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Laura (SESP ’17) spent her summer supporting advocacy initiatives at health centers with the NACHC.

Laura Hefner (SESP ’17), a social policy major, interned at The National Association for Community Health Centers (NACHC) this summer. She is interested in pursuing a career in public health.

Where are you interning this summer? Describe your internship role.

This summer, I interned with NACHC in their department of Grassroots Advocacy. As an intern, my duties included developing resources to promote advocacy initiatives at health centers, supporting time-sensitive advocacy requests to the advocacy network, assisting in the planning of National Health Center Week, and collecting and organizing health center advocacy best practices through direct outreach to health center advocates.

How did you learn about your internship? What was your internship search and application process like?

In the summer of 2015, I completed my SESP practicum (a quarter-long required internship program for all SESP students) in Washington, DC, which I really enjoyed. I knew that I wanted to return to DC for summer 2016, so I got an early start on the application process for public health internships in the DC area back in January. I reviewed the information on the SESP website about internships other students have done, but I also went online and looked up as many public health internships in Washington DC as I could find. Because the DC area is competitive for summer internships, I sent out over 20 cover letters and resumés. I also interviewed for a couple positions in Chicago as well. I had five interviews for DC positions and was hired after two phone interviews with NACHC. My first phone interview at NACHC was with their internship coordinator and the second was with the director of the Grassroots Advocacy department, the division I was applying for, as well as with the directors of a few other departments. Several of the internships, including NACHC, required a writing sample along with my resumé and cover letter. The application process was arduous but well worth the effort. Even after I accepted the position, I still heard back from several programs.

What were your main internship responsibilities, from daily tasks to bigger projects?

Every day, I helped out with approving local events for our annual National Health Center Week celebration. I also organized submissions for the National Health Center Week picture and video contest and made sure that all submissions complied with contest rules. I wrote a few blogs for their website about individuals selected as Outstanding Advocates of the month, created a couple infographics, and wrote a couple one-pagers for their website. I worked on two big projects at the end of my internship: One was a podcast about engaging individuals in the health center movement, and the other was a final presentation for the entire department on training and adult learning principles. In between the writing and bigger projects, I also was asked to do other smaller jobs on an as-needed basis, like data entry.

What have you enjoyed most about your internship?

NACHC arranged for all of the interns to visit three health centers in the DC area in June and July. These visits gave me the chance to see in-person how the work I am doing at NACHC impacts the work being doing on the ground.  I have also especially enjoyed writing the blog posts highlighting the outstanding advocates in the health center movement. It has been inspiring for me to hear about the work that these individuals have been doing for the health center movement and to see how passionate they are about health centers.

What advice do you have for making the most out of an internship?

If you have the chance, conduct informational interviews with other staff members in your office. I found this to be invaluable in learning about topics that I was interested in but not directly working on through my internship projects. I would also say to try and go above and beyond what is asked of you in the office. Your supervisors will appreciate your extra effort and they will go out of their way to make it a rewarding experience for you. Finally, if it’s not offered to you, feel free to ask your supervisors for feedback on your internship performance. This is the only way you will know if you’re meeting their expectations, and if there is anything you need to change.