Oval Office Interns

2011 Oval Office Interns

Jeanette Acosta, MPP ’12
White House Domestic Policy Council, DC

Jeanette Acosta will work with the White House’s Domestic Policy Council in Washington, DC this summer. The Domestic Policy Council (DPC) coordinates the domestic policy-making process in the White House and offers advice to the President. The DPC also supervises the execution of domestic policy and represents the President’s priorities to Congress. Joining the Immigration Policy team, Jeanette will focus on developing strategies and policies to carry out President Obama’s commitment to reforming the nation’s flawed immigration system. Her team will also focus on reforming the U.S. detention system and promoting immigrant integration. Alongside Senior Immigration Policy Advisor and Harvard Kennedy School alumna, Felicia Escobar, Jeanette will research federal and state legislation as well as engage in inter-agency and inter-governmental strategic planning sessions in order to achieve these objectives.

Mallika Ahluwalia, MBA/MPP ’11
Congress Party/Indian Youth Congress | India

This summer, Mallika Ahluwalia will be working on a state election campaign in India, her home country. Given that campaigns and elections remain the heart of a democratic system, Mallika hopes that this experience will give her a lot of insight into the political space in India. She will intern on the state elections for the largest state in India, Uttar Pradesh. Because India is a party-dominated electoral system, she is excited about witnessing and contributing to the electoral campaign strategy for a large national political party. She hopes to contribute on the analytical and communications sides of the campaign work. Mallika will also work on leadership initiatives to increase the training available to future electoral candidates.

Emma Fenelon, LLM ’11
Senator David Norris for President | Ireland

This summer, Emma Fenelon will work for Senator David Norris in his campaign for the Irish Presidency at the main Presidential Campaign office in Dublin, Ireland. She will help in the preparation for the election later this year by working on planning, polling, communications, fundraising and canvassing. Emma will participate in every aspect of a national political campaign, in both the bid for the nomination itself and on the campaign trail. As Irish presidential campaigns usually occur only once every 7 years, Emma’s internship provides a unique opportunity to gain insight on a national campaign.

Alexandra Goujon, MPA ’12
Kirsten Gillibrand Senatorial Campaign 2012 | New York City, NY

Alexandra Goujon will spend her summer as an Intern Fellow on the senatorial campaign of U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY) for her reelection in 2012 in the State of New York. Campaign work will depend on the day-to-day priorities. Alexandra’s objective is to experience as much as possible from a professional, fast paced campaign. Her diverse tasks will include work in the 5 main departments of the NY office. In field, Alexandra will aid the staff with the preparation of all field activities and events the Senator will be attending. In finance, she will support the finance staff with fundraising activities and donor communication. Alexandra will work with the research department and the media department by watching media coverage of the Senator, drafting letters to be read at events, drafting scripts for videos for the Senator's recording and helping create packages for Democratic booths across the state. She will also aid the political department by assisting with some local races that the Senator will support as well as tracking and watching all city-wide and state-wide political events. Apart from these very diverse responsibilities based on the day-to-day needs of the Senator and the campaign, Alexandra will be in charge of a longer-term project which will materialize into a report to be given to the campaign and presented to the Senator.

September Hargrove, MPP/UP 2011
Office of the Mayor of New Orleans | New Orleans, LA

This summer, September Hargrove will be interning with the New Orleans Mayor’s Office. She will be working directly with Aimee Quirk, Advisor to the Mayor on Economic Development, and Norman Roussell, Director of Supplier Diversity, implementing the recommendations from her Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE) to increase the number of women and minority owned business awarded city contracts. Specifically, September will assist in the development of policies and procedures to build the capacity of the Office of Supplier Diversity and coordinate a citywide forum under the theme of the role of women in re-building New Orleans to identify opportunities for women owned businesses in city contracting.

