Senior Jonathan Gutierrez explores Washington, DC through new summer internship program
Jonathan Gutierrez has spent the past few months splitting his time between interning at the World Affairs Council of America, exploring Washington, D.C.’s many cultural institutions and, as he jokes, watching the Nationals lose spectacularly. And he says he might not have been able to do any of it without the help of a new internship program through the University of Missouri–St. Louis.
After a series of delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Washington, D.C. summer internship program officially launched in May as a collaboration between the Pierre Laclede Honors College, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of Alumni Engagement. To bring the program to fruition, UMSL also partnered with the Missouri School of Journalism, which has hosted a Washington, D.C. Internship Program for more than 50 years. Through the program, students are provided with free housing and a $2,500 stipend.
Honors College Dean Ed Munn Sanchez said that a group of UMSL alumni – many of whom are based in D.C. – played a pivotal role in launching the UMSL program this year, specifically calling out alumni Karen Gladbach, Charlie Hoffman, Dick Jung, Tom Morris and Matt Shank.
“We started discussing this program just as COVID hit, so we ended up with a long-term delay where we had to try to figure out how to do this,” Munn Sanchez said. “This is very much right now a test year to work out the kinks. Our alumni were key here, and have been so supportive both in time and funds. This is not something our students could do, for the most part, without that alumni support.
“Jennifer Jezek-Taussig and the alumni office have been really helpful in setting stuff up. It’s been a really nice partnership between the alumni office, Arts and Sciences, ourselves, Mizzou and development to try and put all this together. I think everyone’s really excited about being able to move this forward at this point.”
Morris, BSBA, 1977, was certainly excited to have a hand in bringing the internship program to fruition. After retiring recently, he joined UMSL’s Chancellor’s Council, through which he was introduced to the internship program in its infancy. Having lived in D.C. for 30 years, he was able to provide valuable insight and guidance in getting the program off the ground.
“It seemed to me that I had a comparative advantage in helping out on this,” he said. “It’s just a good opportunity to support UMSL. Karen Gladbach, BA, 1980, just retired as well and wanted to get involved at UMSL, so the two of us really took the ball and ran with it as co-leaders. It was a good opportunity to give back and mentor somebody who’s starting off in his career.”
Gutierrez, the program’s self-described guinea pig, had previously interned with the World Affairs Council of St. Louis for two years, and said signing up for the D.C. internship was a no-brainer. His experience interning in St. Louis helped him land an internship with the umbrella organization, the World Affairs Council of America, where as part of his duties he primarily keeps up with the organization’s 92 member organizations across the country.
“The way we describe it is bringing the world to here in the U.S. and the U.S. to the rest of the world,” he said. “The best way I can explain it is that it’s an organization that runs international programs as a means to spread education and awareness to people around the globe and people here in the U.S. and try and promote a globalist perspective.”
For Gutierrez, a senior studying international relations, Gladbach and Morris both proved to be particularly good matches. Both Gladbach and Morris recently retired after decades-long careers in international relations at the World Health Organization and U.S. Department of State, respectively.
Throughout the summer, Gladbach and Morris introduced Gutierrez to various aspects of cultural and professional life in the Washington, D.C. area, including attending baseball games (including a Cardinals victory), visiting museums and other cultural institutions and taking a walking tour of the historic and diverse Adams-Morgan and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods of downtown D.C. Together, they visited the Mexican Cultural Institute, the Polish Embassy and the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum, where another UMSL alumna, Melanie A. Adams, serves as director.
Specifically, Gutierrez highlights a peacebuilding event featuring Israeli and Palestinian delegations at the DACOR Bacon House as one of the most memorable events from his time exploring D.C. with the alumni.
“We hear so much about the conflict going on with Israel and Palestine and all the violence happening there,” he said. “So, to be able to be in the same room as delegations from both of those countries and see them interact was really surreal and really cool. Afterwards I saw an Israeli person and a Palestinian person just kind of goofing off, making fun of each other, having fun and laughing. And I never thought I would ever see that in my life. I described it as seeing diplomacy in action. And I think that’s going to be something that sticks with me. It was an opportunity that I would not have had if it wasn’t for Tom or Karen or the rest of the UMSL alumni.”
Although the internship program continues to be a work in progress, Munn Sanchez stresses that they are excited to continue to offer the opportunity, hopefully expanding the program to include more students across a variety of majors in the future.
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