With the onset of the new school year, RFG Fellows have concluded their summer internships, which served as training grounds for their upcoming careers in the public sector. Fellows traveled far and wide this summer to complete internships with a variety of government agencies. Notably, Jacob Emont (Syracuse ‘23) journeyed to Tunisia to work with the Department of State and U.S. Embassy personnel in the city of Tunis. Emily Ashbridge (Texas A&M ‘23) also traveled far, spending her summer in Hawaii serving alongside Department of Defense (DoD) personnel at the United States Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM). Along with Emont and Ashbridge, RFG Fellows completed internships both virtually and in the Washington, D.C. region with federal agencies such as the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), DoD, and State Department. We connected with two of these Fellows to learn more about their summer experience and how they will be applying the lessons they learned to the next steps in their careers. 

Naomi Atughonu (UMD ‘23) spent her summer interning at the GAO, where she not only gained a deeper understanding of the agency’s funding and work, but also exercised her interpersonal skills while working alongside interns from diverse academic backgrounds. “I was able to meet many people who started their careers in public service from many different areas, including film studies and oceanography,” Atughonu shares. “I learned about how much the findings of the GAO really impact federal agencies and departments, and eventually the general public/taxpayers.”

In addition to the above, Atughonu had the opportunity to attend discussions throughout the summer with directors from across the agency who spoke about their work at the GAO, and the chance to lead two agency meetings with the Navy. 

One of Atughonu’s peers at the University of Maryland, Cody Arigo (UMD ‘23) joined UMD’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). As an intern with UMD START, Arigo worked on a variety of research projects on behalf of the Department of Defense and other national security agencies. For example, he had the opportunity to work on a predictive analytical modeling project with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) that will be used to predict future crises, political instability, and mass nationwide protests across countries in an effort to improve disaster preparedness. 

Through this experience, Arigo gained a deeper appreciation for how critical it is for policy makers, civil servants, and intelligence professionals to communicate effectively. As Arigo observed, it is vital that these groups “listen to each other, rather than talking past one another in order to make complex government processes like interagency coordination as efficient as possible.”

For many RFG Fellows, like Atughonu and Arigo, internships are an opportunity to determine how they would like to pursue public service in the future. “I was not sure that I was interested in defense as a career,” Atughonu says, “but this internship gave me great insight into that career path and the various ways in which a person can pursue it along with the variety of issues within the defense subject area.”

For Arigo, his internship helped him to realize how his skills can be used in fields that weren’t originally his area of focus. Specifically, conversations with recruiters and personnel from the national security space, prompted Arigo to consider how his skill set could be applied to work for intelligence agencies. Arigo notes. “My internship experience affirmed a career interest in the intelligence community which I did not always have prior to this internship.” Delving deeper into this thought process, Arigo shares that upon starting graduate school last year, he was certain he would be working at the State Department or USAID, especially given his background as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Arigo explains, “I am still interested in that type of work, but this internship shifted my career interests more to becoming an analyst that develops area and functional expertise to support the wider intelligence community or the Pentagon and our national security apparatus.”

Both Arigo and Atughonu are grateful for the opportunity to have completed hands-on work and to have experienced federal service. They aim to build on these experiences as they continue their education. Arigo encapsulates this best when he states: “Regardless of where I ultimately end up, or where I go throughout my future federal civil service career, I will be happy just to be given an opportunity to serve my country, its Constitution, and American taxpayers.” Arigo continues, stating, “like working on sports teams made up of many individuals trying to achieve a common goal despite coming from many different backgrounds, I look forward to going to work every day and collaborating with teammates and coworkers who are different from me in order to achieve the agency’s overall mission.”

RFG is exceedingly pleased with the variety and quality of internships that its Fellows completed this summer and is eager to support their transition into the job hunt as they complete their second year of graduate study. Bearing the future in mind, Atughonu shares her appreciation for the RFG Fellowship and alumni network, observing that “there are RFG Fellows who are working in various subject areas [in government], and I feel that I am able to talk to anyone about a career path or subject I am interested in.”