From Wheaton to the White House

As a political science major, watched President Barack Obama deliver many speeches on television. She never imagined that she would be contributing to the development of some of those speeches and watching him deliver them in person.

Amanda DeGroff ’12That’s exactly what she spent this winter and spring doing. From January through May, DeGroff worked in the White House as an intern. Her duties included researching information used in developing speeches given by the president, as well as by First Lady Michelle Obama; assisting with the drafting of remarks for the president; and helping White House speechwriters with editing.

And that internship recently led her to an even bigger opportunity. In June, DeGroff was hired as a full-time public affairs and strategic communications assistant, a political appointment within the Office of Public Affairs in the Department of Homeland Security.

She works closely on a range of public affairs and press relations matters. Her responsibilities include: participating in daily public affairs and press meetings; preparing briefing materials and itineraries for the assistant and deputy assistant secretary for public affairs; and assisting with the development and implementation of strategic communications plans, including the use of social media properties.

“I will be traveling for the job, which is something I want to do, and the work I am doing directly correlates with the work I did for my honors thesis on how the media affect people’s perception of terrorism,” said DeGroff, who graduated last winter but returned for Commencement in May.

DeGroff credits the White House speechwriting team that she worked with during her internship for helping her get her permanent position, as well as Wheaton summer experiences, professors, alums and the Filene Center.

While at Wheaton, the former editor of the Wheaton Wire gained research and writing experience through D.C. internships. One summer she worked at the Institute for Political Journalism. She was placed as a reporting intern for the Hearst Newspapers Washington, D.C., bureau, and covered House and Senate hearings.

Last summer, Professor Jay Goodman connected DeGroff with Sara Lonardo ’06, who was the press secretary for the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. DeGroff was selected as the press intern for the committee. Professor Goodman also worked with her on her application to the White House internship program. And Filene Center staff members helped her with her résumé and reviewed her application.

“I never would have thought I could pursue this dream of going into political communications without my professors, family and friends. Whenever I had any doubts at all, Professor Goodman and my thesis advisor, Professor Jenna Lukasik, were there for me, always encouraging me to stay positive. They both gave me so much guidance over the last two years.”