Laura Merritt, MBA/MPP ’13
White House Domestic Policy Council | Washington, DC

Laura Merritt was selected to serve as a White House Intern in the Office of the Domestic Policy Council (DPC) this summer. As an intern, she will coordinate with DPC agencies. The DPC includes all domestic policy areas, such as healthcare, immigration, education, and criminal justice. Laura will act as an aide in overseeing the development and implementation of President Obama’s domestic policy agenda. Beyond a more traditional internship experience, the White House provides interns with a speakers series, weekly events, a summer-long service project and leadership training activities.

Varina Winder, MPP ’11
Planned Parenthood Action Fund | Washington, DC

Varina Winder will spend the summer of 2011 working in the Washington, DC office of Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF). PPAF is the nonpartisan advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Action Fund “engages in educational and electoral activity, including legislative advocacy, voter education, and grassroots organizing to promote the Planned Parenthood mission.” Varina will spend the summer helping PPAF capitalize on the efforts from their current campaign, “Stand with Planned Parenthood: Protect Women’s Access to Health Care,” and building ground for future campaigns to ensure low-income women have continued access to reproductive and general health care. She will also be working with their international advocacy department on ensuring continued funding for global reproductive health care and family planning.

Misty Wright, JD ’11
Office of U.S. Senator Al Franken/Senate Judiciary Committee | Washington, DC

Misty Wright, a rising 2L at Harvard Law School, is working with the Senate Judiciary Committee in the office of Senator Al Franken as a law clerk. Some of her responsibilities include: writing hearing memos, questions, and statements on nominations, cybersecurity, immigration, and other topics; briefing the Senator and staffing him at hearings and markups; composing letters on behalf of the Senator, including one to President Obama; helping introduce an internet privacy bill; attending various briefings; and monitoring SCOTUS and Senate floor activity. For her WAPPP internship, Misty will be writing, after the conclusion of her summer clerkship, a reflection paper on her experiences in Washington, D.C., focusing on certain key issue areas.

2010 Oval Office Interns

Molly Byrne, MPP ’10

Campaign for Candidate for Governor of Florida, Alex Sink

Molly spent the summer as an Outreach Coordinator for the Alex Sink for Governor Campaign in Florida. Alex Sink was the state’s elected Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and was running to become Florida’s first female governor. As an Outreach Coordinator, Molly was responsible for helping to recruit, train, and mobilize volunteers across the state. She developed and sustained relationships with grassroots volunteers and engaged supporters of Alex Sink. Molly spent a good part of her childhood in northeastern Florida, where she currently has family. She was delighted to work for a female candidate dedicated to making a difference in the state and who will serve as a role model for her future work in public service.


Manisha Dookhony, MC/MPA ’10

MA State Representative Linda Dorcena Forry (MA D-12)

Manisha spent her summer interning with Massachusetts State Legislator Linda Dorcena Forry (MA D-12). Representative Linda Dorcena Forry is one of two Haitian American representatives at the state-level for Massachusetts. She also chairs the state committee for small businesses. Manisha contributed to legislation that was being debated. She also assisted with a report on small business development that was launched in the fall. Manisha helped with development in the Haitian American community, as well as coordinating with the relief funding and assistance being distributed to Haiti.


Kate Glynn, MPP ’11

White House Intern, Office of the Vice President

Kate was selected to be a White House intern. She worked for the Office of the Vice President, which consists of personal staffers as well as policy advisors, and is akin to a miniature White House Staff that operates semiautonomously within the Executive Branch. This internship provided insight into life inside the beltway, as well as valuable professional experience. Kate was particularly excited to get a glimpse into the inner workings of the federal government.


Mallika Kaur, JD/MPP ’10

Office of the Mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom

Mallika was in the Office of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. She specifically worked with the Mayor’s Public Safety Advisor focusing on issues of community-police relations. Combining her law and policy training, Mallika is deeply interested in the intersections of issues of race, gender, and security, at the local, national, and international levels. In the Mayor’s office, she had the opportunity to work at the city level on perceptions of policing and security in different minority communities. She was also involved with the Community Justice Center, inaugurated under Mayor Newsom’s purview last year, which combines social services, including drug treatment, medical care, employment assistance, as well as education services, to achieve restorative justice.


