CAPAL Federal Internship and Scholarship Programs

Interning in the public sector provides CAPAL Interns and Scholars with the opportunity to gain exposure to diverse issues and challenges facing our country. CAPAL Interns and Scholars work on topics ranging from foreign affairs, economic development, trade, and poverty reduction to environmental stewardship, food sustainability, and telecommunications policy. Below are a selection of testimonials by CAPAL’s Federal Internship, Scholarship Program, and Washington Leadership Program alumni.

2010 CAPAL Interns

Jenny Lau, Tufts University – APIAVote

Over the summer, I was afforded the opportunity to work as a field and policy associate at APIAVote, a national nonprofit that works to increase the voter engagement of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. By the end of the summer, I helped to create a voter mobilization toolkit for APIAVote’s community partners to use in their voter engagement campaigns on the ground. Additionally, I was able to travel to the Gulf Coast with other national Asian American civil rights organizations to assess the needs of Asian American fishermen who were impacted by the BP oil spill. As a policy associate, I researched local, state, and federal policies that impact voter access in AAPI communities.

I really thank CAPAL for the support it gave me to make my internship experience in D.C. possible. Besides the very useful stipend the program offered, CAPAL offered me a diverse and supportive community of like-minded individuals who are passionate about advancing the cause of AAPIs. I met AAPI student leaders from all over the country, in addition to AAPI young professionals working in D.C., who were interested in mentoring college students and recent graduates. The CAPAL program definitely added a great deal to my summer experience in D.C., as it made the U.S. Capitol’s resources more accessible by hosting panels with national leaders and by reminding us repeatedly that AAPIs belong in U.S. government too.

Uri Whang – Employee Services Intern, Office of Personnel Management

This summer was quite an experience. Arriving in DC in July, I worried that I would be so lost in the chaos of the downtown district. But CAPAL was a welcoming safe haven for me to develop both personally and professionally. I met intellectual, passionate people who were looking for the same thing as me – an experience, not just an internship, and the board members really provided sound advice and support that made my stay in DC exponentially better.

I hit the ground running at the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Upon arrival, I immediately began to sort through over a thousand evaluation papers, translated the evaluations in to data that was understandable and tangible, and wrote a 58-page report, discussing the results for senior executive review. My tasks ranged from burning CD-Rs and responding to emails to compiling information for reports to the President and editing progress reports on government strategies. While I was there, I had the opportunity to create a data tracker for the newly founded veterans’ services office at OPM and maintained OPM’s social networks on Facebook and twitter. My short summer internship was extended to a year-long work study with OPM, and this could not have been possible without the generous support of CAPAL and its relentless pursuit of furthering Asian-American leadership.

Katherine Tu, University of Chicago—Sustainable Operations, Forest Service, USDA

As a sustainable operations intern for the Forest Service, I worked on two major projects this summer. One was assisting in the completion of a comprehensive agency-wide greenhouse gas inventory that was to be submitted to the Executive branch of the government by the end of the year. The other was creating an evaluation system for the three partnerhip schools (one in Virginia, New Mexico and Arkansas) that the Forest Service had recently acquired. Working on both projects allowed me to exercise my ability to communicate with others, work  in a team, assist in data compilation, learn more about the Forest Service (through the FS’s own internship program sessions) and even go on a business trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico where most of Business Operations (which Sustainable Operations is listed under) for the Forest Service is housed. This internship was so interesting to me that I have elected to work part-time remotely from school during the year so as to continue to help out with Sus Ops projects and stay in the loop.

Being a CAPAL intern meant that I had an automatic network of friends and contacts coming into DC and, if you know DC, networking is everything. The board and mentors provided a great professional base for me to actively start thinking about where I wanted to be in five to ten years. They have inspired me to dream big and really flesh out what I want to do with my life.  Over the course of my eight weeks in DC, the other interns and I became a family that we leaned on to vent about work issues, explore the DC area and converse with about future plans. The strong connections and relationships we were able to forge was largely due to the mandatory Washington Leadership Program (WLP) that we attended; aside from being a free meal (a definite plus for student interns), it was a great networking opportunity, chance to learn more about how the US government works and time to re-connect with interns who don’t work in the same branch of government as you do.

Rebecca Lee, Columbia University—Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

During a 13-week internship at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), I worked in the fast-paced communications office for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH).  In particular, I had the opportunity to work with the ASH and the U.S. Surgeon General on their public engagements. I contributed to projects spanning the broad field of public health, such as the launches of the health reform portal and the White House’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy.  At HHS, I was also able to serve the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community as I helped develop communications strategies for such issues as health reform, hepatitis B, and organ donation.

