July 15, 2021
The Apollo Theater, Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Portrait Gallery, the National Constitution Center, the Human Rights Campaign, and Library of Congress—these are just a few of the institutions where Washington College students are interning this summer through the College’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. The Starr Center has placed 27 students with internships as part of its Explore America internship program. Representing thirteen majors and all four class years, students are gaining valuable experience while earning stipends in the process.
“This program is truly unique, offering Washington College undergraduates opportunities unmatched at other small liberal arts schools,” said Adam Goodheart, the Starr Center’s Hodson Trust-Griswold Director. “Working with the leadership at major national nonprofits, we arrange for them to set aside positions each summer specifically for our students. Faculty members who know the applicants well carefully match them with the opportunities that will benefit them the most. Finally, we pay the students stipends of up to $5,000 for their summer work.”
Kyle Roberts, Associate Director of Library & Museum Programming at Philadelphia’s American Philosophical Society, has been hosting Explore America summer interns for several years.
"The American Philosophical Society greatly values its partnership with the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. Each summer we look forward to inviting bright Washington College undergraduates into ongoing archival and digital projects at the nation's oldest learned society,” he said. “From historic immigration records to a revision of the guide to our African American history collections, the paid interns from the Starr Center work alongside our professional staff to unlock new knowledge that is changing how we understand the past."
Although most of the internships are indeed virtual this summer, due to COVID precautions, several are not. The National Aquarium in Baltimore is providing soon-to-be senior and chemistry major Hannah Flayhart with a hands-on experience in conservation education.
“Working with guests and children at the National Aquarium this summer has given me a better understanding of what I want to do in the future. I want to continue to engage with people, not only to inform them about animals or science, but also to get across conservation tactics that can help protect our planet,” said Flayhart. Since the program’s inception at Washington College a decade ago, it has offered over $700,000 in funding to more than 160 students. Financial support comes from an array of private donors and institutional grants.
“By paying the recipients enough to support summer living expenses, the Explore America program levels the socioeconomic playing field and brings more diverse young people into the world of nonprofit leadership,” said Goodheart.
“The work that our students do — from helping plan Smithsonian exhibitions to doing research for forthcoming books — gives them valuable experience and introduces them to mentors who sometimes change the course of their lives.”
It’s also an impressive line for students’ resumes when they enter the work world, and in some cases, the realization of a childhood dream.
“The Explore America internship program is one of the reasons I chose to attend Washington College,” said 2021 Washington College graduate Katy Shenk. “I’m so grateful to the Starr Center for making these experiences possible. Both of my internship positions have allowed me to explore the field of public history through hands-on work and truly rewarding projects.”
Shenk said that her 2019 Explore America internship with the prestigious Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York City inspired her to later design and lead an independent World War II curriculum project when she returned to the Starr Center the following year. This summer, Shenk is interning through Explore America with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, as a curatorial research assistant.
“I’m doing the work of a historian—locating, interpreting, and critically evaluating primary and secondary source materials—a process I refined through many engaging, well-taught history seminars at Washington College. I’m confident these experiences not only helped me secure a place in American University’s graduate public history program but have provided me with the skills and knowledge of the field necessary to thrive there as well.”
About the Starr
Center Washington College’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience explores the American experience in all its diversity and complexity, seeks creative approaches to illuminating the past, and inspires thoughtful conversation informed by history. Through educational programs, scholarship and public outreach, the Starr Center bridges the divide between the academic realm and the broader world, while offering dynamic hands-on opportunities to Washington College undergraduates from a wide range of majors. More information can be found at starrcenter.washcoll.edu.
About Washington College
Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth-oldest college in the nation and the first one chartered after American independence. It enrolls approximately 1,250 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.