Jane Lee, MBA/MPA ’12 

Campaign for Candidate for Michigan Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson

Jane spent her summer working for Jocelyn Benson, candidate for Michigan Secretary of State. Jane researched emerging election reform policies throughout the nation and within the state, and her research helped to inform Ms. Benson’s platform. She also traveled throughout the state and visited various Secretary of State’s offices to analyze constituent access and convenience to state services, including issuing vehicle registrations, licensing automobile drivers, and regulating notaries public. Jane gained firsthand experience of the rigors of the campaign trail by accompanying Ms. Benson to various gatherings and meetings and addressing constituent concerns.


Katya Melkote, MPP ’10


Katya Melkote spent the summer of 2010 working in New York City with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). She researched and analyzed data on women and adolescents in the areas of reproductive health, protection, and education. Her findings will serve as the basis for future UNICEF publications and programming. These findings will also be important to legislators and public leaders worldwide who will use this data to assess the status of women and children in their countries in order to formulate policy decisions, programming, and public opinion.


Devin Romanul, MPP ’11

Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (CEC)

In the summer of 2010, Devin served as a legislative fellow at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, a quasi-public agency geared towards the expansion of the renewable energy industry. Primarily, he explored various governmental options for intervention to promote growth in this area. Researching regulations and statutes in many other states across the country, he contributed to the development of wind siting and solar thermal programs right here in Massachusetts. With the approval of Cape Wind, Devin also worked on the state purchase of a barge that is specially designed for offshore wind projects.


Christina Sanchez, MPP ’10

Los Angeles Deputy Mayor of Education, Joan Sullivan

Christina worked under the guidance and supervision of Joan Sullivan, Los Angeles Deputy Mayor of Education. She worked on a broad range of issues, with a particular focus on school turnaround models, state education legislation, and parent engagement strategies. She was responsible for working with the office's partners and her research on turnaround models will be used by the Mayor's Partnership for Los Angeles Schools as it codifies its own turnaround approach. Ultimately, Christina wants to use the skills that she gained as a teacher, a summer intern, and an Oval Office training participant to contribute to the raising of student achievement in her home city's highest need schools.


Mayra C. Suárez, JD/MPP ’12

U.S. House of Representatives, Resident Commissioner Pedro R. Pierluisi (D-Puerto Rico)

Mayra worked in the Washington, DC office of Resident Commissioner Pedro R. Pierluisi, the sole representative in Congress of the four million Americans residing on the island of Puerto Rico. She conducted research on public policy issues of significant importance to the island’s future, such as its political status and economic development. She helped draft bills for introduction by the Congressman, and aid in constituent services. Working in the House of Representatives allowed Mayra to become better acquainted with the chamber’s procedures and culture, while learning how to garner support for initiatives or bills from other Congressmen and Senators and gaining insight about the Committee on the Judiciary, where Resident Commissioner Pierluisi is Vice-Chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.



2009 Oval Office Interns

Rahma Adam, MPP '09

Young Women Leadership Training

Rahma spent the summer of 2009 in Tanzania conducting leadership training workshops for young women enrolled at universities across the country. She worked to help empower young women to promote their future participation in elective politics. Rahma supported and promoted leadership capacity among young girls between the ages of 15-22 who showed an interest and potential for future political leadership activities. To introduce these young girls to the political systems and specifically the operations and opportunities for women in political parties, Rahma conducted several workshops at different schools and universities in Dar-es-Salaam and other parts of Tanzania. She trained the students on the following aspects of leadership: public speaking, debating, advocacy and lobbying. In addition, the workshops included a mentorship component, whereby activists and gender experts interacted with and motivated the young women to become leaders.


