December 14, 2015
By Annie Dittberner '17
After Bridget Cummings spent a summer in Washington D.C., she wanted to go back.
And back again.
The 2015 graduate participated in two internships over two summers in Washington. When she graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in May, she started working full-time at the White House in August.
As Cummings adapts to a new role in the White House, she credits her previous internship experience for preparing her for the position.
Following her sophomore year at Saint Ben's, Cummings participated in the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University Summer Washington, D.C., Study Program, where she interned at the U.S. Department of Justice.
"I learned so many valuable lessons about public policy and what it is like to work in the government," Cummings said. "After the D.C. Summer Study Program ended, I knew I wanted to come back to D.C. the next summer, and it was my goal to intern at the White House."
The next summer, Cummings did just that.
The political science major from Chaska, Minnesota, was one of about 140 college students selected from across the country to participate in the 2014 Summer White House Internship Program. That year, she was the only participant in the program who attended a college or university in Minnesota.
"My experience as a White House intern only reaffirmed my thoughts about public service, and I knew that this was the type of career path I would like to pursue after graduation," she said. "Both of these internships taught me the importance of hard work, teamwork and always having a positive attitude."
What began as an internship for Cummings transformed into a post-graduation, full-time position as a staff assistant in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
Currently, Cummings works on the Intergovernmental Affairs (IGA) local team and engages local elected officials from across the country. The office, she said, serves as a front door to the White House through which local, county, tribal and state elected governments can participate in and inform the work of the president.
"While I have more responsibilities as a staffer than when I was an intern, I still have the same goal of assisting my team in the best way possible," Cummings said.
Recently, her office assisted with a panel discussion on criminal justice reform that the president hosted at the White House.
"It was amazing to see the president interact with law enforcement leaders and discuss such an important issue," Cummings said.
According to Cummings, the most satisfying part of the job is interacting with local elected officials.
"I love hearing about what is going on in their communities and how they are working to better the lives of their constituents," she said. "It is fascinating to see how the president's priorities can translate into outcomes at the local level."
For students interested in government work, Cummings advises them to intern with the government while still in college.
"Since these are often unpaid, I recommend that students look into the many scholarship opportunities that CSB and SJU has to offer," she said. "The internships provide a great opportunity to get real experience and determine if government work is the type of career you would like to pursue after graduating.
"Most importantly, stay in touch with all of the people that you build relationships with while interning. I would not be in my current role at the White House without the advice and guidance of mentors from my prior internships."
Throughout her years at CSB and SJU, Cummings recognizes the faculty that prepared her for this experience.
"They invested time into helping me improve my writing skills, communicate effectively and determine what I want to do after college," she said. "I think working on campaigns and getting involved in the (Eugene J.) McCarthy Center (for Public Policy and Civic Engagement) taught me the importance of civic engagement and public service."
Looking back, Cummings acknowledges the strong Benedictine values at CSB and SJU and how well those teachings translated into the real world after college.
"Teamwork is essential in the professional world," she said. "I try and build strong relationships with my colleagues and be someone they can trust to work hard and have their back."
Even after her summer internship experience, Cummings never imagined her first job to be in the White House.
"I still walk into work every day and have to pinch myself," said Cummings, whose job ends when the Obama Administration concludes in January 2017. "I don't think this feeling will ever go away."