Senior Heads to D.C. for Museum Internship

January 09, 2009

Senior Ciara Teegarden is spending her final semester with Saint Leo University in one of the most exciting settings possible for a scholar in her field: the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

The 21-year-old begins a full-time, academic internship at the national museum on Jan. 26. For 10 weeks, Teegarden will work under the direction of museum staff helping to prepare materials for exhibits and historical study. She is among three people selected for the museum’s spring semester internship program in history.

This accomplishment–while boosting the young student’s prospects for professional employment and graduate studies–also establishes a valuable example for other undergraduates in the field. Teegarden’s path to this internship literally "gives use a blueprint" for other students to follow, says Heather Parker, assistant professor of history.

Parker, who has been scouting out new internship opportunities regionally, helped Teegarden land an internship in the Spring 2008 semester at the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg.

Teegarden spent two afternoons a week that semester at the institution, inventorying photos, books, items of clothing and other materials relating to the World War II Holocaust. Although the subject matter is weighty, keeping the history of that time alive is considered an invaluable tool in furthering the causes of human rights and tolerance, she noted.

And what she learned during that internship-along with her solid grades and dual major in history and international relations-helped qualify her for the Smithsonian.

This experience shows that getting students into national-level internships "really is a two-step process," says Parker.

Consequently, Parker is encouraging younger history students to start thinking about internship possibilities as soon as they declare the major. "We’ll put them into smaller, more local programs first so that when they apply for national programs they will have those references."

Teegarden’s family and friends are almost as excited as she is about this opportunity to live in Washington, D.C. and work at an internationally known institution: "Everybody has told me they are going to come visit."