Elizabeth A. Côté, MD/MPA '09

U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)

This past summer, Elizabeth worked in the State Offices of U.S. Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). She studied and compared constituent services and human resource management in the State Senatorial Offices. Working closely with the Senators' State Directors, Elizabeth traveled with them across Maine meeting with constituents and addressing their concerns. She also contributed to state operations by preparing a new State Office Personnel Handbook which included state job descriptions and ethics policies.


Aranzasú De La O, MPP '09

Women's Center of Los Angeles

Aranzasú spent her internship working with the Women’s Center of Los Angeles (WCLA). The WCLA is a community organization that works with other organizations in the Los Angeles area such as the Department of Cultural Affairs; Recreation & Parks; City Libraries; and the Commission for Children, Youth & Families. Aranzasú coordinated the creation of a website for the WCLA and worked with its board of directors to determine the website’s content. This also consisted of an analysis of the impact of current arts policies to display on the website. Since the WCLA is a new organization which needs assistance with program implementation, Aranzasú had the opportunity to research evaluation tools and coordinate outreach to volunteers and program sites. She also assisted with fundraising, including researching potential foundation and government funding.


Sheila B. Lalwani, MPP '09

U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts)
Blog (password required)

During the summer of 2009, Sheila worked in the Office of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) on a range of issues, including immigration and policy work. She was responsible for working with constituents, helping formulate policy and assisting in research. Sheila focused on managing constituent relations and mobilizing the press. The majority of her work resided in the Boston office, but she also had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. Ultimately, Sheila wants to use the skills that she learned through the Oval Office training program to prepare herself for a career in politics and policy.


Margaux McDonald, MPA/MTS '08

Martha Hall Findlay, Member of Parliament, Canada

Margaux spent her summer working with Martha Hall Findlay, Member of Parliament in Canada. Hall Findlay is currently the Official Opposition Critic for both Public Works and Government Services, and the Treasury Board. Margaux worked with Findlay's team of policy advisors in her Ottawa office researching and writing policy positions that related to Martha’s opposition role and committee membership; assisted with the writing and production of constituent-directed mailings with information on Martha’s policy positions; and compiled and wrote a humorous yet insightful publication on “the day in the life of a female Member of Parliament.” She also drafted correspondence relating to constituent inquiries on various issues and collaborated with staff on various projects, policy and community outreach. Margaux’s internship provided her with a rich learning environment related to her policy interests and political aspirations.



2008 Oval Office Interns

Aranzasu De La O, MPP '09

Maria Leon Vazquez for School Board and Margaret Quinones for Santa Monica College Board of Trustees Campaigns

Aranzasu spent the summer working on two campaigns in Santa Monica, CA - Maria Leon Vazquez's campaign for school board and Margaret Quinones' campaign for Santa Monica College's Board of Trustees. In addition to the two campaigns, Aranzasu worked with School Board Member, Oscar de la Torre starting an education coalition that included Latina/o parents, who are organized around special education issues. They also created a Latino Political Action Network composed of Latina/o teachers, administrators and education. Their goal was to organize a major progressive advocacy group to assist with quality of life issues, workers rights, education, etc. in Santa Monica, CA.


Adia Hoag, EdM '08

Obama for America

Adia worked with the national presidential campaign for Senator Barack Obama, Obama for America. She applied for the Obama Organizing Fellows program. In June, Adia was assigned to Jacksonville, FL where she spent six weeks obtaining real world organizing experience that had a concrete impact on this election. As a Fellow, Adia was trained on the basics of organizing and campaign fundamentals: managing databases, fundraising money, getting out the vote, educating the public on the issues and campaigning door-to-door. In Jacksonville, Adia carried out grassroots organizing activities such as training door-to-door campaign volunteers, holding informational meetings and phone banking on behalf of the campaign. Adia received valuable experience participating in training on field organizing, messaging and other activities for the Obama campaign. The Obama Organizing Fellowship was designed not just to help win the presidential election, but to strengthen our democracy by training dedicated volunteers in communities across the country. Adia participated in an intensive and rewarding training program focused on the basic organizing principles at the heart of Barack Obama’s campaign.


