Notes from the Field: Celeste Kearney '19

Celeste Kearney ’19 interned in the Office of Presidential Personnel at White House under the Obama Administration for the 2016 Fall term. She received support from the from the Peter McSpadden Public Affairs Fund.  The following is an excerpt from her internship report.

During the fall of 2016, I was an intern in the Office of Presidential Personnel at the White House. Presidential Personnel is tasked with the approximately 4,000 political appointees in the Obama Administration. Presidential Personnel finds qualified candidates, completes background checks, appoints candidates, and, for the past year, provides a series of leadership development events to assist the appointees’ transition from the Administration. Presidential Personnel works closely with the White House liaisons in every federal agency to pass opportunities and information to the appointees.             

As part of my role in Presidential Personnel, I worked closely with the leadership development team to execute the average of five events per week for the team. The leadership development events began about a year ago in order to help appointees in their transition at the end of the Administration. For these events, I was in charge of booking rooms, communicating with the speakers, writing biographies, sending confirmation information to the appointees, and setting up the room on the day of the event. While organizing about one event per week, I discovered a passion of event planning. 

One of my favorite parts of the internship was connecting with interns in other offices through weekly professional development by the White House Internship Program. We had a speaker series where principals and senior staff would speak to the internship class and offer words of advice. There was also a series of intern-led programming where interns would bring in speakers on six topics. I was drawn to the programs on the legal field as well as women and girls. This gave us an opportunity to discuss a topic with staff members in a smaller environment.

Additionally, my experience as an intern at the White House has helped me to realize a new career path. I am interested in going into cyber security and privacy law, but I would now like to work in the federal government in order to provide security for the American people online. From federal agencies to the White House, there are many avenues for public service within a presidential administration. 

My experience with the Dartmouth Leadership Attitudes and Behaviors program last winter helped me to identify my values and taught me the importance of making sure my personal values align with the mission of my workplace. This is especially true when working in the Federal government. President Obama and his mission were the focus of everything we did, from appointing someone to a position in order to carry out his mission to viewing the pictures of the President hanging in every office. I found it is crucial to be deeply committed to the president if one is working in the federal government.

I would also like to thank the Rockefeller Center and the Peter McSpadden Public Affairs Fund for making this experience possible.