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GIS Intern’s Passion for Public Service: Her Journey from the White House to START


GIS Intern’s Passion for Public Service: Her Journey from the White House to START

April 11, 2016Valerie Snaman

A University of Maryland Junior, Katherine Swanson, is no stranger to public service. In fact, she served the President of the United States as a White House intern before joining the START community. Rubbing elbows with Obama himself, she worked in the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach under the Executive Office of the President

This office provides President Obama and his Senior Staff with the latest information about the political environment to aid Obama’s agenda. 

“As merely an intern, I aided the office staff not only in their daily tasks, but on special projects,” Swanson said.

As expected, Swanson’s commitment extended far past what was required of her internship.

“Beyond my duties as an intern, I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer for the White House Easter Egg Roll, coordinate and guide East Wing tours, and participate in all community service activities I could,” Swanson said.

As if being in the Obamas’ house was not enough, Swanson remembers a particular run-in with Barack and Michelle Obama as her favorite moment.

“They took the time to speak to the interns and gave amazing advice on how to be a true public servant. My time at the White House was truly life-changing and taught me a lot about what it means to be a leader in public service.”

Swanson has taken her love of public service and applied it to her studies at the University of Maryland. She is majoring in Government and Politics with a Global Terrorism minor. She uses this expertise to play a strong role in student government and has done so since her freshman year.  

“When I joined the UMD community, I knew student government was the best avenue for my passion for public service. I worked my way up the chain from Finance Committee, SGA legislature, and even became Director of Students groups by my sophomore year. Currently, I serve as the Vice President of Student Affairs working directly on campus safety, diversity, and inclusion.”

A GIS class at the University of Maryland piqued Swanson’s interest in serving the public’s security interests as well. Working on the General GIS team at START, she wishes to study strategies to ensure security in the United States and abroad.

“The most significant skill I think I bring to START is not really a skill - but it is my enthusiasm to learn new things. This internship is unlike anything I’ve done before, and so I think my eagerness to work hard to gain new skills is something that leads me to doing my best work here,” Swanson said.

In her free time, Swanson enjoys running and reading—but not at the same time! She is currently training for a half marathon and reading Ruther Bader Ginsburg’s biography. In the future, she plans on getting her Master’s in Public Policy. She hopes to use her experience at START to launch her toward her goal of working for a government agency or in a policy-related position where she can make a positive impact in the world. She was also quick to share that she plans to run for public office in the future—so look forward to voting for her in 2036!