The CAPAL Scholarship afforded me the tremendous opportunity to see public health at work at a federal level and helped refine my professional goals.  Moreover, I am grateful for the community of like-minded, inspiring individuals I met through CAPAL.  I have gained a deeper understanding of the Washington political landscape and of the need for more AAPIs to a stronger presence in public service.

Kacie Ho, University of Hawaii—Nutrient Data Lab, Agricultural Research Service, USDA

Through my summer internship with CAPAL, I worked at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in the Nutrient Data Lab (NDL).  During my internship I got the opportunity to work on the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, which is the gold standard of nutrient resources for nutrition-related research, health care, and food manufacturers.  Similarly, NDL also gave me the opportunity to lead efforts in tracking sodium in foods commonly consumed nationally by Americans.  I feel quite fortunate to have been able to do so, since sodium content and reduction is currently a prominent issue in the nutrition world.  My experience with NDL also allowed me to work closely with knowledgeable and experienced food specialists and nutritionists within NDL, as well as with professionals in other USDA lab groups.

Being a CAPAL intern was definitely an amazing experience in that I had access to learn about the most current USDA and nutrition-related research—which ultimately better encourages me in my efforts and pursuits in a Food Science & Human Nutrition career—as well as develop professionally and personally as an individual.  Also, as a CAPAL intern, participation in the Washington Leadership Program (WLP) was an eye opening experience.  Through WLP I further developed my perspective on pressing national issues, including immigration and economic policy.  Other than the internship and WLP program, living in the Washington DC metropolitan area and being in good company with fellow CAPAL interns and board members proved to be incredible experiences.  In all honesty, I feel that I have made quality relationships and friendships with fellow interns and ever-supportive CAPAL board members.  Thanks to their mentorship and guidance, I feel better equipped—professionally, emotionally, and mentally—to succeed in school, future careers, and life.

Munira Gunja, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Agricultural Research Service, USDA

Through CAPAL I worked at the Agricultural Research Service in the Food Surveys Research Group (FSRG). At FSRG I learned about ‘What We Eat in America’, which is the dietary portion of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). I conducted qualtiy control reviews of NHANES data, trained FSRG members on the Automated Multiple-Pass Method, and created a Recipe Archives Database.

Not only did my internship experience teach me about the importance of providing accurate and reliable information to researchers and policymakers, it gave me the opportunity to meet many people, including FSRG members, CAPAL interns and scholars, and CAPAL board members. My CAPAL experience reinforced my passion to work in the public service field in the future.

Priscilla Choi—Office of Chief Financial Officer, US Office of Personnel Management.

My summer internship experience with CAPAL has opened my eyes to life in the ‘real world’ after college. The very purpose of having an internship was fulfilled. Words can’t express everything I learned this summer, from learning how to conduct myself in a professional environment, how the business world works, and the most important lesson of all: the power of connections. During my internship at OPM, I worked on a project that dealt with cleaning up accounting errors made by a newly implanted financial system. This was the first time I was able to have direct hands on experience with accounting. Since I am an accounting and finance major, I was extremely glad that I had the opportunity to  see a glimpse of what my future career would be like.

At the Washington Leadership Program hosted by CAPAL, I was introduced to a range of issues affecting APA’s such as economic and immigration policy. The highlight of my summer was meeting interns from the CAPAL program as well as interns from APAICS, ILF, and OCA. It was so exciting to meet people from all different backgrounds and to hear their stories of how they ended up in DC this summer. This internship experience far exceeded my expectations and I’m so  thankful to CAPAL for giving me a chance to experience this glorious city!

Uyen Truong, Boston College—Congressional and Public Affairs Office, Food and Safety Inspection Services, USDA

During my CAPAL internship I worked at the Food and Safety Inspection Services in the Congressional and Public Affairs Office as a Congressional intern.  For the majority of my internship, I worked with the Congressional staff to put together briefing books which included drafting, editing and proofreading issue papers pertaining to important issues that the agency is dealing with and organizing them into binders.  I also got the chance draft a couple of short speeches for my deputy director.  One of the most memorable parts of my internship in the office was when my staff took me to the Hill for an Appropriation Hearing as well as a public hearing regarding catfish policies.  My supervisors also took me to different departmental meetings so that I could get a better idea of the agency as a whole.

