CAPAL Intern Spotlight Vishni Samaraweera ’21


Vishni Samaraweera is a current second-year student at Brandeis University majoring in Health, Science, Society, Policy and minoring in Economics, Legal Studies and South Asian Studies on the pre-law track. This summer, Vishni is interning with USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

What are your main responsibilities at your position? What are some of your big projects? 

As an Intern at the USDA-APHIS-IES, I am interning under the director and deputy director of the Investigative Enforcement Services Agency of APHIS. In my position, I will work with the different branch chiefs in IES (Plant Protection, Animal Welfare, and Animal Health and Protection) to conduct projects and assist with administrative tasks and cases.

How does this internship/scholarship fit with your professional and career goals?

By interning at the USDA-APHIS-IES, I am really able to see the investigative and enforcement practices and protocols at a government level. These practices and cases have a legal background and demonstrate a unique set of pathways that come with a law degree. As someone hoping to pursue a J.D., it is very interesting to work with the different branch chiefs and understand how they carry out cases and lead investigative team. 


What do you hope to achieve this summer as a part of CAPAL’s 2021 cohort?

I hope to develop strong bonds and connections with peers in my cohort as well as with different mentors from CAPAL. I am learning so much about how to professionally present myself with confidence and not be apologetic about my culture and background in the workforce, and I look forward to taking these skills forward into my career and life. It is so empowering to be in a space with such intelligent AANHPI students to discuss our experiences and struggles and how to move forward and take action together. I am grateful to be a part of this space, and I am so excited for the rest of the summer. 

What does public service mean to you?

To me, public service is serving all communities and the individuals within them equitably. Public service work, no matter the field, should be non-discriminatory work that aims to treat all within the community equitably. Through public service work, communities are provided with specific resources and support systems that they need to succeed.

Did you pick up any new hobbies during quarantine, and if so, what are they?

Cooking and learning all of my families’ recipes. In addition, I have been doing a lot of paint by numbers. 

What’s your favorite book?

“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith

If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

My dad’s homemade tabouli 

What is one country/place you hope to travel to one day? 

Santorini, Greece

What’s one interesting/surprising fact that a lot of people may not know about you? 

I have performed with the Boston Ballet in their productions of the Nutcracker and Coppelia. 

Meet all of our 2021 CAPAL Scholars & Interns here.