Confessions of a Summer Intern: Passion Equals Action

Sarah & Friends

Well, my amazing and life changing internship has finally come to an end. Overall within my internship at the US Department of Education, I was able to work with many leaders in the field of education, and was thrilled when they placed me on a second team– the Early Learning team. My main supervisor, Jo Anderson, the Senior Advisor to the US Secretary of Education, recommended me to the Early Learning Initiative team due to my undergraduate major in Early Childhood Education. The Early Learning Initiative team works in collaboration with various program offices at ED and other Federal and State agencies.

US Department of Education
US Dept of Education

I was coming in at a very exciting time for Early Learning, they had just received approval to go ahead with drafting the requirements for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, which would provide a total of $500 million to states that eligible through the application process, those that are leading the way in early learning with ambitious and achievable plans for putting into action captivating comprehensive early learning education reform. (More information on the actual grant requirements and process can be found online.)

I was able to sit in on meetings that were led by Jacqueline Jones, the Senior Advisor on Early Learning to the Secretary of Education, Steven Hicks, Special Assistant on Early Learning, Jennifer Tschantz, Early Learning Program Analyst, and Katy Chapman, Confidential Assistant on Early Learning. Although Jacqueline was the Senior Advisor in the group, she was very open to ideas from others as well as myself. She wasn’t like other advisors I had seen in action – you had to personally approve every detail, yet asked others their opinions before she approved something herself.  She knew the staff she was working with on such a personal level, not just their strengths and weaknesses, but how they would react to a certain topic and many times if they were upset or thinking about something else that day. It was a very admirable quality to see in a national leader.

In addition to her team, public opinion was very important to the Department of Education, so we had many mailing and online blog posting opportunities for comments and letters to be submitted for our viewing. My role was to synthesize these comments and figure out the topic for each comment or letter as well for Jacqueline and the others.

US Capital Building

The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge is going to help many young children from hopefully more states than we like to think. In the end it will create models for schools and consistent programs that are positive and create healthy student growth and success that others can duplicate. They hope that this is only the first step in the funding that they will receive for Early Learning. Their leadership is in all the right places. These people have the heart, many of them serving as preschool teachers previously themselves. They are very admirable leaders. I am honored to have been able to work so closely with them and will have the work experiences and skills I have gained for life.

If you are passionate about something, go for it!

Read Sarah’s Internship Journey

  1. Meet Sarah Suter
  2. Washington DC Is a Fantastic Place for an Internship

Other Summer Intern Confessions

Alysondra Milano

Gabby Fenzel

Erin Quist

Confessions of a Summer Intern: Washington DC Is a Fantastic Place for an Internship

Fourth of July in DC - Sarah Suter
Fourth of July in DC

The first month and a half of my internship experience has been amazing! I am continually learning new things and helping others to learn as well. My supervisors as well as other staff at the department are always so encouraging and open to my ideas. There are very few interns from D3 schools such as UW-Whitewater, in fact most interns are attendants of Harvard, Stanford, and Berkley. I was assigned to a team on a different floor of the department, and after doing a great deal of work with them they asked where I attended school. After hearing UW-Whitewater and learning more about it, they were shocked at the work quality and ethic that I had. Literally, they told me that there was not a single intern working on their floor that wasn’t from Harvard or Stanford and that they had pulled me from the Office of the Secretary to do this work because of my previous work quality. It really makes me feel great and proud of my education at UW-Whitewater!

The team and project I have been working on very much falls under the US Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation grant. I have been filing, entering, and redistributing applications for individuals interested in being peer reviewers for this grant process. The grant, in the end, will provide funding to schools that want to invest in their district to move forward for success. I sit in on important meetings and play a rather large role in these meetings because I am the one working behind the scenes, knowing the process and at what stage applications are at.

Sarah Suter's DC Internship - Lincoln Memorial
Sight Seeing – The Lincoln Memorial

Washington DC is a fantastic place for an internship. No matter how long you’ve been in the area working, there are always new things to do or places to see. I still spend weekends sight seeing with my new intern friends. The days can get quite hot, but that’s when a museum always makes for a great option. The one thing that I did venture into while here in DC was flying trapeze lessons. Yes it sounds crazy and quite circus-like, but it honestly is so much fun! A friend convinced me to go and I have gone twice since–I highly recommend it, even if you have a fear of heights like myself!

Sarah Suter on the Trapeze

The most exciting time so far this summer was most definitely the Fourth of July! What could be better than spending the Nation’s birthday near the capital? My friend from home came to visit for the weekend and we spent the day watching the parade, partaking in Fourth of July festivities, and ending the night to the most amazing fireworks I have ever seen!!

In case you missed it, read Sarah’s first post about her DC internship!


Confessions of a Summer Intern: Meet Sarah Suter

Sarah Suter

Sarah Suter will graduate from UW-Whitewater in August 2011 with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She starts graduate school at UW-W in the fall, working towards a master’s degree in Professional Development with an emphasis in Educational Leadership. Sarah is interning with the US Department of Education in the Office of the Secretary. Her main internship advisor is Jo Anderson, Senior Advisor to the US Secretary of Education.

I have been a strong advocate for and minor leader in education since at least high school. My dream and goal for the past two years was to be an intern for the US Department of Education. I didn’t care in what office or what specific projects I’d be working on, just the initial experience would be enough.

Through conferences attended and conversations had, putting my passion for this internship out there for leaders in education to know about, I was able to get connected with my current supervisor at the Department of Education, Jo Anderson. I had no idea when I emailed him for the first time how big of a deal he was. After many email correspondences, a couple of conference calls, and a breakfast in Milwaukee, here I am today in Washington, DC! The vital part of getting the internship that you really want is to make the necessary connections and do what it takes. Don’t settle for less if you’re truly keen on attaining it.