Being a CAPAL intern this past summer was one of the best experiences of my undergraduate career so far.  Not only did I learn valuable skills of working in a Federal Agency but I also learned so much from the CAPAL board members as well as from other interns I met in CAPAL and other partner organizations.  The best parts of my summer in D.C were those after work networking events like the Washington Leadership Program where I was able to meet prominent Asian American figures like Congresswoman Judy Chu and Congressman Mike Honda.  It was also at these events that I met some of the most inspiring, caring and thoughtful friends that I know I will be contact with for a long time.  I will always be grateful to be a part of the 2010 CAPAL family.

Vinh Nguyen, University of Massachusetts Amherst—Cooperative Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, USDA

Because of the varied projects and multiple supervisors I had at the Forest Service, my experience allowed me to use different skills that I never anticipated needing.  For example, although the introduction of a computerized land stewardship software allowed foresters throughout the country to share information, it only functioned in English.  I was thus able to apply my Spanish-speaking background and translate the technical manual for the offices in Puerto Rico.  Other experiences at the agency provided me with valuable knowledge about federal programs and how they affect real people; I sat in on committees reviewing and awarding large grants and researched state and national policies for the Forest Legacy Program that has protected nearly 2 million acres of open space.

Participating in CAPAL’s Washington Leadership Program further educated me about policies and how they affect Asian Pacific Americans.  Before DC, my grasp of public policy was tenuous at best, and nonexistent, at worst.  Not only did attending panels on such topics as US foreign policy with Asia and immigration policy inform me about major points underlying the issues, it strengthened my resolve to work with communities of color.  Seeing such passionate and proactive APA students from across the country converge every week around a different policy issue is not the norm for me, and to participate in this program was a privilege.  In short, my experience in DC was tremendous.

Sara Yang, University of Georgia—Food Surveys Research Group, Agricultural Research Service, USDA

During my summer internship, I worked in the Food Surveys Research Group at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center. There, I was able to gain a better understanding of how American food consumption and related behaviors are monitored and assessed. FSRG allowed me the opportunity to develop and conduct training on the USDA Automated Multiple-Pass Method, provide quality assurancefor the What We Eat In America survey, and update the Recipe Archive Database. The people I worked with were warm and welcoming, and the experience was both educational and enjoyable.

CAPAL definitely helped to maximize my DC experience. The Washington Leadership Program gave me valuable insight to various aspects of our nation’s politics and gave me the chance to meet several inspirational individuals. Being a part of the CAPAL family made this summer memorable.

Natalie Quach, UC Irvine— Cooperative Forestry office, USDA Forest Service.

As part of my CAPAL internship, I worked for the USDA Forest Service (FS) in the Cooperative Forestry (CF) office. My position with CF entailed completing various projects for my supervisors, such as configuring Powerpoint presentations to be presented at national forestry conferences and commissioning an ad on an upcoming FS seminar geared towards landowner outreach. Such activities allowed me to contribute towards the CF office’s work of conserving the nation’s privately owned forest lands and build upon my personal grasp of professional skills and workplace etiquette.

I could not have asked more from my summer experience. My office supervisors were extraordinarily passionate about their work and patient enough to answer my innumerable questions about government and public policy. CAPAL’s Washington Leadership Program seminars afforded me invaluable opportunities to consolidate my knowledge of various political issues, such as immigration reform andeconomic policy developments. Of course, this is to say nothing of the fellow interns, board members, and other professionals I met through the program, whose camaraderie and wisdom enlivened my DC stay in countless manners. Needless to say, this summer isn’t one I’m likely to forget anytime soon.

Lily Cheng, University of California, Berkeley—Office of the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative, US Department of State.

As a CAPAL Scholar, I interned at the US Department of State’s Office of the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative. I worked with the new Feed the Future Initiative, which emphasizes country-ownership and a comprehensive approach to development and aid. I was responsible for conducting research and analysis on Feed the Future’s increased involvement with the Asian region, in particular the countries of Nepal, Cambodia, and Bangladesh. My projects and reports also focused on the cross-cutting priorities of gender inclusion, environmental sustainability, and agricultural value chain development.

Through both my internship and time with CAPAL in DC, I learned how to link my personal experiences with international NGOs and local nonprofits to policy-making at the government level. The WLP’s variety of discussion panel topics and panelists provided an in-depth view into how politics and government are shaped. Having a community that both supported and inspired me really allowed me to absorb all that DC had to offer and bring that back home.