Andrew Dettmer ’15: A Summer Spy: Interning at Homeland Security

Office of Public Affairs Interns with Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napalitano

Andrew Dettmer ’15:  First let me take a moment to thank the Wabash College Political Science Department, and the Coons-Cassel committee for providing me with my grant for this summer.  If not for their hard work year around, financial assistance, and the support they’ve given me in the classroom this internship would not have been possible.

I am now approaching the end of my ten week summer internship in Washington, D.C. and I am shocked by how quickly time has flown by here at the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Public Affairs!  It seems like just yesterday I was sitting in an office with a security officer handing me my badge and explaining the security protocols and procedures at our complex.  Now as it ends, I find myself wrapping up projects and documents I’ve spent the whole summer working on, and preparing to clean out my desk and turn my badge back in.  Also, I’ll miss spying on all of you.  Just kidding, we don’t do that.

I’ve often heard horror stories from interns with other government agencies about having little to do, and only being given busy work.  The exact opposite has been true for me, thanks in part to the departure of several full time employees whose shoes needed to be filled, but due to budget cuts had to be pushed off.  But with their departures, came opportunities for the summer interns.

One of the best things I’ve learned in my position is how to create, manage, and maintain a website that represents 240,000 employees and deals with so many complex and different issues for the public.  Despite having no experience doing anything like this, my boss fully trusted that I could figure it out.  Like a true liberal arts student, I threw myself into the task and learned on the job.  Now, I’ve completely overhauled the Department’s Website satisfaction and response system, and helped initiate several Website improvements that have helped the American people use our website and interact with their government better.  Pretty cool.

I’ve learned how to use programs like Google Analytics, IdeaScale, Foresee ACSI, and Drupal CMS; programs not usually found on a Political Science major’s resume, which only increases my skill set for when I leave Wabash.  And while the practical skills I’ve learned have been immeasurably valuable, the other functions I’ve helped and observed have given me a more in depth view of how our country responds to all types of disasters and attacks.  Thirty seconds from my desk is the National Joint Information Center, a room which was the center of the U.S. government’s response to everything from Hurricane Sandy to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, or the Boston Bombing to Sandy Hook.  Sitting in on calls with people we see on the news every day, and participating in drills on every type of scenario you can imagine has given me a lot of confidence in our government’s ability to weather any storm.

Andrew Dettmer ’15 and Carter Adams ’15 enjoy “sweet seats” at a Nationals game courtesy of Eric Eversole ’94

The people here have been great, and I am saddened that my time here is ending.  The skills and experiences they’ve given me will and have shaped my career path.  However I feel I’ve made the best of the summer, even taking the time to meet up with my old bosses, Eric Eversole ‘94 and Laurène Gros-Daillon at the Military Voter Protection Project.  Eric was kind enough to give Carter Adams ’15 and I his tickets that night to the National’s game, and we had a blast. And of course, countless trips to museums, monuments, and famous eateries has capped off what has been an amazing summer.


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