Newman student Andrea Wheeler learning about government, life with Washington, D.C. internship

Jul 16, 2015

Newman University recently presented a student spotlight on theatre major and pre-law student Wesley Williams, and his experience as an intern for Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (R-KS 02) in Washington, D.C. It seems, however, that  Williams isn’t the only Newman Jet in D.C. this summer.

Newman junior Andrea Wheeler is in Washington, D.C., working in the Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, in the Branch of Water and Power. Newman had a small Q&A session with Wheeler so she could share some of her experiences first-hand.

NU: When did you arrive in D.C., and how long are you staying there?

Wheeler: I got here on May 27 and I’ll go home on July 25.

NU:  Where are you staying?

Wheeler: I’m staying at American University in an apartment-style dorm, like the equivalent of Newman’s Fugate.

NU: Why did you decide to apply for this summer internship?

Wheeler: Something important to know about this is that I’m Chickasaw, and I applied for the summer internship program through the Chickasaw Nation, which is headquartered in Ada, Okla. The Chickasaw Nation takes the accepted applicants and sends their resumes over to the BIA and other organizations, where they choose the most qualified students to offer internships.

Andrea Wheeler with her father on the Mall in Washington, D.C.
Andrea Wheeler with her father on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

NU:  Tell us more about your job.

Wheeler: I read legal documents and proposals for funding from the government, and I’ve learned a lot from those. There are treaties in place that I’ve never heard of before! The biggest thing we’ve been working on is the Water Resources Technician Training Program. It’s an opportunity for tribal students who are interested in hydrology and water resources to become a certified technician. The training is four weeks long, and once they have successfully completed the program they are placed into paid internships for four to five months, and after that they are placed into entry-level government positions. They can also receive an Americorps stipend for further education. It’s really a win-win program, and my supervisors are so passionate about it and it’s really inspiring. We’re trying to promote the workforce and education to tribal youth.

NU: How does it feel to be working in D.C. this summer?

Wheeler: It feels almost unreal working in D.C. We’re not in Kansas anymore! It’s really different from the Midwest – such a cool experience to be in a new place and see how everything differs from home. I’m originally from St. Louis, Mo., and I thought that Wichita was way different than St. Louis, but D.C. is extremely different from both of them!

NU: What was your reaction when you learned you were accepted?

Wheeler: Initially, my first reaction was, “No, no way. I can’t go all the way to D.C.!” I was really scared because I haven’t really ventured too much out of the Midwest. But I kept thinking about it, and I was like, “This is once in a lifetime opportunity!” so I sent the email back saying I was accepting the position so then I couldn’t change my mind!

NU: How did the application process work?

Wheeler: I filled out the general application and had to get two strong letters of recommendation, a resume, and write an essay on why I wanted to do the internship.

NU: How do you expect this opportunity to help you in the future?

Wheeler: It’s giving me a real-life understanding of the workplace. It’s really interesting to be working in the federal government. I’m really getting to see how everything works.

NU: Do you want to work in a government position?

Wheeler: Well, I’m currently a business major, but I’ll be switching over to psychology this upcoming semester. Contrary to popular belief, you can still pursue a career in business with a psychology degree. Right now, I’m unsure of what my career will be, but I’m debating on whether or not I want to get a master’s degree in psychology, or even go to med school to become a psychiatrist.

NU: How did Newman prepare you for this opportunity?

Wheeler: Newman prepared me for this in many ways! Newman volleyball helped prepare me because it has made me extremely disciplined and timely. The academic atmosphere at Newman has prepared me because the small classroom environments make it easier to form relationships with professors, and I can definitely see that coming out here in D.C., as I’ve formed great relationship with my supervisors. Newman professors really expect a lot from their students so that’s helped me go above and beyond at my internship. Every time I turn in a project to my supervisors they are blown away by the quality of it.

NU: Anything else you want to add?

Wheeler: This opportunity is an amazing learning experience. I’ve explored a lot of the city and I even took a weekend trip to NYC! I’m just really taking advantage of this opportunity to educate myself. I’ve learned so much from museums and exploring.