Spotlight on University of New Hampshire

Spotlight on University of New Hampshire

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Ashley Rennebu
June 20, 2013

The University of New Hampshire (UNH), founded in 1866, is a world-class public research institution. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution and enrolls nearly 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Since UNH partnered with The Washington Center (TWC) in 1976, the university has sent more than 700 students to Washington, D.C. to participate in TWC's transformational academic internship program. These UNH students come from all disciplines and have gained valuable experience and insight into possible career paths, built a network of professional connections, and launched their careers through TWC’s program. As Dean Kenneth Fuld of the College of Liberal Arts explains, “UNH has a nearly 40-year history with TWC that we are very proud of. The College has long supported internship experiences as an excellent way to enhance classroom learning. TWC has provided that enrichment at a consistently high quality and in a unique setting—the very hub of the nation.”


The UNH Liaison: A Student-Centered Champion


Over the last several years the UNH program has gained momentum, and one key player in making it a success is Paula DiNardo, UNH campus liaison since 2005. Mike Smith, president of TWC, is quick to point out that “the success of the organization is not possible without the dedication and support of liaisons like Paula.” Liaisons are vital partners in TWC’s efforts to advise students, facilitate participation and to generally make the opportunities available to students known across campus. As a liaison, she consistently goes above and beyond these normal responsibilities and has developed several UNH-TWC specific promotional materials, including a program website that thoroughly explains everything students need to know and highlights successful UNH-TWC alumni. DiNardo also utilizes social media and a tailored Facebook page to stay connected with students, announce upcoming deadlines and share stories of current and past TWC interns.


Broad Campus Support


Internships have become commonplace, but TWC provides more than an internship and a semester “away.” Academic semesters and summer terms through TWC are tailored to each student’s interests and goals, include rigorous academic coursework, and are enhanced through special lectures and other programming. The program is an integrated, credit-worthy experience that helps to create the next generation of young leaders. UNH faculty and staff share a commitment to high-impact opportunities like TWC and actively encourage students to participate. As Mark Rubinstein, UNH Vice President for Student and Academic Services says, “TWC has served as an important springboard opportunity for many UNH students to become involved nationally and even internationally. The placements offered by TWC allow students to apply what they’ve learned, test theories and establish careers in public service.” Rubinstein sees this program “as an important complement to [UNH’s] mission to foster leadership for the future.”


Charlene Zerbinopoulos, Director of Career Services at the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics, believes TWC offers eye-opening experiences that allow “students to see the world through the political epicenter that is D.C.” For business majors, “TWC allows students to incorporate their business skills in an atmosphere unlike any other…surrounding themselves with networking opportunities and immersing themselves in the greatest network there is.”


Dr. Cliff Brown, UNH Associate Professor of Sociology, has a similar outlook on the program. He believes students come away with a sense of empowerment, describing the program as “exciting, transformative, and hands-on. Whether it’s homelessness, inequality or racism, TWC provides students with an opportunity to see sociology applied in practice, especially in a big city like D.C., where these social and economic issues are all laid out for students to experience firsthand.”


How does it work?


In addition to the official 12-credit UNH Washington Center internship built into the course catalogue, students register for an independent study through their department and obtain a sponsor who awards the credit. In the Political Science department, for example, students submit weekly electronic journal entries and write a final 15-20-page term paper in addition to their TWC coursework. Dr. Susan Siggelakis, UNH Political Science Associate Professor, encourages her students to take a political science approach to their paper and has them research how political scientists have studied the organization where they are interning. After spending 15 years working with the program, Dr. Siggelakis believes that “TWC is the natural next step” and describes it as “challenging, inspirational, and well-run. It isn’t a surprise that motivated students are naturally drawn to TWC.”


