Internship Provides Scholars with Experience for Conservative Careers
December 24, 2020
In 2015, Ashbrook Scholar Kayla Toth (a 2016 graduate) spent a rewarding summer interning in the development department of the Heritage Foundation. She shared her experience with rising senior Ali Brosky and rising junior Halle Hershberger, who applied to Heritage for similar positions.
Both could offer Heritage their work experience as Ashbrook interns. They would also bring their education in Ashbrook seminars, where they are pushed to articulate what they believe. To be chosen as one of 66 Heritage interns from over 600 applicants, Hershberger and Brosky not only demonstrated academic excellence and reliability; they answered essay questions probing their political philosophies.
Hershberger, who was the online membership intern in Heritage development, soon realized that her political ideas mattered. She handled email and phone inquiries from Heritage supporters. “They would not be comfortable talking with me if I did not show a good understanding of conservative principles.”
She found “there were no simple instructions” for her job. Although she could refer complicated policy questions to one of Heritage’s many experts, some questions required a direct and heartfelt answer. Many members, frustrated with the presidential elections, called to ask what Heritage could do about it.
She thought about her grandparents, who had taken her to a political rally for presidential candidate George W. Bush when she was nine. They fostered her interest in politics and faith in America. Later, they told her about the Ashbrook Scholar program. If her grandparents phoned Heritage, “how would I want them to be treated? I needed to exercise servant leadership, putting the member first. I tried to give supporters hope, telling them that Heritage will remain on the job, a stronghold of conservatism in DC, no matter the election outcome.”
Hershberger also wrote short summaries of Heritage policy papers for the member newsletter. Her supervisor thanked her for writing concisely, a task that many interns find difficult.
Brosky was asked to work in the “technology solutions” department, maintaining a database used by the development department. Having learned the basics of data systems as an Ashbrook intern, she quickly learned to use Heritage’s system. Then she was handed a major project: managing a switch to new software. “It was ‘my baby,’ as my boss said. I communicated with the vendor, implemented the system, and trained my team to use it. I left behind extensive documentation so that the fall intern would be able to continue with it.”
She also “cleaned” the donor database of erroneous and duplicate entries, never easy to detect. “I looked at the database as a puzzle. Every problem was different and required a different solution.”
Brosky’s supervisor confided that few interns applied to work in technology solutions, thinking it entailed simple “IT” repair work. So Brosky rewrote the position description, explaining the actual job.
Both Scholars returned from Washington confident they can contribute to conservative causes. Brosky has discovered her talent for working in databases. Although not majoring in computer technology (she studies political science and history), “I know that I can do it.” Hershberger, who’s minoring in Public Relations while majoring in political science and history, would enjoy grant writing. This summer she began a blog about her experiences in Washington, causing her to think about how a well-told story can motivate people to support a good cause.
Hershberger was struck by “the number of Heritage supporters I spoke with who wanted to know what the organization was doing to educate our youth. Ashbrook is responding to this hope that the next generation be educated in our founding principles. We need to get the word out that Ashbrook is doing what conservatives want to see done!”