Kiah Duggins spent four months in the White House as an intern and ranks it as the experience of her lifetime. Sure, she’s just 22, but that doesn’t matter. Spending four months working in the White house during the Obama administration, would probably rate as a dream come true for most of our readers, no matter how old or young.
Kiah, a senior at Wichita State University, spent August thru December 2016 as an intern in Michelle Obama’s office. From her answers to our questions, you can tell it was an exciting time.
How did you get the internships? I basically just wanted to intern for Michelle Obama because I love her. So, I googled “ How to Intern for Michelle Obama,” and the White House Internship Program came up. I applied for the summer internship and was rejected, so I tweaked my application and reapplied for the fall and was accepted.
The First Lady had 13 interns, but there were 150 interns in the White House.
Was it a paid or free internship and did you receive academic credit? It was an unpaid internship but it was funded through the Honors College, the Political Science Department and the Barton School of Business.
Kiah is a WSU Barton Scholar, a four-year scholarship program that includes her tuition, books, room and board. She was able to use her Barton Scholarship proceeds to help fund part of her expenses. The other monies were made available in addition to her scholarship.
For the semester, I received three credits for an Honors Cooperative Education class. Basically it was like taking a semester off, but I’m still graduating in May. It all worked out.
Where did you live? I lived about two Metro stops from the White House. I found my apartment through a Washington intern student housing program. Since there are so many interns in Washington D.C., there are companies that specialize in renting to interns, who need apartments for weird amounts of times.
What was the most fun about the internship? I was there at the end of the administration and also during the holidays and, they were having two holiday parties a day. I got to help with most of them.
I also helped put together the first South by South Lawn Festival designed to share innovative ways to bring about social change. The festival was modeled after the South by South West Festival in San Antonio and featured art, film and musical performances.
I helped with and watched the Love and Happiness BET Concert on the South Lawn. Some of the performers at the BET concert included Usher, Jill Scott, Janelle Monet, Bell Biv Devoe, Leslie Odum, Jr. and Yolanda Adams. They also had a lot of famous people who attended including actors Angela Bassett and Jesse Williams.
What is the White House like? Almost everyone was either young, a woman, or a person of color. It was very diverse and very vibrant. A lot of the major departments were run by Black women. It was very magical; so many Black women in leadership.
It was really fun. There was a lot of joy, but it was extremely professional and everyone had a lot of work to do. They worked long hours, not because they had to, because they wanted to. I admired everyone’s commitment to the job. There were a lot of idealistic people who were working hard because they believed in what America could be.
It taught me a lot. Everyone worked so hard and so meticulously and, such a big attention was paid to details. I’ve never been in an environment where people were so focused.
After the election happened, the President announced the peaceful transfer of power that described what the White House was like. Everyone continued to be professional. There was no tolerance for tantrums or lack of professionalism. Everyone just worked harder, since they (the Trump administration) had a different agenda. So, we worked hard to get all of the things in the administration as much of a chance as possible of staying. Then, we were all working at turbo speed. It was all worth it. I loved it.
How often did you see the Obamas? I saw the first lady two or three times per week, when I would help at events or she would come to the office. In her office, she had a desk and couches. It looked more like a living room than an office. And she kept apples in her office. Anyone could come in and take one.
I saw the president at a Marine I Landing, concerts and he talked to the interns. I probably saw him about 10 times during the three to four month internship.