Tiger Walk to Washington
Jordan Kramer, a sophomore studying political science, applied for nearly 30 different internship positions in Washington, DC. But, by the time he received an offer for his dream position with the House Democratic Caucus, most of the housing options were full or too expensive. That’s when he called his friend and SGA president Jacqueline Keck.
“I remembered reading a Plainsman article after Jacqueline was elected, and she mentioned wanting to get this DC program started so I immediately emailed her,” explained Kramer.
The program is the Auburn Intern Housing Initiative (AIHI), a project where College of Liberal Arts students live with Auburn alumni host families at no cost during their 4-10 week internship in DC or surrounding areas. The initiative was the brainchild of Keck, an economics major and former CLA senator, and fellow senator Cody Bass ’16. It was then piloted by the College of Liberal Arts this past summer.
“My aunt in Orlando was a host for education students from Ashland University in Ohio who were doing their student teaching. Their program started with two Ashland alumni and now there are over 15 host families,” explained Keck. “After I heard of students having to get loans to go to DC, I was like, whoa, we’ve got to try this at Auburn.”
Keck and Bass met with CLA Dean Joseph Aistrup and pitched their idea. “When Jacqueline and Cody came to me with their plan, I was impressed with the thought they had put into the project. I knew it was in good hands and would be successful,” said Aistrup. He then asked Keck and Bass to present their project to the Dean Advisory Council (DAC).
After meeting Keck and Bass at a council meeting in fall 2016, Susan D’Antoni ’80, a DC area resident and DAC member, knew she wanted to help. Since then, the AIHI has seen an outpouring of support from DC alumni.
"Auburn families in the DC area embraced hosting Auburn interns this summer, and we expect more families will host in the future,” D’Antoni noted. “Coming to a large city like DC was a first-time experience for many of these students. Living with an Auburn family made the transition easier and more welcoming. By making these internships financially feasible, the intern housing program and our host families made dreams come true for students who would not have been able to have such an incredible learning experience."
The initiative was launched in the DC area not only for its large active Auburn alumni group but also for the number and variety of internship opportunities for CLA students– from political science and economics to art and public relations.
“We thought DC was one of the few cities where almost all CLA majors can find something to benefit not only their educational experience but also their job prospects afterwards,” Keck said.
Now an initiative of the greater Student Government Association, Keck says the AIHI fits well with the SGA mission: “serving and promoting the individual student; unifying all that is Auburn.” She and CLA senators Ken Ward, Schyler Burney, and Jordan Kramer are currently in talks with the Auburn University Career Center to expand the program to all Auburn students and to other cities including Birmingham, Atlanta, and Nashville. Like most new programs, they are also evaluating its success.
“Schyler Burney and I flew up to DC to meet with the host families and students to engage in conversation and ask questions about what we can improve or change,” explained Keck. “We also sent out a survey. Once we have all the feedback, we will have a model for the program and it will be easier to expand.”
Unpaid internships are often seen as a luxury for only the wealthiest of students. As Auburn University moves toward offering more need-based scholarships, there is a greater demand for affordable internship housing. As financially strapped families finally get through the hurdles of tuition and housing costs on campus, they confront another obstacle just a few short years down the road – the cost of an internship, which in today’s curriculum is required by most academic majors.
“As our programs place more emphasis on practical experience before graduating, we want to make these opportunities available to all students,” said Dean Aistrup. “What a tremendous way for our Auburn Family to give back and support these deserving future leaders.”
For more information on the Washington, DC Intern Housing Initiative, go to www.cla.auburn.edu/cla/student-services/internships/ or contact Giovanna Summerfield, associate dean for educational affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Wendy Bonner
Last Updated: January 04, 2018