The federal government shutdown is keeping some students in the Washington Hillsdale Internship Program from starting their internships.
Students who participate in the program typically intern full time while taking evening classes. While some students are interning at private organizations, 10 are employed by government agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the State Department. Six furloughed students are waiting out the shutdown with work for the Kirby Center.
“We’re doing great at the Kirby Center and taking each day as it comes,” Cassidy Syftestad, internship program coordinator, said in an email.
Junior Madeline Hedrick was set to work in the State Department as part of the career transitions team. At first, Hedrick didn’t hear from anyone in the department and didn’t know if she still had work.
“I was going to have a temporary internship at the Kirby Center,” Hedrick said. “But if the shutdown went on for months, what was I going to do? I was really freaking out. It was a miracle nobody got frustrated with me.”
This past Saturday, Hedrick heard from her supervisor who said she could come into the office. She went back on Tuesday, which was the office’s first day back at work in over a month.
“My department has a pocket of money that will keep us going for two weeks,” Hedrick said. “The part of the State Department that does orientations is still closed. I’m not oriented, and I don’t have my government ID. I have to be signed in as a guest.”
After her first day, it was up in the air whether Hedrick would be able to return. For now, she’s riding out the two weeks of funding with the rest of the department.
“I really hope the government reopens,” she said. “We’re doing a month-long retirement seminar in March. If we’re gone again in February, we can’t put that together.”
Hedrick is the only furloughed government employee that is back at work. Junior Jackson Frerichs secured a position at the Security and Exchange Commision in the division of corporate finance. He was notified over break that the SEC internship program was suspended indefinitely because of the government shutdown. Frerichs spent his first few days updating different alumni profiles and verifying their contact information. Now he and other students are currently doing research projects for Matthew Spalding, associate vice president and dean of educational programs for the Allan P. Kirby Jr. Center.
“I’m looking into Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his religion,” Frerichs said. “What was he actually? It’s a lot less prominent than other presidents.”
Once the students are done with their research, they are to submit a memo to Spalding that synthesizes the information they’ve gathered.
“Everyone is crossing their fingers that shutdown will end,” Frerichs said. “The Kirby Center seems fully equipped to make this a full-time internship.”
Frerichs experienced how the shutdown is affecting D.C. firsthand when he went to visit his brother in Bethesda, Maryland.
“I took the metro and he picked me up,” Frerichs said. “He said the drive usually takes about 20 minutes, but because of the shutdown it took about six. There are definitely shorter commutes. The drivers are happy about it.”
Hedrick said just listening to her coworkers talk about their month off gave her a different perspective on the shutdown.
“My coworkers were talking about what they had done for a month off,” Hedrick said. “Some cleaned their attics and basements; others had trips that were prescheduled. They had to come up with something to do, and there’s a lot of doubt about whether they’ll receive back pay. I’m seeing the tangible effects. Even without the politics, there’s such a tragic human aspect to it.”