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A Summer at the Pentagon

Tisch College Summer Fellows get a taste for working in the nonprofit and government sectors

"You have to turn your phone off. It's a security thing." Josh Golding, A17, apologizes to this reporter as he enters a corridor in the Pentagon, where he is the Russian Threat Assessment Fellow for the Department of Defense.

Golding was one of 83 Tufts students selected for this year's Tisch Summer Fellows program. They work full-time for 10 weeks doing jobs with a focus on public interest in a range of government offices, nonprofits, and advocacy organizations in and around Washington, D.C., New York, and Boston and receive a stipend of approximately $4,000. Students can also pursue international projects, working on issues related to health, education, and the environment in places such as Ghana and Malaysia.

The demand for these kinds of real-life experiences working for the public good is increasing as more students look for ways to road test potential careers and expand their skill sets. The Tisch Summer Fellows program—which supported 83 fellows in 2016, up from 46 in 2015—is growing, but landing one of these highly coveted summer work experiences has become increasingly competitive. The stipends are funded by alumni and others, and the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts also relies on them to identify sites for summer placements.

"Our goals are for students to consider their own civic identity, connect their coursework to real-world experience, and understand communities different from their own, all while exploring potential career paths," says Maggie McMorrow, a program coordinator associate at Tisch College. "Whether they were on Capitol Hill, at the Pentagon, in the Massachusetts State House, or at community nonprofits, our fellows were learning while making a difference."

Golding, an international relations major with a concentration in security studies, found that his summer internship at the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the Cost Assessment Evaluation (CAPE) program dovetailed nicely with his classroom studies—he interviewed military officers and Department of Defense analysts as part of a project to develop Pentagon spending priorities.

His desk is strewn with reports with titles such as "Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO's Eastern Flank." The military focus comes naturally for Golding, who remembers watching reruns of the TV series Black Sheep Squadron, about a World War II squadron, with his grandfather, who was an Army combat engineer in the war. By the end of elementary school, he was reading books from his grandfather's library like Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America's War with Militant Islam.

"Being able to sit down and talk to the people who make decisions, seeing recommendations being made at a pretty high level, and realizing I've reached the same ones myself is a good feeling," Golding says. His earnest demeanor cracks just a bit as he describes his hallway encounter with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. "I've always kind of dreamt of being exposed to this," he says, grinning.