Image by Eric Dekker for Unsplash. Four people are backlit by the sunrise as they walk in front of a long rectangular pool. At the far edge of the pool stands a tall white obelisk, and trees grow to the left and right of the pool.
Image by Eric Dekker for Unsplash. The Washington Monument rises over the reflecting pool on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. at sunrise. First-year student Johnathan Schmidt will spend his summer nearby during a program run by the Fund for American Studies.

Article by Liz McCue

Like many college students, Doane first-year Johnathan Schmidt applied for an internship — an opportunity to work, learn and gain new experiences. During summer 2024, he’ll be matched to an open internship in Washington, D.C. through the Fund for American Studies (TFAS).

“I don’t know where the internship is yet,” Schmidt said.

But that’s one of the benefits of TFAS for participants. The program has connections throughout DC that enable students to access internships within their areas of interest and skills. Another perk is taking six credits of coursework through George Mason University.

Johnathan Schmidt wears a black tshirt. He has short brown hair with a couple curls that drop over his forehead and blue eyes.
Johnathan Schmidt is a first-year student studying history. Schmidt throws shotput as a member of the track and field team and writes for The Owl.

Schmidt knew he had to apply when he received an email with the subject line ‘just in case you’re interested’ from Dr. Mark Orsag, professor of history. He hopes to become a rural lawyer after attending law school, and the TFAS program would help him gain knowledge and skills to support that goal.

But at the time of applying, Schmidt was missing one detail. And it wasn’t until later, after completing the application, an interview and enrollment in the program, that he learned that detail, during a conversation in the Academic Affairs office this spring.

Schmidt, Orsag and Becky Klein-Hunke, assistant dean for Academic Affairs, were figuring out how the GMU courses would transfer to his Doane history degree, when “the gravity of the situation hit,” Schmidt said.

“That’s when I learned I was the first [Doane] student to receive this, to get accepted into the program,” he said.

While it’s not unheard of for first-year students to participate in the TFAS summer program — it’s not typical. Most participants are sophomores or juniors, some seniors. The minimum age to participate is 18 and Schmidt doesn’t actually turn 19 until the day before the program wraps on July 26.

The rigor of the program requires first-years to have “both outstanding academic records and good time-management skills,” according to the TFAS website.

“This opportunity just seemed to fit him in terms of his academic track record, adventurous spirit and ability to, proverbially, ‘seize the bull by the horns,’” Orsag said.

Schmidt balanced academics, forensics (competitive speech) and throwing for the track and field team while at Hastings High School. He swapped collegiate forensics for joining the staff of The Owl, Doane’s student-run newspaper.

The initial application includes sending a resume, writing two short essays and a writing sample, followed by an interview if the written materials are accepted. Dr. Orsag helped him narrow down which writing sample to include of his many articles, editorial columns and essays from classes.

Once in D.C., Schmidt and the other TFAS participants will stay in residence halls at George Washington University, close to downtown and some of the nation’s most hallowed museums and monuments. 

“That’s honestly going to be my favorite part is just seeing all of that history there,” Schmidt said.

Between his internship, classes and activities and excursions planned by TFAS, though, he’ll have a packed schedule. So much so, the program actually includes a disclaimer that participants won’t have much time to reach out to family or friends, he said.

Not that it’s going to stop him.

“I’m looking forward to learning the Metro system,” Schmidt said, for any destinations beyond walking distance.