Talk about having friends in high places. Two West Virginia University students can say theyve worked at the most famous white house in the world.
Sarah Lovell, a senior computer engineering major from Martinsburg, and Kelly McNeil, asenior advertising major from Richmond, Va., both experienced the national political scene as Washington, D.C., interns.
Lovell, who would eventually like to work for a government security agency, said the internship was an important step toward her career goal. She credits a one-hour course at WVU calledFinding an Engineering Job or Internshipwith helping her land a position at the White House.
While working at the White House wasnt per se an engineering job, the principles I learned in how to put together an attractive resume and application helped me get the internship,she said.
Lovell hopes to go to graduate school and enroll in the Presidential Management Fellows program. She said politicians such as Sen. John Unger from her district are an inspiration.
We both grew up in the same neighborhood and attended WVU ,she said.On top of working with Mother Theresa, Sen. Unger was also a Truman and a Rhodes Scholar. Besides being an incredible individual, Sen. Unger has served the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia well, especially in his fight for locality pay for teachers.
Lovell added,I would love to meet Karen Hughes. I really enjoyed her autobiography and admire the ways in which she tries to live a faith-centered and family-centered life. Plus, after studying abroad in Morocco, I really appreciate her role in helping to bridge the gap in Muslim-Western understanding.
McNeil had the unique opportunity to serve in first lady Laura Bushs Projects and Policy Officelast summer. She lived in the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority house just seven blocks from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
I wanted to intern in the White House because I wanted to have the opportunity to endorse the administration and its efforts during this crucial time in history,said McNeil, who toured the White House as a child.
As an intern, she promoted Mrs. Bushs projects and initiatives by coordinating events and handling correspondence with constituents and government agencies. She was in charge of compiling daily news clippings, composing memos, and updating and verifying databases.
In addition, she researched organizations and venues and vetted people attending events with the first lady. She worked primarily on the National Book Festival, Mrs. Bushs trip to Africa, Preserve America, and the Helping Americas Youth Conference and national tour of schools and organizations.
Mrs. Bush was very appreciative of all of her interns and volunteers,McNeil recalled.We were lucky to have many experiences that other interns did not have such as watching a movie in the White House theater and a play in the presidential box at the Kennedy Center.
But the most rewarding experience was sitting in Mrs. Bushs office with her 20-some other staff members as she privately debriefed on her visit to Africa where she visited AIDS treatment facilities and promoted womens issues and education,she said.She discussed the intimate and emotional details of her tour of Africa, telling us stories and individually thanking us for our hard work making her trip a success.
Another perk was meeting Washingtons movers and shakers. McNeil got to meet Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on the South Lawn; Karen Hughesformer counselor to President George W. Bush who now serves as under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs at the State Departmentin the West Wing, and actor and former White House speech writer Ben Stein during the White House Speaker Series.
McNeil says she looks up to Mrs. Bush and former president Ronald Reagan. But if she could rub elbows with any current politician, it would have to be Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Lovell worked for the Office of Strategic Initiatives, one of the offices that top White House adviser Karl Rove oversees, during the spring semester. The office plans, develops and coordinates a long-range strategy for achieving presidential priorities. It conducts research and assists in message development.
I had to pinch myself each morning as I walked into work in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building,she said.My office overlooked the White House South Lawn so we had a grand view of Marine One landings.
While it might sound unusual for an engineering student to want to intern in the White House, Lovell said it was the perfect complement to her political science minor.
Taking classes was one thing, but I was eager to intern to see for myself how bureaucracy functioned day to day,she said.Plus, I knew getting real-world experience would enable me to make a better decision about which career path and/or grad school option I wanted to pursue. Ultimately, I couldnt think of a more interesting and exciting place to work.
This wasnt the first time Lovell had visited the White House. While reading a local newspaper, she found a story about another Mountaineer, Karen Evans, who serves as the presidents chief administrator for the Office of E-government and Information Technology.
Evans, a WVU graduate from Martinsburg, invited Lovell to visit her office in the West Wing.
She is truly inspirational, and it was a joy to get to see her more during my internship,she said.
During Lovells stint in the nations capital, there were many highlights.
Every other week, we had a top White House official come and speak to the interns,she said.This was one of my favorite aspects of the internship. The very first week we heard from former Chief of Staff Andy Card, and we also heard from Karl Rove and (White House counsel) Harriet Miers.
One of my favoritecelebritymoments was when I took the elevator up to the White House Athletic Center and Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito walked into the same elevator car as me,she added.
Another highlight was when the interns took a group photo with President Bush, and he did a brief question-and-answer session.
One of the questions was on the importance of his faith,she said.Hearing the president of the United States talk about that was truly an unforgettablemoment.