The Washington Center – Brian Gowen

The Ronald Reagan International Trade Center-the building I worked in

Name: Brian Gowen
Graduation Year: 2012
Major/Minor: Global Studies and Economics / Business Administration
Hometown: Lincroft, NJ

Internship Site: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

AC: How did you hear about The Washington Center internship program?

BG: I heard about The Washington Center program through the Amica Center.  They had advertised it on posters in classrooms and in the hallways, and I had received emails from them as well.  In addition, a TWC representative had a table in the Roto during my sophomore year, and I had the chance to talk with her more deeply about the program and take some materials to read.  I did a lot of my own research as well by exploring various pages on their website regarding internship sites where TWC had students had been placed previously, course options, past student experiences, and living arrangements.  I was really drawn to the program initially because I knew if I was accepted, I was guaranteed a placement at an internship site that TWC regularly works with.  This was appealing- and also very comforting- because I knew that the path and process for getting an internship in my subject was not as easy or as clear cut as is it for other students at Bryant.

AC: TWC’s mission is “The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars provides students with transformational experiences that foster academic and professional achievement, leadership and civic engagement.”  Did this mission hold true in your internship?  How?

BG: This mission definitely held true for my TWC experience.  I interned at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, which is a public policy think tank (a research organization that engages in discussion and advocacy on various issues), and worked specifically in the area of macroeconomics and U.S. economic competitiveness relative to countries around the world.  In addition, I was a research assistant for an author writing a book on entrepreneurship and leadership.

Book author, Amy Wilkinson, and I before her presentation on entrepreneurship at the National Governor’s Association winter meeting

 This experience was unlike anything else I have done in my academic career.  My internship solidified and reinforced many of the skills I have learned at Bryant, but it also provided me with a unique experience that helped me to grow and mature as a professional.  I learned how to interact with those older, wiser, and more senior than me, as well as how to adapt and work within a professional environment.  I had the opportunity to attend many professional events around the city such as seminars, hearings, and summits, and this really improved my networking abilities.

In terms of leadership, my abilities were further strengthened by my work at the internship site.  I had developed these skills significantly during my time at Bryant, but was able to apply them in a professional setting.  For example, as the only full-time intern in my Wilson Center program, I was the leader on a group project where we researched various topics in American economic competitiveness and compiled this into a comprehensive presentation to be used by our program director.  As a nice bit of gratification, I was actually recognized for my efforts by my supervisors and TWC program advisor and received The Washington Center Leadership Pillar Award at the end of the year.

Civic engagement was not a subject I was very familiar with, but TWC delivered on its promise, and I learned a lot from this component of the program.  I participated in a project about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in which we ultimately lobbied members of Congress for the two-state solution.  This taught me a great deal about the democratic process and the ability for citizens to take an active part in their government.  For someone who is interested in working in public policy and government, this was an invaluable and unique experience.

AC: Tell us more about the program you participated in.

BG: I participated in the International Affairs program track at TWC.  This was one of the larger ones in terms of groups of students.  TWC offers numerous program tracks including advocacy and arts, business and economics, political leadership, communications, and law and criminal justice.

The program track is normally a student’s primary interest area, and your “program advisor” coordinates events that correspond to that interest area.  This often corresponds to your internship site, but that is not mandatory.  For example, in international affairs, we attended information sessions at the World Bank, US Agency for International Development (USAID), and Israeli Embassy and listened to a panel on fair trade.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney speaker to all of The Washington Center students

AC: What was a typical day like interning at the Wilson Center?

BG: A typical day normally started between 8:30 and 9am when I arrived at the office, and I usually left between 5 and 5:30.  I would start by checking the Wilson Center email and scrolling through our Twitter feed for relative news and events.  I would schedule tweets and posts for the day.  Each day I would also work on a blog post for the day, which usually focused on a major piece of news from the previous few days related to our subject area with our own analysis and insight.  If we were planning an event in the near future, I would manage the RSVP lists and work to promote the event through our network.

The bulk of my time was spent doing research.  I would normally receive a list of research topics from my program director every couple weeks, and my team and I would methodically go through the list, turning in research briefings on individual topics as they were completed.  These topics could include anything from new legislation, recent economic data, and education reform.  As the author’s assistant, I would research companies and individual entrepreneurs and work to see if they could be worked into specific chapters of the book.

AC: How had Bryant prepared you for this internship?

BG: Bryant prepared me for this internship in many ways.  First, I definitely felt that I had sufficient skills and knowledge to be an effective and valuable contributor to my team.  In addition, my business acumen was something that differentiated me from many other students. Those skills are useful no matter what industry you work in, and this is a piece of my Bryant education that I value greatly.  This particularly helped with my role as a research assistant for the book author.  She had an extensive business background and appreciated my business sense.  This not only helped with understanding her book and the research, but also with her on presentations and speeches and marketing her book.    Bryant’s focus on presentation skills, public speaking, and teamwork were also highly useful and benefited me greatly.

AC: What was your favorite part?  How about your least?

BG: My favorite part of the experience was stepping outside of the classroom and into a professional setting.  This is invaluable for any student and it taught me a lot about myself, my goals, my strengths and weaknesses, and my likes and dislikes in both career path and work environment.  I also really enjoyed living in a city, especially in Washington, D.C.  There is not only plenty to do as a young professional, but, as a student interested in a politics and policy, I felt like I was at the center of that universe.  I enjoyed interacting with people who had similar interests and worldviews as I did, which was intellectually stimulating and invigorating.

My least favorite part was probably getting adjusted to a new lifestyle and schedule.  The professional schedule of 9 to 5 was demanding at times, and this combined with class, programming, and the civic engagement project, consumed a lot of my time.  My days went quickly, and I wish I had some more time to explore different parts of the city.  They experience was completely worth it, but proper time management is really critical in this program.

AC: What is your advice for anyone who may be interested in interning for TWC?

Me and two other interns at my office

BG: One critical piece of advice for anyone considering this program is get started early.  Look into applying early and getting far in front of deadlines.  This is because most of the prestigious and more competitive internship sites have much earlier deadlines.  For example, sites like the White House and the State and Defense Departments require application approximately five months in advance of when you will start your internship.  So apply and get admitted as early as possible so you can take advantage of every possible opportunity.

In addition, don’t be afraid to go out and look for a site on your own, even if TWC hasn’t had a relationship with them in the past.  Not only was my application forwarded to various organizations by TWC staff, but I also took it upon myself to look at other competitive sites and deadlines.  As long as you are accepted and inform your advisor, TWC is willing to work with you.

This is very cliché, but take advantage of everything you possibly can in Washington, D.C.  Go to the monuments and see the sites, but also attend hearings on Capitol Hill and go to other think tank events in the city.  The city is overflowing with intellectual and professional capital, and you should try to absorb as much of that as you possibly can.

 

Brian can be contacted at wgowen@bryant.edu if you have any other questions for her, or just want to hear more about his interning experience!

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