9 Archer Fellows Spend Spring Working, Studying in Washington, D.C.
UT Dallas Undergraduates Learn Skills, Make Connections for Careers

White House

UT Dallas students Brittany Ellenberg and Prisha Gaddam show their Comet spirit by doing the Whoosh outside the White House during their spring 2013 Archer Fellowship.

Nine UT Dallas undergraduates were selected to spend the spring semester in Washington, D.C., as part of the Bill Archer Fellow Program offered by the Archer Center. The six juniors and three seniors were among 36 undergraduate participants selected from throughout the UT System.

Dr. Edward Harpham, associate provost and director of the University’s Collegium V Honors Program, serves as primary faculty liaison to the Archer Center and is on its advisory board. Former U.S. Rep. Bill Archer, a UT Austin alumnus, created the program in 2001.

Harpham said the undergraduate fellows participate in various internships across the city – in Congress, the Supreme Court and the White House, as well as various think tanks and media organizations – and take three courses for academic credit.

“We have seen engineers, computer scientists, geoscientists and pre-med majors working alongside political science, economics and international political economy majors,” he said.

“The Archer Fellowship program has been for many UTD students an important step in their professional development.”

Here’s a look at four spring 2013 Archer Fellows and their experiences.

The Aspiring Lawyer

Brittany Ellenberg now attends the University of Chicago Law School, where she focuses on international human rights – an interest furthered by her spring internship.

As a senior interning at the Department of State, Office of the Secretary, Ellenberg researched democracy, human rights and civilian security, creating comprehensive reports on State Department programs in various countries.

“I was able to work with special assistants, who were lawyers by trade, and learn about efforts to establish transitional democracies in struggling countries,” Ellenberg said. “I also learned about developing rule of law through training judges, drafting constitutions and equipping law enforcement for proper civilian security.”

Upon earning her law degree, Ellenberg intends to work for a government agency or nonprofit organization to aid in humanitarian efforts.

The Aspiring Geographer

Neeraj Sirdeshmukh has long thought about working with the National Geographic Society. As an eighth-grader, he placed second in the 2006 National Geographic Geography Bee and represented the U.S. team at the 2007 National Geographic World Championship.

During his internship at the National Geographic Society, Sirdeshmukh applied his geospatial information systems skills to develop the geographic education content on the society’s website. The experience introduced him to top explorers, environmentalists, conservationists, cartographers and cultural geographers.

“My favorite memory was getting the chance to sit in a group lunch with (“Jeopardy” host) Alex Trebek, former National Geographic Society president Gilbert Grosvenor and current chairman and CEO John Fahey, and being introduced to them as a former bee champion,” recalled Sirdeshmukh, who plans to earn his master’s degree in geospatial information sciences at UT Dallas after he graduates in fall 2013.                                                

The Aspiring Doctor

Interning with the American Public Health Association’s government relations department gave Jessica D’Souza the opportunity to see how health policy fits in with clinical health care.

During her internship, D’Souza researched health care programs and legislation and developed materials for public health campaigns.

The 2010 McDermott Scholar plans to attend medical school after her May 2014 graduation and said she is interested in public health and the role of policy in maintaining the nation’s health.

“This experience greatly helped me envision my future career and how I can integrate primary care with a greater community perspective,” D’Souza said. “Having worked in Washington, D.C., with a view into how our political system determines public health and our systems of delivery, I hope to be able to facilitate communication between providers and policymakers at a community level and beyond.” 

The Aspiring Influencer

Braeden Mayer’s internship with Marathon Oil’s federal and international government affairs office was scheduled to end in April. However, to his delight, the company extended the May 2013 graduate’s contract until the end of the year.

During his time with the Houston-based oil and gas exploration and production company, the 2009 McDermott Scholar completed policy research on issues affecting the industry, drafted letters to Capitol Hill and worked with the company’s grass-roots program.

“I've learned more than I could ever imagine about energy policy, gotten to see all the work and effort that goes into crafting legislation, and developed a skill set that will be valuable in whatever field I end up in – be it public policy, public relations or strategic communication,” Mayer said.

For more information about the Bill Archer Fellow Program, contact the Honors College at 972-883-4297.

Spring 2013 Archer Fellows

Megan Bishop Megan Bishop, an art and performance major, interned at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia Jessica D'Souza Jessica D’Souza, a sociology major, interned at the American Public Health Association


Brittany Ellenberg Brittany Ellenberg, a political science major, interned at the U.S. Department of State, Office of the Secretary Prisha Gaddam Prisha Gaddam, a political science major, interned at the United Nations Information Center


Jessica Higgins Jessica Higgins, a political science/psychology major, interned at the Human Rights Campaign


Dani Litovsky Dani Litovsky, an international political economy major, interned at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Braeden Mayer Braeden Mayer, an international political economy major, interned at Marathon Oil Corporation


Neeraj Sirdeshmukh Neeraj Sirdeshmukh, an economics/ geospatial information science major, interned at National Geographic Society
Cody Willming Cody Willming, a political science major, interned at the U.S. House Budget Committee

Grad Students Intern in D.C.

Three UT Dallas master’s students got a look inside policymaking this summer during the Archer Center’s 12-week Graduate Program in Public Policy.

The program, established by the UT System in 2010, provides students with nine credit hours, earned through coursework and internships on Capitol Hill and throughout Washington, D.C.

Dr. Donald Arbuckle, clinical professor in the School of Economics, Political and Policy Sciences, teaches a policymaking course for the program in D.C. during the summers.

“These students spend 12 weeks in Washington working in a government-related office, participating in the policymaking process and experiencing the spectacularly messy process by which theories of governance are translated into government practice,” Arbuckle said. “They emerge with one of the richest educational experiences of their lives.” 

Laura Gorecki

Laura Gorecki, a master’s student in public affairs, interned with the United Nations Environment Programme. She researched international environmental concerns and provided staff with information useful for forming policy recommendations.

“Learning from those who work in the system was much more valuable than reading about how the system works,” said Gorecki, who plans to work in international environmental affairs after her May 2014 graduation.

Esmeralda Sánchez

Esmeralda Sánchez, a master’s student in applied sociology, interned at the Education Trust, where she focused on higher education policy and research.

Sánchez, who plans to pursue a PhD in sociology after her May 2014 graduation, said living, learning and working in the nation’s capital changed her career trajectory. She now anticipates returning to D.C. to work with higher education policy for underrepresented communities.

"The Archer graduate course gave me an inside look at the world of federal policymaking directly from the players involved," she said. "Nothing compares to having the classroom experience extend into the halls of Congress, the executive branch administration buildings and other notable places in D.C."

Evan Carr

Evan Carr also participated in the graduate program. He interned with Blended Profit and graduated with a master’s of public policy in August.

For additional information on the Archer Center’s Graduate Program in Public Policy, visit or call the Honors College at 972-883-4297.


Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

Tagged: EPPS