Presidential internships provide rare opportunities for SMU students
Lauren Ford typed up press lists, organized community calendars and learned how to strategize on social media during her internship at the George W. Bush Library and Museum last fall in 2014.
Ford worked in the public relations department and remembers meeting dignitaries as well as former President George W. Bush. Ford, an SMU senior studying communications and PR, said her experience gave her the chance to work for a community she was directly a part of, Dallas and University Park.
“I learned a lot about not only public relations but myself as an employee and as a student,” said Ford.
Working on post-presidency administrative duties and correspondence work for both Mr. and Mrs. Bush, Courtney Quinn, another former intern, describes her experience as completely hands-on.
“The program is very hands-on. Mr. and Mrs. Bush are involved in so many initiatives and foundations,” said Quinn.
The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and the George W. Bush Presidential Center both offer internship programs for college students from all majors.
Not only are the internships prestigious, but the skills learned can range from those used in public relations, library sciences, communications, advertising, political sciences, marketing, finance and archival work. And according to Ford, the internship program is more than just something to add to your resume.
With only 13 presidential libraries in the United States, the government based internship program right here on SMU’s campus offers students rare opportunities while earning course credit.
“I think it’s just a fun opportunity,” said John Orrell, who supervises interns in the public affairs office at the library and museum. ‘“All of them leave saying, ‘wow I learned a lot more than I thought I would,’’ said Orrell.
The library and museum and the presidential center are two separate establishments with individual internship programs. Supervised by the US government, both are federal. The application process is strenuous. It requires extensive background checks and multiple interviews since students may work on sensitive material pertaining to presidency records.
But Orrell doesn’t want students to be intimidated by the internship program. He is confident students will notice just how educational the work is, offering numerous teachable moments in a unique atmosphere.
Quinn, who graduated from SMU in May 2014 and interned at Bush’s personal office, gets excited thinking about the intimate lunch she had with the five other interns and Mr. Bush himself at the end of her internship.
Quinn’s studies, communications and sports management, had little to do with politics, but she said working with veteran affairs, multiple initiatives and foundations helped enhance her comprehensive skills, including responsibility, time management, and work ethic.
Both programs are extremely hands-on. At the library and museum, students receive their own major project. Last semester’s audio/visual interns compiled a year’s worth of photographs and speeches.
At the library and museum, projects consist of archival and historical research where interns have the rare chance to work with primary documents from an 8-year presidential administration.
Students studying political science should apply at the presidential center, which is the private foundation and public policy institute for George W. Bush. Orrell says more political science, finance and accounting majors intern there rather than at the library and museum.
At both internships, “You are responsible for some pretty important tasks,” said Orrell.
Ford acknowledged that the internships require hard work, but she was rewarded with insight about herself and her post-grad ambitions.
Ford says Orrell helped her realize her aspirations and land a job at Young Life, a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading Christianity to adolescents.
“The encouragement received from my time at the Bush Library,” Ford said, is responsible for her current career path.