UNH and TWC work hard to make the program affordable, and for most students spending a semester in D.C. is comparable to spending a semester at UNH. In addition, the New Hampshire State Society (NHSS) also provides scholarships to students from UNH who have secured internships in D.C. NHSS is run by Granite Staters living in and around the capital and provides opportunities for New Hampshirites living in D.C. to meet and share information while sponsoring events, contributing to charities and providing an educational stipend to students doing internships in D.C.


TWC-UNH Alumni


The official UNH Alumni in D.C. group is one of the most active UNH alumni association chapters. DiNardo and the Alumni Association collaborate to make the support network for students in D.C. very strong. A major event is the UNH Alumni Networking event in D.C. Lynn Smith, Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement, advertises the special networking event to alumni living in D.C. while Paula recruits current and past UNH interns to attend the event. "We're interweaving people together," Smith says. For her, "it's all about building connections and developing relationships. It's all about building win-win situations for everyone. It's all about getting UNH out there.”


UNH-TWC alumni rave about their experience. Jennifer Cartmell, UNH-TWC alumnus (’93), interned at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in the Division of Energy and National Security. It wasn’t only about the internship placement but also about the opportunity to live in D.C. and take part in everything such as “seminars at the State Department, parties at embassies, softball games on the Mall and visits to the National Zoo.” Cartmell recommends the program to just about everyone and recognizes that TWC “is an experience that truly impacts you forever.” After TWC she went on to work on Capitol Hill and is now an Account Executive at NL Partners, a full-service marketing firm.


Geoffrey Cunningham completed the TWC program and graduated from UNH in 2011. He is the current White House Correspondent for the Saudi Press Agency and explained that his TWC internship with CBS’s “Face The Nation” helped him realize that his two fields of study, print journalism and writing, were a perfect fit. During his internship, his responsibilities included researching guests that would be on “Face the Nation” each week. He recounts, “I was a guest handler. I was the person who greeted the guest, escorted him or her around the building and essentially got to hang out with who we hosted. During my internship I met Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, John McCain, Chris Christie and Harry Reid.”  Cunningham noted that the most interesting person he got to work with was Bob Schieffer: “He’s been in the game for such a long time and it was an honor to work with him.” Today, as a White House Correspondent, Cunningham attends and reports on White House Press Briefings as well as presidential events such as the debates and inauguration earlier this year. For Cunningham, an internship through TWC gave him the confidence to come back to D.C. and find a full-time position. When providing advice to current and future TWC students, Cunningham emphasizes that “you need to try to move as soon as you can to the city you want to work in. I took a chance and things fell into place for me.” Cunningham concluded that there are “still those moments when I think ‘Wow, this is my life.’ It is amazing—really a dream come true.”


For Rick Marini, UNH-TWC alumnus (’93) and founder of BranchOut the largest professional network on Facebook, working in D.C. inspired him to “think bigger.” And that is exactly what he did. After interning at the management consulting firm Davies Consulting, Marini returned to UNH to finish his degree in Business. After graduation he went on to receive an MBA from Harvard Business School and then founded, selling it for over $100 million in 2004.  In 2010, he founded his third start-up, BranchOut, which today has over 30 million users and $49 million in funding. Marini explains how TWC was a “transformative time, opening my eyes to opportunities available to all of us.” His internship gave him hands-on professional experience in a fast-paced environment along with a great mentor. He also notes that the “combination of solid academic coursework along with hands-on experience put me in an advantageous position when competing with classmates for the top jobs. The experience also better prepared me to assimilate quickly into the professional world after graduation.” After returning to Durham, NH for his senior year at UNH, Marini reflected, “I felt light years ahead of my classmates who missed out on the opportunity that I embraced. I came back to UNH feeling like I could change the world.”


Carrying this tradition forward are the spring 2013 UNH students featured below who recently completed the program:


[View photos on our Flickr channel]

The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars (TWC) is proud to partner with over 400 colleges and universities in the United States. The Affiliate Spotlight aims to showcase outstanding affiliates that serve as models for other institutions in how to create and sustain high-impact programs through TWC.

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