Department SpotlightWhitworth Student Awarded Prestigious Overseas State Department Internship
Junior Laura Thaut, a political science and international studies double major, was recently awarded a summer 2004 overseas internship with the State Department at the U.S. Embassy in Lithuania.
"I see this internship as an amazing opportunity to be exposed to the dynamics of U.S. foreign policy and to study a truly fascinating region," says Thaut, a resident of Billings, Mont.
Arriving on the heels of Lithuania’s emergence from a presidential crisis, Thaut will be part of a team that includes four American officers and an office-management specialist and four Lithuianian specialists. She will work on projects and assist officials in the political and economic division of the U.S. Embassy.
"By being at an actual overseas post, I hope to gain a better understanding of the life and work of a Foreign Service officer," Thaut says. "Also, outside of the fascinating foreign policy work that takes place, the opportunity Foreign Service officers have to learn about and interact with the people from other cultures as they represent the United States abroad is invaluable."
Thaut spent last summer as a paid intern for the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., working in the Office of Nordic and Baltic Affairs under the Bureau of European Affairs. Her duties included attending and reporting on meetings with high-level U.S. and foreign officials, composing correspondence for the Secretary of State, producing daily activity reports, and working on specific policy issues.
"Laura is one of the most dedicated students that I have ever had; she has a very deep passion for the study of international affairs," says Michael Le Roy, ’89, professor of political science and a Fulbright Scholar in Sweden from 1992 to 1994. "She is the type of student who drops by the office just to talk about what is happening in the world and is curious about almost every topic that we take up in classes."
Last year, Thaut was instrumental in forming Whitworth’s Political Activism Club, which raises awareness on campus about political issues. She regularly helps international students understand topics discussed in political-science classes.
The State Department rarely sends an undergraduate student to an overseas post, and when it does, the student usually has to pay all of his or her own expenses, Le Roy says.
"She clearly made a wonderful impression last summer because the internship that she was offered in the U.S. Embassy in Lithuania is highly competitive," Le Roy says. "This is an extraordinary statement of confidence in Laura's abilities, but it really doesn't surprise me. I am pleased to have one of Whitworth’s best students placed with the State Department."
After graduating from Whitworth, Thaut would like to attend graduate school and pursue a career in the U.S. Foreign Service.
Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college enrolls 2,200 students in more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs.