University of Delaware
Sean Bunoski spent the summer as a White House intern.

White House summer

Student gains wide-ranging experience during competitive internship


1:54 p.m., Sept. 13, 2011--Sean Bunoski had never applied for a summer internship before last year, but the University of Delaware political science and international relations student decided he'd take a chance and try for a slot in one of the nation's most competitive programs.

His confidence paid off, and he spent the summer in the White House as one of 150 college students and working adults selected for the program.

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"My father heard about the White House Internship Program and sent me some information," said Bunoski, a senior from Bethany Beach, Del., and a member of UD's Honors Program. "It was my first internship experience, and I didn't really expect to be accepted, but I thought that I might as well aim for the stars."

Because he was familiar with the career of longtime Delaware Sen. and now Vice President Joe Biden—once a UD undergraduate himself—Bunoski asked to work in Biden's office and was surprised again when he was given his first choice of assignments. 

His primary task was working on correspondence for the Office of the Vice President, sorting and responding to mail from constituents. The topics of the correspondence covered everything from comments—both positive and negative—on issues facing the federal government to complaints about problems individuals were having with particular agencies.

All replies to correspondence were written, reviewed and approved by a team of staffers to ensure that they reflected Biden's views and the administration's policies. Many of the letters concerned the summer's congressional debate on raising the federal debt ceiling, Bunoski said, so many of the replies he drafted were very similar.

"No matter how routine a topic might have started to seem, I always remembered how getting a letter from the Office of the Vice President was going to make someone's day," Bunoski said. "That's the mindset that everyone in the office had. And I was especially impressed with how overwhelmingly positive so many of the letters were."

As part of the summer program, interns take part in a variety of activities beyond their primary assignment, attending professional development programs, interacting with visitors on public tours of the White House and helping community groups in Washington, D.C. 

Bunoski said he volunteered for as much as possible, including assisting at such special events as the Congressional Picnic, working with a local Boys and Girls Club, learning the history of the White House East Wing so that he could lead some public tours, and mentoring a recent high school graduate in a specialized internship program called D.C. Scholars. 

He also joined the foreign affairs group of the White House Internship Program, which hosted prominent speakers from the Pentagon and other agencies.

"I wanted to immerse myself in as many activities as possible to get as much as I could out of this experience," Bunoski said.

Now that he's back on campus, Bunoski said he's trying to raise awareness of the internship program among his fellow students, encouraging anyone with an interest in government or public policy to consider applying. His own plans immediately after graduation are uncertain, he said, but "law school is definitely in my future."

Article by Ann Manser

Photo by Ambre Alexander

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