My experience has been more that amazing thus far. My first week was a little hectic in the office with the Department of Education having more interns this summer than ever before along with many big meetings and projects going on. Staff was, however, extremely welcoming and enthusiastic for us to begin. Like any other intern, I was extremely anxious, but SO excited to begin my work.

I am three weeks in and have about five co-supervisors in addition to my main supervisor. I am a part of many different teams within the department, such as Early Learning, Labor Management Collaboration, Investing in Innovation, State News, and more. Much of the work I do is confidential since it is yet to be publicized information. It’s a great feeling when you are a part of these teams and all members treat you as a key component of these teams as well. You are adding very important information to the meetings and the teams work to help move the project/initiation, and essentially the department, forward. After sometimes long days, it’s always rewarding to know that I’m doing my part and giving input to help better the education system for America’s youth.

The Lyndon B. Johnson US Department of Education Building
LBJ US Dept of Education Building

At work!
Sarah at Work

Outside of the working hours, which are generally Monday through Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm, I have been keeping very busy! Washington, DC is such a beautiful and energetic city with a wide range of things to do and see.

Sarah with Washington Monument

Sarah Site Seeing

Aside from the hours of site seeing and museum touring, interns in the Office of the Secretary like to get together after work on Thursday evenings for “Intern Bonding.” We pick a different “neighborhood” within DC and go to a random restaurant and relax from the workplace. I have also met many friends at the upperclassman dorm I am living in for summer, George Washington University’s City Hall.

Taking the metro everywhere has been an interesting experience, but I finally have it down! You can get near pretty much anywhere you need to get in DC, and the price isn’t too bad either.

The Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro that I take to work each morning.
Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro

Technology has played a huge factor in keeping in touch back home. Thanks to Skype for being able to talk to over 20 family members one night while they were all at my grandpa’s 77th birthday party!


Sarah proves that you can “stay close” – through technology, but still go far!


Resource Spotlight: The Association for Experiential Education

Trail Trampers Delight

Internship. When you use the word, most if not all people know what you’re talking about…or at least they have a general idea of what you’re talking about. However, an internship is only one way to gain experience as a student. There are other kinds of programs and experiences that fall into an area known as Experiential Education:

  • Experiential Education refers to “work-education” programs in which a student’s academic studies are combined with career-related experience. Such programs “enable students to work in their chosen fields under the mentorship of professional practitioners.” (NACE)

But did you know that experiential education is also a career field in and of itself? Experiential educators can include teachers, camp counselors, challenge course guides, environmental educators, and coaches.

Since I just returned from my annual fall camping trip, I found it only fitting to highlight the Association for Experiential Education (AEE).

This international organization brings together experiential educators who work as adventure educators, professors, camp counselors, students, teachers, facilitators, risk managers, ropes course instructors, guides and others. They coordinate their own Jobs Clearinghouse where you can find postings for camp, field staff/guide, instructor, and intern positions – perfect for Education majors seeking experience BEFORE the formal student teaching experience.

The AEE has partnerships with the following organizations who also have volunteer and/or career opportunities of their own:

Whether you’re into the outdoors, environmental issues, or education, this could be a field worth exploring.

Related Posts:

Over the course of the year, I’ll write in more detail about all Experiential Education programs to both inform you and help you identify the experience best suited for your career path. This includes internship, “co-op,” practicum, field study, student teaching, service learning, and undergraduate research experiences.

UW-W Teacher Interns Leading the Way


Picture by D Sharon Pruitt (pinksherbert)

According to a news release from University Marketing & Media Relations, UW-Whitewater education students lead the state in the number of teacher interns.

Education students at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater continue to lead the state in winning highly prized teacher internship positions.

According to Tom Ganser, director of the Office of Field Experiences at UW-Whitewater’s College of Education, 30 colleges and universities in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan participating in the Wisconsin Improvement Program enlist between 80 and 100 teacher interns a year and UW-Whitewater students make up 25 percent of those who are chosen.

“In the last school year, [the program] had 99 interns and 25 of them came from UW-Whitewater,” Ganser said. “This year, [the program] had 84 interns and 21 of them were UW-Whitewater students.”

A teacher intern meets the same licensing requirements as a student teacher. The internships are competitive, however, and carry with them a $4,500 stipend, plus a $500 professional development stipend for the intern and participating cooperating teachers.

“Generally speaking, the intern is entrusted with more responsibility than that given a student teacher,” Ganser said. “They can be used by school districts to improve their student/teacher ratio, and also to free up professional teachers for some other duties in the school. So, there’s a benefit to both students and to the schools.”

The participating colleges and universities approve the internship applicants, but don’t place the students. “The schools interview the applicants and choose among them – so it’s a pretty big honor to have so many of our students chosen,” Ganser said.

He said UW-Whitewater’s strong showing suggests both the quality of the students in its College of Education and the reputation of interns chosen in previous years.

The College of Education, which enrolls about 2,200 students each year, produces the largest number of teachers of any of the state’s 33 colleges and universities.

“UW-Whitewater has a long tradition of providing strong intern candidates to the Wisconsin Improvement Program,” said Mark Schwingle, director of the program.

– July 7, 2009 – Melissa DiMotto, University Marketing and Media Relations

Students who are interested in the Teacher Internship Program should plan on attending the informational meeting for the Fall 2010/Spring 2011program on Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at noon in Winther Hall 2001. Information is also available on the Office of Field Experiences Internships page. You can also contact Deb Bowditch, Teacher Internship Coordinator, at or Cheryl Wegner, Program Assistant, at


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