Interview with White House intern Mitchell Fariss
Mitchell Fariss is a 2017 graduate who majored in international affairs and participated in the White House Internship Program. Newsletter editor Maria J. Albo interviewed Mitchell.
Fariss is currently living in Washington D.C. and will next be working as a Metadata Specialist for the Woodstock Theological Library (Special Collection) at Georgetown University.
Q. Why did you choose (international affairs) as a major and do you think that it prepared you for your future goals?
A. I chose to pursue a degree in international affairs in order to follow my passion for travel and language-learning. As a result, many of my courses, such as Politics of Western Europe, Comparative Government, and International Law, prepared me to understand world affairs from multiple perspectives and in deeply practical and meaningful ways. Additionally, during my sophomore year at UNG I was fortunate to have participated in two study abroad programs to Germany, and during my final year to have been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant (also to Germany). All of these experiences benefited me greatly during my time at the White House Internship Program, and continue to benefit me today at my current position at the German Marshall Fund in Washington D.C.
Q. What made you decide to apply for this opportunity as an intern in the WH? Tell us about the application process.
A. Politically, this is a very significant time in America’s history. I had just spent a full year abroad, and upon my return I sought to gain a deeper and more thorough understanding of current affairs in the United States. The White House’s nonpartisan internship program offered students and recent graduates a very unique opportunity to gain work experience in the nation’s highest executive office, and I applied hoping to be a part of that.
Q. How did your internship relate to your major?
A. A central component of the international affairs major is understanding how governments around the world function, both domestically and globally, and how they compare to other governments which may enforce entirely different regimes or economies. The opportunity to intern through the White House Internship Program afforded me an unparalleled view of how our own government operates on a day-to-day basis. Through the Office of Public Liaison I was able to delve into how the White House builds new and maintains current relationships with organizations around the country.
Q. Describe how your coursework and other experiences during your time at UNG have helped prepare you for this experience.
A. One of the most important skills I learned from my courses in international affairs and political science at UNG was comparing and contrasting issues and cases effectively. Naturally, many divisive issues and developments occurred in the American political arena throughout my time in the White House Internship Program, each of which affected various groups and organizations around the United States. However, because I approached the internship with an attitude of open-mindedness and willingness to consider all sides of a political development or issue, I felt that I enjoyed a more meaningful and comprehensive experience.
Q. If you had to provide a blurb about your courses, the faculty at the PSIA department, and your experience as a major, what would you say?
A. The professors I interacted with in the international affairs and political science departments were extremely helpful and generous with their advice throughout my time at UNG. Whether it was providing feedback on a class assignment, informally debating German-Korean relations, or preparing applications for competitive programs and scholarships, I felt I could easily approach all of the faculty at any time and engage in productive discussions. I definitely would not be where I am today without their unstinting guidance and assistance.
In particular, I would like to mention Dr. Steven Smith (Professor of Psychological Science and the former director of the Honors Program), Dr. Jon Miner and Dr. Dlynn Armstrong-Williams from the department, as they provided invaluable feedback during the times I was enrolled in their courses (which was many times!) and unyielding support when I applied for internships and scholarships related to international affairs and political science, including the White House Internship Program. All also served on (or in Dr. Miner’s case, chaired) my Honors thesis committee, a topic which explored applying the case of German reunification to a potential Korean reunification. I am deeply grateful for all of their time and encouragement throughout my undergraduate career at UNG.
Q. What advice would you give current political science majors?
A. Take advantage of every opportunity you can. UNG is a great institution in that a willingness to work hard and having a set of both short-term and long-term goals can open doors to amazing research, scholarship, volunteer, and networking opportunities. Talk to your professors about potential internships like the White House Internship Program or related government programs, and ask them what you can do now to best prepare you for applying for those positions.
Q. What surprised you the most about your internship or experience in DC in general?
A. At UNG, my professors encouraged respectful discussions and emphasized the importance of being open to listening to other points of view. While participating in the White House Internship Program, I was surprised to hear the majority of interns comment on how freeing it was to be in a nonpartisan atmosphere where they could freely discuss different political ideas and positions in a respectful space. I quickly realized just how fortunate I was to have been in an academic setting which encouraged an exchange of ideas, and which was done so skillfully that it was difficult to determine which political leanings my professors had throughout my college career.
Mitchell Fariss, is a 2017 graduate who majored in international affairs and participated in the White House Internship Program. He is currently an intern in the Congressional Affairs Department at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
Mitchell was featured in UNG news: