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University Honors Program

2020 DC Flyers Make the Best out of the Unexpected

By Kaitlin Lewis

The DC Flyer program is a great opportunity for Honors students interested in interning in Washington, D.C. and experience the day-to-day in our nation’s capital. With the rise of COVID-19 back in the spring, however, this summer program like many others was moved to online. Two students who were a part of the 2020 cohort reflected on their summer internships, what they learned and what they would tell students interested in being part of the 2021 DC Flyers. 

Ryan Greensfelder, a junior economics and philosophy major, worked with Counterpart International as a research intern. Counterpart works with international organizations and communities and strategize how to best fit their needs, whether it be food security, health issues or community building. Greensfelder’s position worked with the new business development team to analyze if other countries’ missions aligned with Counterpart and if Counterpart was in the best position to help them. 

Greensfelder said that having a virtual internship was very unusual, but had both its benefits and setbacks. For example, since his research was mainly individual work, Greensfelder had most of the control over his schedule. Having a flexible schedule was a big change from being a full-time student, but it gave Greensfelder the chance to still enjoy summer at home with family and friends, which was especially important during such a stressful time. 

“While I was connected when I needed to be, I could also disconnect as well,” Greensfelder said. 

Greensfelder also said that he enjoyed his position with Counterpart because he could see that his work was valued by the organization.

“I think two of the five countries I did reports on were actively working on a bid or had accepted a bid from the state department to start working in that region after COVID-19,” Greensfelder said. “That was really cool because I know that they read through (the reports), so I still felt valued even though I was sitting at home.” 

Another student who was a part of the 2020 DC Flyers cohort was Sophia Palmer, a fifth-year senior studying mechanical engineering with a minor in sustainability, energy and the environment. Palmer was a volunteer intern with the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Palmer worked on three major projects this summer and said that even as a virtual intern she was able to complete tasks that contributed to the overall organization. 

Students who are interested in applying for DC Flyers in the future should check here for more information on the application process. While it is hard to tell how the summer of 2021 will look for the next cohort of students, both Palmer and Greensfelder said they would recommend DC Flyers to any student interested in learning about policy or federal agencies, even if it’s online.

“There are lots of opportunities and projects within the federal government that I would have never known about if I had not interned at DOE,” Palmer said. “Even if DC Flyers ends up being a virtual program again next summer, working for a DC-based organization is a great way to expand your professional network and determine what path to take post-graduation.”

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