Riley Carbonneau ‘10, a double major in sociology and art history, was determined to find an internship experience that applied to both her majors. With the help of The Washington Center, Riley spent a semester in Washington, D.C., where she worked with the education and outreach branch of the Smithsonian Institution.
In her role in the Regional Programs Division, Riley designed professional education workshops, funded by grants from the Department of Education, to introduce innovative teaching methods to teachers across the nation. Her favorite project, called ArtSmart, showed teachers from Lafayette, Louisiana how to incorporate the arts into the classroom.
“The teachers learn to teach math and science using portraiture, artifacts, theater, songs, all the arts,” Riley said. “It made a lot of sense to me, and it was really interesting because it was such a different approach to teaching kids things that can sometimes be boring.”
As part of her internship, Riley worked closely with the Smithsonian’s museums, including the Museum of Natural History, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Air and Space Museum, as well as museums outside the Smithsonian, including the Spy Museum, the Newseum, and the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
“I got to work mainly with the education departments in the museums,” she said. “It was interesting to go behind the scenes in some of the places I’d toured.”
Riley also had plenty of time to explore the city and its many cultural offerings. “D.C. was just great—great restaurants, museums, and really motivated students from around the country and abroad,” she said.
“I worked right on the mall, so on our lunch hour, the other intern in the office and I would go see an IMAX film or a new exhibit. The Museum of American History reopened while I was there, as did a lot of other exhibits. It was an exciting time to be at the Smithsonian,” Riley said.
In addition to the sightseeing and interning she did in D.C., Riley also took a sociology course through The Washington Center. The class, held one evening a week, was part of the Center’s arrangement with schools, including Washington College, that allows students to receive full academic credit for a semester’s internship.
Riley chose the course, called “Population, Gender, and the Environment,” because of its relevance to her major in sociology. Taught by a professor from Georgetown University, it covered “how to develop rural countries in environmentally sound ways and how to work with the people in the countries where the gender rules are different,” Riley said. “About half the class was from Latin America, and the professor was from Argentina, so it was a real learning experience,” she added.
Her semester in D.C. helped Riley learn more about different career paths she could pursue. “As an art history major, you sometimes feel like your options are limited within the field. Museum education is a way to combine my interests and still get to be around art in the museum setting,” she said, adding that she plans to attend grad school—preferably in the capital—to earn a degree in museum education or arts management.
“I was really lucky and found out it was something I was really interested in, so it helped clarify my career goals,” Riley said.
Her experience was so positive that she would do it again in a heartbeat.
“Applying wasn’t any harder than applying to college, and it’s totally worth it. The great thing about The Washington Center is you get the full 16 credits for the semester. They’re also great about finding you really high-quality internships and providing housing,” she said.
Riley also recommends the internship program to other students, advising “If you think you want a career in something, you need to try it out and see. I can’t stress enough the importance of getting experience in the field.”
- Dance Team