White House Internship: A Path to Success

Business Administration major Alijah Jamison ‘25 headed to Washington, D.C. as part of the White House Internship Program (WHIP), a competitive public service internship for emerging leaders. Through this internship, Alijah improved his decision making and leadership skills, built lasting relationships and gained valuable hands-on experience in a field related to his program. Along with these accomplishments, Alijah has developed a strong résumé and professional presence, two important goals he set out to achieve upon entering this dynamic internship. Keep reading for Alijah’s detailed reflections from his time at the White House.

jwu student outside of the White House

Could you walk us through a typical day?

Although no two days are the same at the White House, I would start a typical day by going through a slew of security checkpoints before finally arriving at my office. In my office, I began analyzing correspondence received by the American people and forwarding it to the appropriate departments. Correspondence could range from a letter from a former President to citizens voicing their concerns about decisions that would affect them, or even celebrity wedding invitations. I would then shuffle between speaker events with Senior White House Staff, have coffee with my mentor or report to the south lawn to rehearse and set up for an event. To wrap up my day, I would assist my supervisor in compiling data that would be presented at the next staff meeting.

What made you decide to pursue a government internship? 

Believe it or not, my 5th grade school trip to the White House in 2014 sparked my interest in government service and the fire that was lit beneath me never burned out. Although I had an idea of the route I wanted my career to go in, I never in a million years would’ve thought that I’d be interning at the White House almost ten years later. It was a full circle moment to return at the start of my career, so I’m sure my 5th grade self is very proud.

Is there anything you found particularly interesting about WHIP?

JWU student standing in front of American flag at the White HouseWHIP is a truly life changing experience that began with a months-long, rigorous application and vetting process. This process took a total of four months, from the time I submitted my application to the time I received a formal acceptance into the program. Aside from my daily responsibilities in the Office of Presidential Correspondence, the WHIP program hosted countless speaker events with both former and present, Senior White House Staff. During these speaker events, I was able to converse with senior staff and ask questions in a panel or Q&A format. It was very interesting to speak with staff that have such important roles in the operations of keeping America running. We were also provided with résumé and interview workshops that ensure we’ll be able to properly highlight our skills when applying to similar positions in the future.

What surprised you most?

What surprised me most had to be the spectacular events that I was able to assist in and be a part of. I helped with the annual Spring Garden Tour, Easter Egg Roll, Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride, bring your child to work day and China’s State Visit. I am so grateful to have attended and have a hand in the flawless production of each event. Another surprise factor about interning at the White House is that I shared the very same halls, elevators, and common spaces with popular figures you may see frequently on television.

Did you face any challenges?

After being accepted into the program, I quickly realized that I had two weeks to relocate to a new city hundreds of miles away from home. Coming from the south, where public transit isn’t as popular, it was challenging to learn and become familiar with the many modes of transportation, and riding the bus or metro became a part of my daily routine to work. Discovering restaurants, grocery stores and other places that would be a part of one’s normal practice was a difficult adjustment, but it didn’t take long before I became a thriving D.C. local.

Are there any skills you’ve developed while interning? If so, do you believe these skills will help in your future career?

A skill that I developed, and one that I am very proud of, is the skill to conform to change and to be successful amidst adversity. I learned how to be communicative and the importance of giving and receiving feedback. These are skills that I know will be beneficial and that I will carry throughout my career. I also learned sign language in order to communicate with some staff that required ASL. This taught me the beauty of knowing different methods of communication while sparking a new interest in learning new languages.

JWU student in crowd out front of the White House

What did you learn from mentors, staff, and/or other interns? 

I learned that relationship building is one of the most important things we will ever do in life, and you should never allow fear to discourage you from putting yourself out there. Relationship building doesn’t stop after the relationship is made; you must make new ones but foster existing ones too. Connections are priceless because these are the people that will be your village and support you in different stages of life. I am so thankful for my mentor, White House staff, and my fellow interns for making this internship a monumental part of my life that has pushed me to new heights.

Did you have a chance to explore D.C.? 

During my free time I became a true D.C. tourist. In a span of sixteen weeks, I was able to visit over fifteen museums, monuments and historical landmarks. The best part is that most museums and monuments in D.C. have free admission, making it easily accessible to everyone. One of my all-time favorite touristy moments was being able to paint a portrait of the U.S. Capitol which hangs in my bedroom as a reminder of my time in D.C.

Have any of the JWU courses helped prepare you for your experience at the White House?

I have to credit many JWU courses for helping me prepare for this internship program. I often noticed myself using skills taught in several of my business centered classes. These classes prepared me to put my best foot forward and to exude a strong professional presence. I had many instances where it became imperative that I used this preparation to properly network. In the White House, you never know who you’ll meet or come across so it’s important to always be prepared.

JWU student sitting on steps of the White House

What brought you to JWU?

I found it to be a great opportunity to further my education at JWU Charlotte because of its southern charm, student-centered campus and its prime location. Johnson & Wales University was actually founded as a business school before becoming more widely known for its culinary program, so I have an appreciation for JWU’s origin as a school devoted to business education. It was a plus that the university sits snug in the heart of a bustling city and has a small town feel with big city attributes. This made it quite easy for JWU to become my home away from home.

How have you been enjoying the Business program so far?

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time thus far as a student in JWU’s College of Business and I have to thank the wonderful faculty and staff here at JWU Charlotte because they genuinely want to see their students succeed. I was welcomed into the program with open arms in 2021. I want students who are interested in pursuing a business degree to know that opportunities are limitless and they’re at our fingertips. Now is the time to write your own story, and in the words of Michelle Obama, “Your story is what you will always have, it is something to own.”

What advice would you offer other students who are seeking an internship?

To anyone desiring to pursue the White House Internship Program or any other, I would encourage you to allow your confidence to outweigh your fear, develop professional relationships with those who can best reference your character, and make academia your top priority. Some things may feel impossible at times, but it only seems that way until it's done.

What are you looking forward to as we approach the 2023-24 academic year?

As for the 2023-24 academic year, I’m looking forward to taking on my new role as Student Body Vice President, joining JWU’s honors program, and I’m ecstatic to bring back everything that I’ve learned throughout this experience to the Charlotte community.