When I tell people I’m a political science major, they typically respond with some variation of “That’s interesting, but what exactly can you do with a degree in political science?” I could give several answers to this question, but it was only after receiving a Wellman Hill internship grant that I experienced firsthand the type of career my degree will allow me to pursue.
Upon learning that I had been accepted for an internship at the Carter Center, a non-profit health and diplomacy organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, I was both thrilled and apprehensive. On one hand, I knew it could be an experience of a lifetime; on the other hand, I wasn’t sure if I could accept an unpaid internship, regardless of its educational benefits. However, thanks to the Wellman Hill internship grant, I was able to spend the summer as a Carter Center intern.
I worked in the Carter Center’s Americas Program, which focuses on advancing democracy and improving regional consensus in Latin America. My work dealt specifically with the program’s Access to Information (ATI) campaign. As an ATI intern, I quickly learned that the availability of information plays a crucial role in combating corruption, promoting development, and ensuring human rights. During my internship, the Carter Center was in the process of developing an assessment tool that will be used to help government ministries evaluate their progress in implementing Access to Information legislation. My assignment was to complete background research on the assessment tool’s eighty indicators in order to determine if they would be effective in helping governments to improve their citizens’ access to information. I had the opportunity to attend an access to information videoconference with government representatives and NGOs from around the world. It was exciting to see the impact that the Carter Center’s Access to Information campaign had in international dialogues, especially knowing that I had contributed substantive research to the program.
Working at the Carter Center broadened my understanding of development and democratic progress. I learned to focus on how laws are implemented rather than how they are passed, to recognize how something as simple as record keeping could have a tremendous impact on the allocation of resources and government benefits. The internship expanded my horizons in other ways as well. I was able to interact on a daily basis with interns who hailed from diverse geographical locations, who collectively spoke over a half dozen languages, and who shared a commitment to human rights. I also had the privilege of meeting former president Jimmy Carter and learning from his insights on international health and diplomacy.
Working at the Carter Center helped me understand what I want to achieve with a degree in political science. The internship was truly an invaluable experience, and I am extremely grateful to the Wellman Hill grant for making it possible.