W&J International Studies Major Gets Global Experience with Department of State Internship

Created: September 22, 2020
Last Updated: September 30, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (Sept. 22, 2020)—Even in the face of a worldwide pandemic, Tori McKeehan ’21 is still getting a global experience thanks to support from W&J.

Last fall, the international studies major connected with the U.S. Department of State through their Virtual Student Federal Services (VSFS) internship program. Her year-long internship occurred alongside many other educational milestones for Tori, seeing her travel to Russia for a planned study abroad experience in January—and having to return to the U.S. in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has definitely had its challenges, but it’s had its challenging for everyone. I’m blessed that I got to keep this internship opportunity that I can put on my resume,” Tori said.

Through the internship, Tori worked on projects that allowed her to view international diplomacy issues beyond politics. Her first project focused on researching international embassies that could no longer fulfill the security requirements set by the Department of Justice. With access to the Department of State’s digital library, Tori worked in conjunction with federal employees to look at existing spaces around the world and find solutions for renovating or changing those spaces.

Her second project gave her a further glimpse into international relations as she worked with proprietary information within the Department of State. She also was able to work on the Five Eyes project with allies of the United States, and her research was shared with professionals from around the world.

This peak behind the curtain further solidified Tori’s desire to continue government work—she’s considering a career with the CIA—following her time at W&J.

“My passion and calling are in government work and helping those who can’t help themselves,” Tori said. “It was something I was interested in ever since I was younger. It started off as this childhood fantasy, and when I started traveling through being at W&J and having the amazing advisor that Buba Misawa is, I realized that this dream isn’t so out there; this is attainable.”

Prior to studying at W&J, Tori had never left the United States. Now, she’s had global learning experiences in six countries, including traveling to Ireland to study Brexit the summer following the exit vote, going to Senegal on a research trip with Dr. Buba Misawa, completing a Magellan Project to study apartheid in Johannesburg, South Africa, and studying in Russia through W&J’s study abroad program to supplement her Russian studies concentration through her academic curriculum—all while staying on track to graduate in four years.

“W&J lived up to what it advertises, [shown by] the fact that the College said, ‘We’re going to make you a global president—’ and then made it happen,” Tori said. “Things like the Magellan Project and the Maxwell Internship Fund financially help students do these crazy things. Maxwell helped me by covering the expenses of having an unpaid internship online. There’s so much you have to learn by going and doing. With W&J, I was able to get my boots on the ground.”

As Tori prepares for her next steps, she has an invitation to apply for a position in the department she’s been working with for the last year or so and is looking at paid Pathways internships with the Department of State as well as opportunities to work with non-government organizations.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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