UNC student spends her summer at the White House

white house intern

UNC-Chapel Hill sophomore Betsy Byrne poses at the Press Briefing Room's podium in the White House's West Wing. Byrne interned at the White House this past summer. Photo courtesy of Byrne.

A UNC student spent the past summer in Washington, D.C. as a White House intern.

Betsy Byrne, a sophomore studying political science and journalism and an online staff member for The Daily Tar Heel, was one of 130 selected out of 7,000 who applied for the internship.

“As a UNC student I think the most eye-opening thing was being able to put the things I learned in my journalism and political science classes into action,” Byrne said.

The internship was an unpaid, 10-week program, which spanned from May to August. 

Byrne said she heard about the opportunity through a previous internship — and by last spring, she'd received her acceptance. 

Students can apply to be a White House intern on the White House website. The application for the summer internship program is due Jan. 12. Internship applications will be posted on Nov. 29.  

Byrne worked in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs where she served as a liaison between the federal and state government. She was the youngest intern in her department and was one of the youngest interns at the White House this summer. 

“Being an undergraduate student really had a lot of learning curves — like how to work in a professional environment, how to make connections and how to just conduct myself in a manner that focuses on bipartisanship,” Byrne said.  

Byrne worked in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is located next to the West Wing of the White House. She provided tours of the building in addition to her other duties. 

She helped draft policy legislation, met with state officials to escort them to various events, wrote a blog for the White House and wrote weather reports to be put into briefing materials for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's consideration. 

Additionally, Byrne coordinated events for her department such as the White House Infrastructure Summit, and Made in America Product Showcase, where she picked the companies to be represented in each state. 

She was able to volunteer and attend events such as the Fourth of July fireworks on South Lawn and the Congressional Picnic. 

The Washington Post and London Times featured photos of Byrne and other White House pictures twice. CNN and MSNBC also showed pictures and video footage of Byrne and other interns. 

Pressley Baird, Byrne’s writing and reporting instructor at UNC, said Byrne’s experience was one of the most exciting internships she heard of her students having. 

“I think one thing that is so interesting about Betsy is she is able to see both sides to every situation,  she said. "She can put herself in another person’s shoes, and even if she has a strong belief she is able to say ‘I see the other perspective,’ and I think part of that comes from her time in the White House." 

Baird said Byrne's perspective also comes from the training she gets from the UNC School of Media and Journalism.

"She is learning how to be empathetic and understanding and seeing things from all perspectives which I think will be really valuable to her as she goes on to work in journalism."

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