Explore America internships: insights from students and overview from staff

By Heather Fabritze

Student Life Editor

The Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience re-opened the application for their Explore America program, which offers students immersive internship opportunities annually.

According to the Starr Center website, the program matches Washington College students with fully paid summer internships at an “array of leading cultural institutions and nonprofits.” These institutions reserve positions specially for WC undergraduates and function as full-time work experiences. 

Stipend pay for these internships varies, but can range up to $5,000.

One of the major benefits of Explore America, outside of the hands-on opportunities it provides, is its introduction to workplace mentors. Many interns build strong relationships with their internship partners that extend even past graduation.

Past program interns have been hired directly out of the College to their Explore America institutions.

According to Assistant Director for Communications and Outreach at the Starr Center Katy Shenk, WC students sometimes take other sources of “transformative” inspiration from the program.

“Any one of these positions will stand out on a resume, but the connections students make with staff and partners at their host sites are even more valuable,” Shenk said. “Many students are energized by their experience. Explore America internships have sparked senior capstone topics, illuminated new career paths, and inspired campus projects and initiatives.”

The question that interns ask themselves during their oral Explore America presentations in the fall semester is what they have learned from their experience. In addition, they must also complete a reflection evaluation and attend a dinner with fellowship donors.

The Starr Center is offering 25 positions this year. The only new experience is an internship at “The American Scholar,” the literary magazine of the Phi Beta Kappa society. The other 24 positions are institutions that WC has worked with in the past.

Past Explore America intern senior Faithlin Hunter said that she was unsure if her area of interest could be explored through the program. She was proven wrong.

“Explore America is a program for any student to benefit from,” Hunter said. “There are opportunities for students of all majors. As a math and music major, I thought there would only be history opportunities, but this program helped me to branch out and explore music in a different way. Explore America is perfect for those ready to dive head first into something new.”

Hunter worked as a hip-hop and education intern for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. According to Hunter, the experience was “once-in-a-lifetime.”

According to the Starr Center website, the application selection committee is searching for students who have “exceptional ability and commitment,” a strong interest in the position’s subject area, maturity, and reliability.

Explore America’s application is unique in that applicants do not have to apply for a specific internship. They are able to rank their desired positions by level of interest, and are even encouraged to include as many as possible.

Senior Nick Splendoria’s experience involved being paired with the National Constitution Center, where he edited curriculum and worked with visitors. 

“[Explore America] really gives you the opportunity to explore new career paths, and make connections with professionals in those careers,” Splendoria said.

The deadline to apply for the program is Monday, Feb. 13 at 11:59 p.m. For those interested, application materials and further information can be found at the Starr Center website.

Elm Archive Photo

Photo Caption: The Starr Center, birthplace of Explore America, can be found on the waterfront downtown.

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