Stetson Alumna Interns at the White House
Just months after graduating from Stetson University, Elizabeth Triece stood on the South Lawn of the White House as the President stepped off Marine One and walked over to shake her hand.
“The first time you meet the President of the United States, or the First Lady, is a moment you will remember for the rest of your life,” said Triece, who recently finished an internship in the White House.
Triece graduated from Stetson in May 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Management. In her final semester, she applied for the White House internship, knowing the selection process for the unpaid position was very competitive.
She also was accepted at Harvard University to pursue a master’s degree in Management through its School of Continuing Education. She enrolled for the summer. In July, midway through her course, she received an email: “Congratulations, you have been accepted into the White House Internship program for the Fall 2019 session.”
“Little did I know the journey I was soon to begin would far exceed any expectations I had about what I might experience as a White House Intern,” the 22-year-old New York native said.
Triece credited Tim Stiles, executive director of the Office of Career and Professional Development at Stetson, and Shahram Amiri, EdD, Stetson professor of Decision and Information Sciences, for writing recommendations letters that helped her land the position in the Office of the First Lady.
Her internship required tight security. And it often provided close access to the President, including the day when the interns stood on the South Lawn with the press as Marine One landed. President Trump took a few minutes to greet the interns.
“He walked over and greeted each of us, stopping to shake our hands. He was very warm and kind to everyone,” she recalled.
The internship ended in December. Triece has now accepted another internship in Washington and will return to grad school at Harvard when it’s done. She recently shared her experiences with Stetson Today.
Could you tell us about your daily routine at the White House?
Every day at the White House is different from the day before. Basically, we are there to assist the staff with whatever is needed that day. No two days are ever alike, and the tasks assigned are challenging, engaging and very interesting. A typical day can involve many different assignments, from answering the phones to attending a special event hosted by the President, or First Lady.
A White House Internship is a full-time assignment. We work a forty-hour week and sometimes need to come in early or stay late. It’s not all work, however. The staff does a great job of providing interns with enriching opportunities outside the office environment. There are weekly lecture series with guest speakers, such as the Vice President, prominent Cabinet Members and well-known public figures.
There are also events planned for interns off the White House grounds (such as a tour of the Washington Monument). Interns are also expected to volunteer for community service projects throughout their time in the program.
Could you share a few highlights?
The first highlight occurred on the first day of my White House internship. It was a beautiful, sunny day in September and all the interns had gathered for orientation and then on to the respective offices we had been assigned. As I passed through the gates of the White House for the first time, I still couldn’t believe I would be working in such a famous building for the next four months. … It is impossible to explain the feeling that overcame me. Four months later, as I walked through those massive gates, I still felt this same sense of pride and patriotism that engulfed me on that very first day.
Another memorable moment came only a few weeks into my internship. The Prime Minister of Australia was coming to the White House, and the President and First Lady were hosting a state dinner in their honor and to commemorate the friendship our two countries share. It was an extraordinarily elegant and memorable evening in the Rose Garden. I had the opportunity to assist with the evening. It is a rare honor that few interns ever receive.
Could you tell us a little about your interactions with the President and First Lady?
The interns were given numerous opportunities to attend events where the President was present. For example, Washington celebrated the Nationals winning the World Series. There was a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue for the team. The following Monday the team came to the White House. The interns were invited to be part of the celebration.
The 2019 Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues also came to the White House this fall and the interns attended their ceremony on the South Lawn. I also had the honor of assisting with a State Dinner and the Congressional Ball, as well as attending a Medal of Valor ceremony.
What would someone never imagine about working in the White House?
First, it’s the people you work with. They are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. These are important people with very important jobs. Often their days are quite busy, and the workload is extensive. Everyone, from the staff and their assistants, the permanent employees, such as kitchen staff and Secret Service agents, takes their duties seriously. They always have a smile on their face and time to share a pleasant greeting.
Next, it’s the sense of history you feel walking the halls and being in the rooms of the White House. These are the same halls and rooms that every President and First Lady, beginning with John Adams, have walked and occupied. Important decisions that have changed the course of our country and the world are made here. Thomas Jefferson planned the Lewis and Clark expedition in the room that is now the State Dining Room. Abraham Lincoln directed his generals during the Civil War from this building.
After you finish graduate school, what are your career goals?
Of all the questions you’ve asked this is probably the toughest to answer. … Perhaps a career in government awaits me, or an opportunity in the private sector is in my future. Right now, I want to learn from the best minds I can and explore my career options.
How did Stetson help you achieve this accomplishment?
Stetson instilled in me a sense of pride and self-worth. My time at Stetson was both rewarding and challenging. My professors pushed me to go beyond my comfort zone. They encouraged me to be the best student I could be, and then pushed beyond that.
This involved hard work and self-sacrifice. If I wanted good grades, I was going to have to earn them. This is how life is after you leave Stetson. If you want that fantastic internship, job or spot in a graduate program, you must earn it.