. Ritsch’s assistant, Vanessa McKinney, familiarized me with the areas of the Department in which I would be working: these included the Office of Communications and Outreach and the Department’s Video Production Office. Shortly after, I attended a meeting between Mr. Ritsch and several other members of the Office of Communications and Outreach; they tasked me with examining the academic prowess of the colleges and universities participating in this year’s men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments. Later, I met with Sambia Shivers-Barclay, Coordinator of Sub-Saharan Affairs and International Visitors at the Office of International Affairs, a separate entity within the Department of Education. Ms. Shivers-Barclay furnished me with excellent information regarding the ways in which our country’s education system interacts with the high-performing systems of other countries.
I continued to compare the academic profiles of the institutions participating in the NCAA basketball tournaments, working with the Office of Communications and Outreach’s graphic designer, Barbara Julius, to convey the information uncovered visually. I also attended two especially interesting meetings: the first occurred between many of the members of the Office of Communications and Outreach, and the second featured a presentation given by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to the entirety of the Department. The Video Production Office also assigned me some basic tasks involving transcription.
At Mr. Ritsch’s request, I conducted some preliminary research on federal policies of interest to the Department. Additionally, I transcribed the dialogue of another of the Department’s video sources. Mr. Ritsch devoted more of his time to answering my questions regarding his work at the Department and in earlier phases of his career; as usual, his answers were instructive and extremely thorough.
I both enjoyed and benefitted from this Princeternship. It greatly improved my understanding of the work done in the Department of Education and in the field of communications. Further, everyone I encountered at the Department was remarkably accommodating of the needs of the most temporary of interns. I would like to thank Barbara Julius, David Whitman, Gillian Cohen-Boyer, Jonathan Schorr, and Vanessa McKinney from the Office of Communications and Outreach, Sambia Shivers-Barclay from the Office of International Affairs, and Paul Wood from the Video Production Office for being so receptive. Of course, I would like to thank Mr. Ritsch for providing Princeton students with this opportunity and for making the opportunity itself so worthwhile.