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Government and law major is working in Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

After spending a semester in her sophomore year studying various aspects of government through American University’s Washington Semester program, Kimberly Ferguson ’08 (Easton, Pa.) wanted to explore government careers in more depth. This summer, she is serving an internship with the U.S. Department of State in our nation’s capital.

“I have always considered working for the government and wanted a chance to see what a civil service career would be like,” explains the government and law major. “In addition to giving me an opportunity to compare careers in the private sector to those in the public sector, [the internship] was attractive to me because it gave me another opportunity to live in D.C., as I am considering applying to law schools and thought I may want to attend school in this area.”

Ferguson is working in the programming unit of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. The bureau awards grants to non-governmental organizations, universities, and other organizations in countries and regions around the world.

“So far I have had the opportunity to observe and learn a wide variety of things, from how broad policies are made to the procedural intricacies of grant-giving,” Ferguson says. “Much of this has come from the opportunity I have had to sit in on and participate in a wide variety of meetings. I am also working on a research project, which when completed will hopefully help many grantees find additional sources of funding to carry on their work around the world.”

Ferguson’s internship experience is being supported by the William A. Kirby ’59, Franklin C. Phifer Jr. ’72, and Barbara Rothkopf internship endowment funds.

“I feel very grateful to have received the Franklin Phifer, William Kirby, and Barbara Rothkopf endowed stipends, and would like to thank both the donors and Lafayette for providing me with a stipend to cover my housing expenses while I am participating in an unpaid internship,” she says.

Ferguson is using her internship to explore career opportunities and options if she decides not to attend law school immediately after graduating from Lafayette. She believes the skills she is learning will help her as she pursues a postgraduate education or enters the workforce.

“Working in a federal bureaucracy is an interesting supplement to what I have studied in my government and law classes because it provides me with an opportunity to see the practical side of what I have studied in theory,” she explains. “I believe this is providing me with a different and useful perspective. For example, I often find myself frustrated by my inability to get things accomplished quickly at work because so often I have to wait for a form from ‘person A’ or a signature from ‘person B’ before proceeding to the next step. However, when I take a step back I realize that requirements that are seemingly so inconvenient, at times, are often necessary to keep the process transparent and to keep people from using information or authority improperly, especially in a discipline that is as inherently secretive as intelligence.

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