Story originally posted to SOURCE by Jordyn Malmstrom. 

Morgan Scheinin interned with the Office of Staging and Pre-Departure at the Peace Corps.
Morgan Scheinin interned with the Office of Staging and Pre-Departure at the Peace Corps.

All it took was a short presentation during one of her political science classes to change Morgan Scheinin’s career trajectory.

Last spring, Straayer Center for Public Service Leadership Director Sam Houghteling began recruiting for a new internship opportunity in Washington, D.C. The CSU in D.C. program is a collaborative effort among the Straayer Center, the Department of Political Science, and The Washington Center to give CSU students an opportunity to earn academic credit as interns in the nation’s capital. Students take a seminar-style course and complete a portfolio in addition to working a full-time professional internship for the semester.

As a political science and international studies double major, Scheinin was immediately interested in the opportunity to work in a city central to global and governmental issues.

As the D.C. liaison for the Straayer Center, Houghteling acted as a mentor to Scheinin, helping her in the application process for The Washington Center. Soon after, Scheinin and four other students from Colorado State University were accepted into the Fall 2018 program.

The CSU in D.C. internship connects students with jobs in legislative offices, nonprofit organizations, law firms, and other businesses in D.C.

“I got referred to around 16 different organizations once I was accepted to the program,” said Scheinin. “From there, I just went on interviews and tried to find the best fit for me and what my future goals are.” After the interview process, Scheinin was placed at the Office of Staging and Pre-Departure at the Peace Corps.

Building essential skills and connections in D.C.

As part of her work with the Peace Corps, Scheinin helped prepare Peace Corps volunteers leaving to go abroad on their service trips. She assisted multiple departments within the organization, coordinating everything from flights to making sure volunteers had all their medical paperwork done before shipping off to their country of service.

Through the internship, Scheinin gained invaluable skills that she plans to apply after graduation. The office she worked in encouraged autonomy, allowing Scheinin to work on projects she was interested in on top of her daily duties of preparing volunteers and running one-day service orientations.

“I really learned a lot about myself, and I gained a lot of confidence through the program,” said Scheinin. “I kind of got to do what I wanted with my projects. At first, I was very unsure, but I ended up gaining hard and soft skills.”

The Washington Center provided housing in downtown D.C., where Scheinin and the other CSU interns lived with 400 other participants from universities around the country. Scheinin became close with several people and made lasting relationships that have followed her back to CSU.

“The program is amazing because you’re living with people who are also in college and going through the same things as you on a daily basis in their internships,” said Scheinin. “It’s kind of like a more grown-up version of college, which was really fun to be a part of.”

Living in a downtown metropolitan area was also a new experience for Scheinin. D.C. is four times larger than Fort Collins, and the energy and culture of the city is very different. “I absolutely love both cities, but I would love to go back to D.C. someday. It was so hard for me to leave.”

CSU’s history in the Peace Corps

“The most memorable day at the internship was when I got to meet the director and head of the Peace Corps,” said Scheinin, referring to Director Josephine Olsen. “She told me she loved Fort Collins and CSU. I just stood there absolutely star-struck that this important woman knew about my school.”

Colorado State University’s history with the Peace Corps dates back to 1961. Two CSU researchers, Pauline Birky-Kreutzer and Maurice Albertson, published one of the original feasibility studies with the idea for the program. That research helped in the creation of the organization by executive order by President John F. Kennedy.

Connections to the organization continue to this day as CSU ranks among the top schools with graduates serving in the Peace Corps.

Looking forward to new opportunities

“Before I left Fort Collins, I had no intention of ever wanting to participate in the Peace Corps,” said Scheinin. “But four out of five people on my team were return-volunteers, and after talking with them and by the end of the internship, I was hooked and realized this is something I would love to do.”

Once Scheinin graduates from CSU in Spring 2019, she hopes to be a Peace Corps volunteer and serve developing communities around the world. This internship experience opened her eyes to the many different opportunities there are to serve abroad.

“I just felt like I was doing something that was making an impact in not just my life, but in other people’s lives around the world. I want to continue that work for as long as I can.”

After serving, Scheinin hopes to return to the U.S. and pursue a career in international development, potentially moving back to Washington D.C.

The first cohort of students who participated in the CSU in DC program for the Fall 2018 semester.
The first cohort of students who participated in the CSU in DC program for the Fall 2018 semester.

Connect with the Straayer Center

The Straayer Center for Public Service Leadership exists to connect students to public-service internships, support applied research on policy and governance, and facilitate thought leadership on public issues. In addition to the new CSU in D.C. program, the Straayer Center manages the 40-year-old Colorado Legislative Internship program that connects CSU students with Colorado legislators and lobbyists.

Like the legislative internship, the CSU in D.C. internship is open to undergraduate students in all majors. The program is competitive, and interns are chosen through The Washington Center.

“I can’t express how many ways D.C. changed my entire life and outlook. If you have an opportunity, even if you’re not sure about it, take that leap of fate and go for it because it really could change your life,” advised Scheinin. “You might not get that opportunity again, and I promise, you will learn so much about yourself along the way.”

For more information about the CSU in D.C. internship program, visit the Straayer Center website. Applications for Fall 2019 are due by March 27, 2019.