Parker Jones ’19 is spending the fall semester on Capitol Hill, where he interacts with government administrators and elected officials.
Jones is an intern with the National Association of State Foresters in Washington, D.C. The nonprofit, member-based organization serves U.S. state and territorial forestry agencies and focuses on protecting state and private forests.
“We’re mostly focused on being a unifying body,” said Jones, a double major in environmental studies and political science. “We do have official statements and policies that we want to be implemented and supported by Congress, but we don’t lobby them. We get those ideas from members, which are the state foresters.”
Jones’s job varies from day to day — he manages the website and writes blog posts (see examples here and here), edits and reviews official communications, keeps up to date on forestry-related legislation, participates in conference calls with partner groups, and attends congressional hearings on Capitol Hill.
Along the way, Jones has come into contact with a number of government officials. “I met the director of the U.S. Forest Service a couple of times. That’s a big deal,” he said. “At our annual meeting, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Purdue, spoke with us. I got to see him. Then you talk to some senators and their staff and congressmen, during and after hearings, and just chat a little bit.”
Jones got his internship through The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars, a D.C.-based organization that, according to its website “has helped more than 50,000 students from around the world gain valuable experience, and set them on a course of achievement, leadership and engagement in their communities.”
Lynchburg has partnered with The Washington Center for 18 years, helping many students connect with competitive, for-credit internships in the nation’s capital.
“They are a fantastic organization,” said Scott Robert, Lynchburg’s assistant director of career development and internships, adding that students from a variety of majors — communications, psychology, criminology, environmental studies, and others — have participated.
“Parker met with me and wanted an opportunity to intern, and I introduced him to The Washington Center. I was on their Liaison Advisory Board for multiple years and we host them once a semester on campus to recruit for their program.”
Jones said one thing that helped his application stand out was a “wetlands delineation report” he wrote for the historic site Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest. He worked on it in conjunction with a course about wetlands taught by environmental science professor Dr. Thomas Shahady.
Jones’ experiences as a Westover Honors student also helped prepare him for the internship. “There’s just something about the rigor of the academic courses in Westover that prepare you for a multifaceted way of life,” he said.
“You can use what you’ve learned and the skills that you use in everyday classes to tackle problems in the real world [and] think about how to creatively solve a problem. It’s just been really helpful.”
Once accepted into The Washington Center program, students’ interests are taken into consideration prior to placement. “You have a lot of input,” Jones said. “You’re matched up with an internship advisor and they get to know you on a personal level … to gain perspective on your interests. They use their knowledge and know how to find places that would appeal to you and then get my contact information to those people.”
While not always the case, Jones’ internship is a paid one. “That was very nice,” he said. He also lives in housing provided by The Washington Center, which is walking distance from his office on N. Capitol Street NW.
He’s also learned a lot. “I learned a different style of writing. I was not used to more political and scientific-based writing and there’s a lot of that that I do now. That’s a big skill,” he said. “I’ve used management software and software for web design and creation. I didn’t do web design — web editing, I’d say — but it was a skill I never had. Those are some tangible things.
“There were lots of things I’ve learned that are less tangible: how to be a good worker and how to be a young professional.”
Asked what the experience taught him about what he might want to do after graduation, Jones said it has “helped me expand my viewpoint and expand what I know about the future.
“I think that after this internship I could live in the city and work in a similar job to this and be content. I also rediscovered my love of learning and might want to go to graduate school. I have different options and this has definitely helped me explore those options.”