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Spotlight: Student Volunteers at the White House

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Spotlight: Student Volunteers at the White House

Date Published:
Thursday, February 6, 2014

UNC Charlotte student Michael Higgins was inspired by the 2012 presidential nominating convention in Charlotte.

After the convention, he registered to vote for the first time and made a personal vow to get more involved in policy issues affecting him and his generation.

Recently, Higgins worked as a student volunteer in the Office of Presidential Correspondence in Washington D.C. He took some time from his duties to describe his experiences with a University Communications reporter:

Tell us about yourself and why you decided to attend UNC Charlotte.
I am a 22 year-old undergraduate planning to graduate in May 2014 with a B.A. in political science, a B.S. in economics, and a minor in Islamic studies concentrated in Mideast and South Asian affairs. My studies are geared towards a future career in policy and/or government affairs. Being from Raleigh, most people might expect that I attended State, Duke, or Chapel Hill, but... I was so impressed with UNC Charlotte’s state of the art campus and facilities that I made a pretty quick decision. It was a smart move. My curriculum overlapped enough for me to get two degrees and a minor in just four years and I was awarded the opportunity to work in our nation’s capital.

Tell us about your job at the White House.
After gaining acceptance to The Washington Center, I adamantly pursued a chance to volunteer for the White House. A representative from headquarters forwarded me information about student volunteer opportunities in the Office of Presidential Correspondence (OPC) and I applied without hesitation. The student volunteer program I participate in is separate from the White House Internship Program.

I primarily helped sort letters addressed to President Obama, Vice President Biden, the First Lady, and White House Staff. I also answer calls from constituents who have policy concerns and submit their comments to the Executive Office of the President. The most rewarding part of my experience was being exposed to various issues that our country faces. It has built my awareness and inspired me to conduct more research on topics I knew little about and others I once thought I understood.

Do you think it’s worthwhile for other students to spend a semester / year / period in this sort of work? What do you get from being in this environment?
Of course! All students should get a taste of their particular career interest through an internship, volunteer opportunity and / or semester program if it is feasible. It will enhance their professional development, give them networking opportunities, and influence their career decisions. That last point is the most important. It is better to realize whether you love or hate something before you graduate and get hired.

Do you plan to come back to UNC Charlotte, or does this finish up your studies?
Yes, I will be wrapping up my final semester in the spring (2014). It seems bittersweet, but I feel ready to move on to the next chapter of my life.