An Opportunity Cut Short | Public Affairs Internship with Watertown City Government
College is one of the best times in your life to take advantage of the opportunity to try something new. Whether it’s a student activity, a class unrelated to your major (but hey, it sounds fun), or any number of extracurriculars, the door of opportunity is wide open.
At Maranatha, doing an internship is an opportunity that every student, no matter their major, is encouraged to take. Internships are an opportunity to grow your skills and develop new ones as you work with people from all walks of life.
One of these internship opportunities is the Public Affairs Internship. This internship has allowed Maranatha students to work closely, if not directly, with high-ranking officials in city, state, and federal government. Two of these students, Aaron and Faith, spent Spring 2020 as interns with the Watertown City Government.
Aaron Mayes, a senior with a Humanities major and a minor in Business Management, was approached by two professors in the fall of 2019 with a possible opportunity to intern with the City of Watertown. “I knew I wanted to complete an internship, both for the credits and the workplace experience,” Aaron states, “so I sent my resume to Mr. Board, who then sent me on to the Mayor. I actually had forgotten all about it until mid-November, when the Mayor’s office reached out to me to set up an interview. From the interview, I knew that the internship would be well worth my while, so I began going through the official process to get started in January.”
Faith Christensen, a senior with a Humanities major and a Criminal Justice minor, first heard about the internship at City Hall when the Mayor of Watertown came to an assembly at MBU. The Mayor encouraged Maranatha students to be a part of City Hall. Soon after, one of Faith’s professors, Mrs. Jennifer Meinhardt, encouraged the class to reach out if they had any interest in learning more about the internship at City Hall. “Honestly, my first thought was why not,” Faith says. “I can just say I am interested and go from there. After waiting a month, I was curious and wanted to know if anything was going to come of it. I contacted Mr. Board and… [he] put me in contact with the City Attorney and I was able to work directly with her. We were able to meet and have a relaxed interview. … By the end of the fall semester, I was coming back in the spring as the intern for the City Attorney in Watertown.”
Spring 2020 found Aaron in the Mayor’s office and Faith in the City Attorney’s office. Both students quickly learned the things that would challenge them the most in the upcoming semester.
“At the Mayor’s office,” Aaron says, “the most difficult part of the internship was taking initiative. Every responsibility felt important, and I didn’t want to get anything wrong. I had to overcome that fear by learning to ask questions, making my own calls on small details, and juggling multiple projects to stay busy. Thankfully, most of my projects involved skills that I already felt very comfortable using, allowing me to settle into a groove fairly quickly.”
Faith shares that at the beginning, her struggle was maintaining a balanced day between the internship, a full load of classes, and her job. “Most of my days were filled with internship, then class, and then work. I would not be able to even start homework until late that night.”
Despite the challenge, Aaron and Faith found many things they appreciated about their internships.
Faith enjoyed working with the people in City Hall and found them to be helpful and encouraging as she learned the ropes. “[The City Attorney’s Office] wanted to see me grow in my knowledge. They wanted to know what I liked doing and what I didn’t like as much. They also tried to show me how all of City Hall works. I was able to not just learn about one area, but many areas that interested me. I was able to learn about the police department, building inspection, and other departments. I was able to watch several different court meetings and go on a ride along with the police department.”
Aaron felt as though he had an up-close look at how local government works from the inside. “Every project brought me in contact with issues that I was largely unfamiliar with, like city development, IT, workplace policies, election logistics, and engineering. With each new project, I found myself researching a broad spectrum of related topics to be able to best do my part.”
On March 16, 2020, MBU announced that it would be transferring to an online format for the remainder of the semester. For Aaron and Faith, it wasn’t just their class load that went virtual.
“After returning home,” Faith shares, “completing the internship remotely was not an easy task. The City Attorney was willing to work with me and send me projects to do remotely. I had to stay focused and still try to put my internship first even when I had other homework and work. Working remotely also included doing less of the hands-on learning in the City Hall. I cannot stress enough how grateful I am to the those in the City Attorney’s office for making this internship happen. … They took time away from their own work schedule to help me and guide me. I am truly thankful for that.”
Since City Hall was closed to non-essential personnel, including interns, Aaron found it difficult to continue his internship remotely. “I was able to complete some projects from home, but I really required access to the people and resources of the office, especially the help of the secretaries (If you want to know something, ask a secretary). Additionally, much of the work I was slated to tackle needed to wait for a general reopening of the public before it could be done. With the whole city government devoting its full attention to Coronavirus, regular operations went on standstill.”
Although their experience with the Watertown City Government ended in an unexpected way, Aaron and Faith were able to grow their skill set in a way that will impact their future careers.
“My internship gave me a good taste of working in a professional environment without placing undue pressure on me to perform beyond realistic expectations,” Aaron states. “The projects that I handled made good use of the skills I already had, which helped me gain a better understanding of my own strengths and weaknesses. This experience helped me to grow in my willingness to take initiative and to work consistently.”
“This internship was an invaluable experience,” Faith concurs. “I was able to learn about the two things that interest me, criminal justice and law. I was able to see some challenges from working in the government and see how it can be rewarding. My skill set has definitely grown from this experience. Many times, I would be tasked to find examples of what other cities were doing and how their ordinances were worded. I got to see some of the differences between cities and how that ordinance would impact the people of the city. I was able to see how lives were impacted through just a simple speeding ticket. I will be able to go on to use these skills in any future career.”
As a result of their participation in an unpaid Public Affairs Internship, Aaron and Faith received the Public Affairs Internship Scholarship from Maranatha.
Maybe you’re unsure what internship would be good for you. Maybe you’re on the fence about doing an internship in general. Aaron and Faith felt that way. But they applied and took the opportunities handed them. Your college years are the best time to try something new. Fill out the application. Take the opportunity.
Interested in giving towards the Public Affairs Internship Scholarship and aiding in the training of our country’s future leaders? Learn more.