Moushumi Khan, MC/MPA '08

Obama for America

Moushumi spent the summer working on Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign, Obama for America, in Ann Arbor, MI, specifically in the Crown Fellowship Program. She worked in the field office and conducted voter outreach campaigns, particularly to the Muslim/Arab community.


Katherine Randall, MPP '08

Healthcare Policy Examination

Katherine used the opportunity of her Oval Office summer internship to develop her views on healthcare. As in the US, healthcare is an issue of critical importance to voters in the UK, albeit for different reasons. Katherine interviewed experts on healthcare - academics, politicians and policy-makers - in the US, Canada, France and the UK in order to gain a deeper understanding of this crucial policy issue. In Fall 2009, Katherine took a post working for Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Strategy Unit on issues of healthcare.



2007 Oval Office Interns

Amelia Showalter, MPP '08

EMILY's List, Washington DC

Amelia interned at EMILY’s List, an organization that supports pro-choice Democratic women running for congress and governor. In addition to GOTV efforts and phone banking, Amelia conducted candidate research.



2006 Oval Office Interns

Mamie Marcuss, MPP '07

Political Assistant to the State Director of U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts)

Mamie worked directly with Senator Kerry's State Director to build and foster the Senator's political relationships within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Specifically, she planed and attended meetings and events with key political contacts in the state, primarily state and local legislators. Additionally, she managed an effort to enhance the Senator's communications with his Massachusetts constituents by harnessing emerging technologies, such as pod casts and blogs. The internship helped Mamie further her goal of running for elected office. First, it enabled her to develop a better understanding of politics, complementing my past experience in the policy arena. Second, it offered her a chance to build a political network in the state, one which will prove invaluable in any future race. Finally, it gave her an on the ground appreciation for the day-to-day life of a U.S. legislator-an office she hopes to one day hold.


Sarah Rasmussen, MPP '07

Research & Communications Intern, America Votes/Minnesota

Sarah worked as a research/communications intern with the organization America Votes/Minnesota. America Votes is a new, historic coalition of dozens of progressive political organizations working to educate and engage voters on issues like the environment, the economy, and a woman's right to choose. American Votes also developed electoral strategies and shift resources to ensure that on-the-ground political efforts are smart, efficient and effective. As an intern in the research and communications department, Sarah conducted issue-based research, write organizational press materials, and help develop issue-based messages.


Katie Selenski, MPP '07

State Assemblymember Dave Jones, Sacramento, CA

Katie returned to California to work for State Assemblymember Dave Jones, who represents her hometown of Sacramento. Working on legislative projects in Jones’ capital office was a tremendous opportunity for Katie, whose experience is in nonprofit and advocacy organizations, to learn about the inside of the legislative process, develop new political skills, and observe the daily life of an elected official. Katie is committed to achieving real solutions to the problems facing Sacramento residents and she continually seeks to discover more about the city. She was eager to learn from Assemblymember Jones, who also had a record of distinguished service in the Sacramento City Council and as a legal aid attorney in the city, about how he has accomplished such success and about the challenges and opportunities of serving in public office. Katie hopes to use the lessons she learned to develop strategies for achieving progress for Sacramento.





Blog Disclaimer: The information contained in the blogs of the Oval Office Interns does not represent the views, intentions, or strategies of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. The information is solely the personal opinion of the blog author. The Women and Public Policy Program, Harvard Kennedy School, and Harvard University may not be held responsible for any content included in the personal blogs, nor are they responsible for how the student develops blog material beyond the scope of his or her Oval Office Internship.

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Margaux McDonald, Cohort 2009




Adia Hoag registering voters in Florida during her 2008 Oval Office internship with Obama for America.

“This summer, I learned a lot about myself, politics and how to run an effective campaign. The Oval Office trainings, lectures and intimate luncheons with incredible female leaders from around the country and the world, lead me to get involved in Obama for President 2008 campaign in Florida and Representative Carol Shea-Porter’s re-election campaign in New Hampshire.”
-Adia Hoag