student Spotlight

October’s Student Spotlight with Alyssa Alicino '14

photo of Alyssa Alicino

School of Public Affairs students have access to a variety of learning experiences both inside and outside of the United States. Some study abroad, intern overseas, or participate in fellowship programs. Others, such as Alyssa Alicino, complete a combination of the three. Alicino received a Colin Powell Fellowship and completed internships at both the U.S. Embassy in Argentina and the White House. Through the Study Abroad and Work Abroad programs, she also attended classes in Spain and Guatemala, and taught English in Chile. Alicino, who graduated in the Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs program this past spring, discussed how these experiences shaped her professional journey and future career plans.

Q: How did the Colin Powell Fellowship assist you with your internship?

A: For those students interested in pursuing a career in public affairs, completing an internship is vital. But many students are unable to work full-time for a semester without financial assistance. The Colin Powell Fellowship helps break the socio-economic ceiling associated with unpaid governmental internships and assisted me with my housing and living expenses, consequentially permitting me to focus more on getting the most out of my internship rather than worrying about the potential financial burden.

Q: What projects did you work on during your internship at the U.S. Embassy in Argentina?

A: I was a press intern in the Public Diplomacy Section within the Embassy. The Foreign Service is divided into five sections (or cones): Public Diplomacy, Economic, Political, Management, and Consular. My role was to assist the Information Specialists with social media projects including drafting campaigns that we may decide to carry out. I helped out with most of the media and press aspects carried out by the Embassy.
I also assisted many of the events hosted by the Cultural Section of Public Diplomacy and was fortunate enough to attend the 4th of July Reception at the Ambassador’s Residence, as well as an NBA Reception for those NBA players participating in an outreach program – Basketball Without Borders.

Q: Describe your experience working in the White House Internship Program.

A: I found out about the White House Internship Program through a weekly email of opportunities sent by Macaulay Honors College. In the program, I conducted research, managed incoming inquiries, attended meetings, wrote memos, and staffed events. I also participated in weekly events including a speakers’ series with senior staff members and small group meetings that explored different policy aspects of the Executive Office of the President through speakers, discussion and off-site field trips. We also engaged in community service projects at schools and non-profit organizations in Washington, D.C.

Q. What kind of advice would you give students who are looking to explore opportunities in public affairs?

A. I would definitely encourage everyone to apply for an opportunity at an embassy through the State Department. I believe that an internship experience with this kind of organization gives a young adult a special insight into the political field while simultaneously sharpening their analytical and specialized skills, all of which will be extremely useful in whatever field one decides to pursue. I would also encourage students not to be intimidated by the complicated internship applications or the competitiveness of the program, since this just serves as a barrier for those who don’t want to take the extra step to overcome these.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: I want to pursue a career as a Foreign Service Officer. The White House Internship Program gave me a solid foundation in domestic policy, which will be essential for my career. In the future, I hope to improve my understanding of domestic and international policy formation and learn more about how the functions of certain councils can directly impact the outcomes seen by the public.