This post is part of our series outlining O’Neill’s commitment to excellence in undergraduate education by R.J. Woodring, Associate Dean for Educational Programs, and Andrea Need, Director of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.
Students need more than just textbook knowledge to thrive in today’s complex, interconnected world. They need practical experience, real-world problem-solving skills, and a global perspective. At the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, our mission is to prepare students to become leaders for the greater good, equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed to make a significant impact in diverse global settings. One of the cornerstones of this mission is our commitment to high-impact practices for learning and leadership, with a particular focus on internships.
O’Neill’s internship program
Internships are critical to an O’Neill education. In fact, most of our students are required to complete an internship as part of their degree program.
Internships are more than just a checkbox on a student’s degree requirements. They are carefully monitored work or service experiences that allow students to pursue educational goals while actively reflecting on their learning. Internships are crucial for promoting critical thinking, skill development, and personal and professional growth.
The Career Hub at the O’Neill School is dedicated to helping students navigate their internships while gaining the practical skills, real-world insights, and global perspectives that are essential for career readiness. Our professional staff work to connect students with influential organizations in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
To facilitate internship participation, we offer the O’Neill Greater Good Internship Fund and other scholarships, which provide financial support for unpaid summer internships.
Internships as a pathway to success
An internship is a learning experience and a bridge to a successful career. It allows students to apply classroom knowledge in a professional setting, make valuable industry connections, explore potential career paths, and gain a deeper understanding of their chosen field.
Sophia Osterberg, BSPA’23, gained experience as a policy and public outreach intern with the Department of State and as a legislative intern in the United States Senate. She now works as an energy, sustainability, and infrastructure consultant.
“The Career Hub was integral to finding internships throughout my time here at O’Neill and now finding my job, that I have recently accepted, as I graduate and move to Washington, D.C.,” Osterberg said.
Megan Bankowski, BSPA’23, interned with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell through the Washington Leadership Program.
“I had a blast in my internship,” Bankowski said. “I would love to head back to D.C. to work specifically in an executive department like the Department of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, or something with regards to the environment.”
Ava Hartman, BAES’23, was a McKinney Climate Fellow with the City of Terre Haute in Indiana where she developed an equity-focused tree-planting plan and worked on grant applications.
“The McKinney Climate Fellows is an internship where you get placed with different nonprofit or government organizations around Indiana,” Hartman said. “You are placed there to quickly help them grow in whatever project they’re working on. And you develop professional skills so you can go out into the real world.”
Ryan Maddox, BSPA’21, spent the summer of his junior year interning with Wells Fargo in public finance investment banking, securities, and law. The experience helped him get a position at Wells Fargo as a public finance investment banking analyst following graduation.
“When you see something that you financed–a huge affordable housing project in Washington, D.C.–come to life and being able to see it when it’s built and talk to the community residents that live there is something that’s really cool. It was a great part of my internship.”
Our internship programs empower our students to become leaders for the greater good, making a positive impact on society and the environment, wherever their careers may take them.