When Becca Bice ’13 told her father that she’d earned a nationally competitive internship with National Geographic in the nation’s capital, he was excited and maybe a little jealous.
“My dad loves National Geographic. He has had a subscription to the magazine since he was 7 or 8 years old,” said Bice, a geography and English literature double major.
She will begin her internship the week after she graduates from the University of Mary Washington in May.
At National Geographic, Bice will help promote educational activities through social media. She will write blog entries and conduct research while working with National Geographic staff and the public. She also hopes to make connections and to narrow her career options.
“I’m excited to talk to people who have actually pursued geography and have an idea of what I can do with it,” said Bice, who currently is a student aide in the Center for International Education and a Washington Guide giving biweekly tours of campus to prospective students.
She’s one of more than 300 UMW students who participate in internships each year. The internships help students develop skills, build their resumes and make professional connections for future careers.
“Research shows that a lot of employers are using internships as a pipeline for vetting future employees,” said Sarah Rogis, associate director of internships in the Office of Career Services. “Employees want to see if students are reliable. Do they show up? Do they fit into the culture?”
Bice’s internship won’t be her first real-world experience while at UMW. The senior also has studied abroad in India with the Alliance for Global Education where she worked in slum areas teaching adolescent girls about female health.
“She’s a great student; quite hardworking,” said Associate Professor Jackie Gallagher, who is chair of the Department of Geography. Students in her department have a history of landing the coveted post. Bice is the third geography student in four years to receive a National Geographic internship.
“Obviously for a lot of geography majors National Geographic is a really big deal,” said Bice. “Geography is not a prominent major, so it’s intriguing to have this gigantic organization do what we do. I think the main benefit that it will have is that I will be around people in my own field.”
While Bice prepares for her summer stint, Aaron Leung ’13 is hard at work in an Eagle Village office surrounded by a multitude of colorful clutches, key chains, head bands and jewelry each made from recycled materials. This semester he interns as the international marketing logistics manager for Esfuerzo de Amor, a student-run business at UMW.
To the naked eye these goods are just merchandise en route to a buyer, but Leung sees the faces behind each of these products. He looks at a handcrafted heart-shaped key chain and sees the man who painstakingly taught himself to make it while living in one of the poorest towns in the third-world country of Honduras.
At the most basic level, Leung is part of a group who is buying products from artisans in Honduras and bringing them to the U.S. to sell. But he knows that his work is much more than that. He empowers the people of Honduras by helping them to make a living. They use the revenue from their handcrafted products to pay for food, housing and school for their families.
“I do want to change the world. I want to feed people,” said Leung, whose father and paternal grandparents were born in Hong Kong where food was always a problem. “I just don’t want to do it at the expense of their dignity.”
Before Leung came on board, Esfuerzo de Amor, which began in 2008, set up group buying sessions in a central location to buy products from artisans in Honduras. That practice created animosity among the competing artisans, so Leung suggested that Esfuerzo de Amor develop individual contracts with the artisans and go into the crafters’ homes to buy products.
“We needed better products and we wanted to encourage a shift in the direction of the program,” said Leung, an international affairs major with a minor in economics. “We were able to reward artisans who could take high risks, be creative and invest in themselves.”
He discovered this internship after taking an economics class with Shawn Humphrey, associate professor of economics. Leung is also working with Brian Baker, executive director for Entrepreneurship and Business Development in the Center for Economic Development, to cultivate a strategic vision for the company.
“Aaron brings vital energy and sophistication to the sustainability of Esfuerzo de Amor,” said Baker. “He is improving the overall quality of the supply chain and developing strategies that will help Esfuerzo de Amor distinguish itself from competition.”
Halfway across the world, Stacey Peros ’12 spent last summer in Bosnia interning with a nonprofit agency called Bosnia Initiatives for Local Development. The alumna, who speaks English, Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian and Italian, served as a translator for the agency director and other officials, including a British Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina.
In fact, her translation work earned her an “Appreciation for Outstanding Service” medal from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Headquarters in Sarajevo.
“While giving it to me, Maj. Dan Gallton (for whom I translated) told me the story about the NATO medallion/coin,” said Peros. “It offered protection, as other soldiers identified those who carried the coin as a partner rather than an enemy.”
While in Bosnia, Peros also taught English as a second language to high school and university students from the Tuzla and Doboj regions.
Some of Peros’ best times in Bosnia were in the classroom, where she was able to laugh and joke with the students who also taught her a bit of slang. Still, she discovered that life wasn’t all fun and games. Many had experienced the Srebrenica genocide.
“All of my students somehow have a story connected to the war,” said Peros, an international affairs major.
She plans to stay in touch with her students, many of whom she has formed close friendships as she traveled to various cities in the region.
Peros has treasured her experience. Her parents are from neighboring Croatia, which has a similar language and culture to Bosnia.
“While the classroom has good lessons, I believe experience is life’s greatest lesson” said Peros. I am especially happy because my internship was in a region that is close to my heart.”