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Shape your destiny: Ashley Morgan

When our students aren’t in the classroom, they’re learning in the real world. Because sometimes it’s these experiences that make the best lessons. For Master of Public Administration student Ashley Morgan, that meant interning in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs in Fall 2016. There, it was her duty to assist the office staff as they worked with senators and representatives. Morgan received support for her internship from the Eberly College of Arts & Sciences A. Keith & Sandra F. McClung Enrichment Endowment.

How did you decide to pursue a Master of Public Administration?

Growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher because I thought this was the best way for me to help people. When I decided to attend West Virginia University in the fall of 2011, I found the program of Sport and Exercise Psychology. I absolutely fell in love with the program. The professors, classes and my peers were amazing. This program helped me better understand how to help people overcome obstacles in challenging situations and learn techniques to help them through. Although, this program focused on sports, I was able to see that the skills I was learning would be useful in any career. In every aspect of life, we are performing and our mind often times get in the way from accomplishing our goals. Sport and Exercise Psychology helped me develop a passion for health and wellness but also a passion for helping others even more.

When it was time to think about plans for post-graduation, I found myself looking towards a PhD in Sport and Exercise Psychology, Doctorate of Physical Therapy or a degree in School Counseling. However, I just never felt completely comfortable that any of these professions were the career for me. It wasn’t until I took my personal statement to Dr. Zizzi (Dr. Pat Fehl Endowed Professor, CPASS Sport and Exercise Psychology) in the fall of 2014, that he told me about the Master of Public Administration Program. I had never heard of it before, but immediately thought it was the path for me. I was at a point in my life where I was ready to take a leap of faith into an area that I wasn’t all that familiar with. I had always enjoyed public service, helping others and policy development but never had found the place where I could accomplish these as a career. I applied to the program and was accepted. The summer after I graduated with the B.S. in Sport and Exercise Psychology, I interned with Senator Joe Manchin III in Washington, DC, and this experience further solidified that the Public Administration Program was the program for me. 

How did you become interested in public service? 

My interest in public service in some ways has been ingrained in me since I was a child. I was raised in a household where serving others was a priority. We spent weekends serving the homeless in downtown Columbus, Ohio, evenings at our church with children and summers giving back in any way that we could. The value of helping others was instilled in me and something I value greatly. “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can,” this quote by John Wesley is the mantra for the household I was raised in. From this, I was able to establish my goal in life to help others in any way that I can. 

What was the application, interview and selection process like for this internship?

I learned about the White House Internship Program, when I was applying for the Truman Scholarship in the spring of 2014. I was excited about this potential opportunity even at this time, to intern for two of my role models in life -- President and Mrs. Obama. After I spent my summer interning with Senator Manchin, I realized that the next step was to intern for the executive branch. I began working on my application thoroughly for months. The application required two letters of recommendation, a personal statement on my dedication to public service and a policy memorandum about a policy in which I believe needs to be addressed and my resume. I submitted my application on January 15, 2016 for the summer term. I was declined for the summer internship but highly encouraged to apply for the fall internship class.

I was hesitant to apply for the fall because I had a plan in place; a great job and a full courseload of classes. My friends encouraged me and I applied right before the deadline, not even updating my application for when I turned it in January. By the middle of the May, I was contacted by two offices within the White House, the Office of Legislative Affairs (OLA) and Management and Administration (M&A). I interviewed with them and was accepted to the program on August 25th, a week into the fall semester. I moved to Washington, D.C., less than two weeks later to begin my internship with the Office of Legislative Affairs. 

What were some of your responsibilities on the House of Representative’s team within the Office of Legislative Affairs?

As an intern with the Office of Legislative Affairs, in the White House Internship program, it was my duty to assist the office staff in their daily needs. It is the White House Legislative team’s responsibility to work on the frontlines of Congress to work with senators, representatives and their staff to promote and foster the president’s top priorities. Additionally, I aided in preparation, coordination and staffing of over 50 events attended by congressional members, conducted weekly research projects on legislation and floor activity for White House Legislative Assistants, generated hearing abstracts and memos for the president’s chief of staff and senior administration officials, summarized weekly Veterans’ Affairs, environmental and climate legislative activity in a product circulated to White House senior staff, maintained a database of all mail correspondence from the White House to congressional offices and managed the House of Representatives information and aided in the preparation and execution for the White House Congressional Ball.

Each day I was tasked with working alongside of staff members on the White House Legislative Affairs team to notify congressional members about the president’s initiatives, researching legislation and activities on the House and Senate floors, working legislative events at the White House and serving as the initial contact for congressional offices. 

How did this internship prepare you for life after graduation?

The White House Internship Program has helped me further acquire skills in public service, leadership, time management, critical thinking, organizational structure, mentorship and professional development. Throughout my internship I have learned the importance of working as a team and understanding the roles an individual holds are critical to accomplishing the goals for the day. I have learned my jobs and responsibilities within the office and how I impact the tasks each day. Moreover, time management is a vital aspect to accomplishing these tasks. I have learned that is important to make a to-do list and prioritize based on time sensitivity. This has helped me complete tasks on time, hold a strong work ethic and maintain my roles and responsibilities in the office.

I believe that public service is the greatest skill I have acquired throughout my internship. President Obama established the White House Internship Program for their administration to provide opportunities for “young leaders from all across the nation an opportunity to develop their leadership skills and gain exposure to the public service sector through the White House Internship Program.” (The White House, 2016). These skills that the First Family and the White House staff are committed to are the skills I have learned the most from this past semester. I have learned how to work with others to help people whom I may never meet. However, the work I did through my internship, no matter the task, is helping someone in some way and changing their life or forever. This is an incredibly heartfelt experience. The work I have done with the White House Internship Program has helped me further dedicate my life to public service.

What was the most memorable experience during your internship?

It is hard to define things into one memorable experience. Each day, I was living out my dream working for my heroes. I was able to learn from assistants to the president through open discussions, meet the president, the first lady and the vice president as well as many members of Congress. The experience was truly amazing and something I know I will cherish for the rest of my life.

There are a few moments that stand out to me the most. I was selected from the intern class to introduce the assistant to the president for the Office of Legislative Affairs when she spoke to the intern class. This was a true honor as I was able to speak to Ms. Amy Rosenbaum before she met the intern class and learn about her career path.

I was able to work events at the White House that defined President Obama’s legacy. These moments will stand with me forever as I was able to stand on the sidelines of history and witness such historic events.

One rainy morning I was working an event over by the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The event had finished and my supervisor and I walked back through the White House to our office. There were numerous events at the White House that day and it was extremely busy. As we were walking through we were told to wait in the hallway. We stood there and through the doors came President Obama. He spoke to us for a brief moment. As we left the hallway, I was filled with joy because I had just met one of my heroes. It was one of the greatest honors of my life.

What are your future goals?

Currently, my goal is to complete my Masters degree in Public Administration, I plan to graduate in May of 2017. I am excited for the opportunities that may present themselves post graduation. The White House Internship Program experience taught me that life comes from all directions in the ways you least expect it. I never would have imagined I would be working for the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. I know that I want to dedicate my life to public service, I will be applying for a variety of jobs and seeing where life will take me.