Archer Fellows Sharpen Targets for Careers after Spring Internships in Washington, D.C.

Archer Fellows at US Pentagon

Some of last spring’s Archer Fellows show their Comet spirit with a signature Whoosh with Ana Benhalim BA’08 (far left), program manager for the Bill Archer Fellowship Program.

Although the students who participate in the Bill Archer Fellow Program have different majors, career goals and professional interests, they have one thing in common: the opportunity to live in the nation’s capital while gaining experience in their field and learning the ins and outs of the federal government. 

This spring, 10 UT Dallas undergraduates interned in Washington, D.C., in governmental and nongovernmental organizations and attended classes on policy, history and advocacy. 

Dr. Edward Harpham, associate provost and director of the UT Dallas’ Collegium V Honors Program and primary faculty liaison to the Archer Center, calls the experience “life-changing.”

“By living and working together in Washington with 40 other students from all over Texas, UTD students have discovered time and again who they are and where they want to take their careers,” said Harpham, who also serves on the center’s advisory board. 

Harpham said Archer internships have enabled UT Dallas students to secure positions at some of the most prominent graduate, law and medical schools in the country. 

The Archer Fellowship Program was established by The University of Texas System in conjunction with former U.S. Rep. Bill Archer. 

Here’s a look at four spring 2014 Archer Fellows and how the experience helped shape their career paths. 

Raheel Ata

Raheel Ata

Framing a Future in Medicine
Raheel Ata, a biochemistry senior and McDermott Scholar, interned at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. 

Ata said the center focuses on various types of medical devices — “from floss to catheters.” During his internship, he created a spreadsheet that calculates various parameters for neurological devices. The spreadsheet is used by the agency's scientists when they review new device applications. 

Ata, who is applying to medical school, also did clinical rotations at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He observed investigational trials for devices, such as robotic arms for amputees. 

“I was able to see the regulatory framework at the FDA, and then I was able to see how they were actually implementing it in the patient,” he said. “Before Archer, I was interested in medicine, but I didn’t know how I would pursue it. Seeing these sides, I realized I’m really interested in medical devices. 

“I’d especially like to be involved with device development, clinical trials for new devices and FDA policy. I see a lot of value in understanding the FDA process, while also being an advocate for patients and their families.” 

Chris DuBois

Christopher DuBois

Digging into Legislative Details
Christopher DuBois BA’14, a veteran of the U.S. Army and graduate student in political science, interned in the Heritage Foundation's Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Studies

DuBois spent most of his time at the think tank researching and summarizing legislation that was passed or being debated. He also attended economic policy hearings and gathered information for his colleagues at the nonprofit. 

He wants to earn his PhD and teach “in the loosest sense of the term.” 

“When I left for D.C., I was sure that I wanted to have a doctorate and be a political science professor,” DuBois said. “But once I was there, I spoke to people with PhDs within the foundation, outside the foundation and professors, and the general consensus was that focusing solely on academia is a difficult path. 

“Through lots of discussions, I decided what I really wanted was not to be in a classroom, but to continue learning and somehow impart that knowledge through a think tank, at a university or even on the radio. It changed how rigid I was in my end goal.” 

Elly Tran

Oanh “Elly” Tran

Taking on a Capitol Job
Oanh “Elly” Tran BA’14 interned in the office of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, researching material for upcoming legislation, court cases and other projects. All interns also took constituent calls and gave personal tours of the Capitol. 

Tran, who aims to attend law school and work in legislation or public service, said she learned the role the senator’s office plays in politics and how it impacts the state and nation. She also got a firsthand look at how hard people in government offices work.

The political science graduate said the opportunity to work with the senator's legislative team, accompany the senator to the Senate floor for votes and conduct research substantially piqued her interest in the field. 

“I loved the fact that the work I was contributing was actually making a difference and letting the voices of Texans be heard on a state and national scale,” she said. 

Cory Sagduyu

Cory Sagduyu

Gaining Economic Insight
Cory Sagduyu, a political science major and McDermott Scholar, interned at the White House Office of the National Economic Council, which advises the president on U.S. and global economic policy. 

Sagduyu conducted policy research for reports and assisted in preparing for meetings, conference calls and events. She worked long days — often from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. — on projects regarding job-driven training programs and the travel and tourism industry.  

“We worked so many hours because our issues were so compelling, and we really needed to get the work done because it was important to start showing results,” she said. “It was great to have such interesting projects that I didn’t want to leave any earlier.” 

Sagduyu said she felt inspired by the people she met and how passionate and knowledgeable they are about their work. After graduation, she plans to work in national policy development at a federal organization or go to law school. 

“It’s wonderful to be able to go to D.C. and experience what it would be like to have this career,” she said. “That part was a bit life-changing for me. I had not yet worked in an environment where I could work on policy all the time.”

UT Dallas student Trang Hoang worked at the Institute of Policy Studies as part of the Archer Center’s graduate program. Graduate Student Finds Linkto Career Path at Think Tank

Trang Hoang, a graduate student in public affairs, spent her summer working at the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive multi-issue think tank that focuses on peace, justice and the environment. 

The Archer Center’s Graduate Program in Public Policy brings graduate students from The University of Texas System to Washington, D.C., to study policy and politics. 

This past summer, the 18 Archer graduate students lived and worked in the nation’s capital for 12 weeks, earning nine credit hours for completing course work and an internship. Hoang was the only UT Dallas representative. 

She worked as a development intern, updating the donor contact management system, providing administrative support and organizing events. 

“For public affairs, the skill you need is how to communicate with people,” she said. “I did development work, so I needed to talk with donors. It’s important to present your ideas to people in a way that helps you get their support.”                           

Hoang, who earned her bachelor’s degree in economics and management from the National Economics University in Vietnam, said she aims to work at a think tank and research the link between education policy and the labor gap. 

“I come from a developing country, and I know the gap,” she said. “I feel like I’m lucky to get the chance for more education and a future career. I think I have a duty to help young people to have a better life, to help them to get out of poverty and have a chance to support their families. 

“I think about the poverty circle: If they are poor, they cannot have money for education, they don’t get a job and they’re poor again. If we can help them break that circle, it will be better for them in the long term.” 

As a graduate student, she sought a practical experience in which she could learn more deeply about her field, Hoang said. The program made her even more passionate.

“Before I completed the Archer program, I only had a general idea of my career,” Hoang said. “When I went to D.C., I talked to people in that career field about the difficulties of the job and what they had to overcome, and asked about their passion. That helped me. It promotes my interest with the liberal movement and education.”

2014 Archer FellowsUndergraduates

Raheel Ata, a biochemistry major, interned at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

Christopher DuBois, a political science major, interned at The Heritage Foundation’s Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies.

Yehia Mokhtar, a political science major, interned with the Project on Middle East Democracy.

Paul Osadebe, a political science major, interned with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Elizabeth Peterkort, a political science major, interned in the office of U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.

Josh Riddell, an international political economy major, interned in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Cory Sagduyu, a political science major, interned in the White House Office of the National Economic Council.

Elizabeth Sohns, a global business major, interned with Generation Progress at the Center for American Progress.

Connor Spencer, a literary studies major, interned with VideoArt Productions.

Oanh “Elly” Tran, a political science major, interned in the office of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

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

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