When Mario Sto. Domingo MPP ’22 graduated from the School of Public Policy, becoming a White House intern was something he had neither anticipated nor planned. He had just completed the dual BA/MPP degree program with an environmental policy specialization when he learned of the White House Internship Program. After a whirlwind selection process, his four-month assignment at the White House Office of Public Engagement (OPE) began this past fall.
“The internship experience was surreal,” exclaims Sto. Domingo. “I had the privilege of working with some of the most talented staff and co-interns from all over the country, and I got an up-close look at the inner workings of the federal government.”
As a graduate student, Sto. Domingo was provided ample opportunities to cultivate his communications experience which he believes was instrumental in securing his internship with OPE. His environmental policy capstone project with the Sierra Club provided hands-on learning in its quest for environmental and social justice. He had the opportunity to inform the Sierra Club’s work by analyzing the relationship between natural disasters and climate concerns as well as the approaches or arguments used to persuade more people to care about climate change. His Civic Innovation Center (CivIC) involvement provided a firsthand look at contributing to discussions on civic engagement, civic education, and needed democratic reforms in the state of Maryland, in partnership with UMD’s BIG10 colleagues, and in the nation’s capital. With CivIC, he provided administrative support for the Vote16 Research Network, a community-led initiative to pursue knowledge about enfranchising 16- and 17-year-olds in cities across the United States, in which he liaised with various academic experts in political science, political psychology, election law, nonprofit management, and public administration, as well as local government officials and advocates in Maryland and across the country.
“My time with CivIC and my environmental policy project capstone with the Sierra Club helped prepare me for my White House internship. These types of stakeholder engagement opportunities are directly related to the work I did at the White House Office of Public Engagement,” Sto. Domingo asserts. OPE manages and coordinates dialogue between the current administration and the American public, and liaises with organizations, interest groups and Americans of all backgrounds to inform the work of the President. Sto. Domingo’s role with OPE was to assist staff with compiling materials for memos to senior officials. He also assisted with scheduling and staffing meetings. “I worked with a diverse set of stakeholders, but my work had a particular focus on the private sector as well as the LGBTQ+ community and youth,” states Sto. Domingo.
Interns were invited to attend events on the South Lawn of the White House, such as the celebration of the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, Halloween trick-or-treating, the annual turkey pardoning, and the signing of the Respect for Marriage Act.Mario Sto. Domingo MPP '22
Highlighting some of the perks of the position and the most memorable experiences he had during his time at the White House, Sto. Domingo adds, “Interns were invited to attend events on the South Lawn of the White House, such as the celebration of the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, Halloween trick-or-treating, the annual turkey pardoning, and the signing of the Respect for Marriage Act.”
Looking back on the early days of the internship, he poignantly recalls, “In the first week of my internship, I sat in on the United We Stand summit on combating hate-fueled violence. At the Summit, I had the honor to meet Dawn Collins and hear her recall the emotional story of the murder of her son, Lt. Richard Collins III on UMD’s campus, and the family’s efforts to strengthen Maryland’s hate crime law.”
In November, Sto. Domingo had the privilege of meeting his fellow Marylanders when he staffed a forum called Communities in Action: Building a Better Maryland. This event brought mayors, business owners and community leaders together to hear more about the Administration’s economic plans and discuss the impacts on federal legislation at the state and local level.
Sto. Domingo attributes his career goals and success to his UMD coursework and his collaborations with professors, fellow students and student organizations. “I learned a lot about public budgeting and economics from Aichiro Suryo Prabowo when he co-taught PLCY 670: Public Budgeting, with Professor Philip Joyce,” says Sto. Domingo. “I was his teaching assistant for the undergraduate version of the course, and I’m very grateful for his feedback and advice, and for writing a recommendation letter for the internship application.”
He underscores the importance of creating connections with faculty and classmates, and in building community at SPP. In addition to the advice and support he received from Dr. Leon Clarke, his capstone advisor, Sto. Domingo was connected to the Sierra Club through one of his classmates, leading to his capstone project work. The Sustainability, Environment, and Energy Council (SEEC) student group and his environmental policy classmates helped him navigate his coursework and made for valuable experiences while working together on group projects.
With the passage of the climate provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act, I was able to learn more about how the Administration works with a wide variety of stakeholders to communicate on and implement these policies.Mario Sto. Domingo
When reflecting on his time in the White House, Sto. Domingo will miss working with his talented and passionate colleagues and co-interns from across the country and being surrounded by changemakers who turn policy into action. Sto. Domingo acknowledges, “With the passage of the climate provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act, I was able to learn more about how the Administration works with a wide variety of stakeholders to communicate on and implement these policies.”
In the future, Sto. Domingo plans to leverage the knowledge and experience gained from his White House internship and prior work with the Sierra Club for opportunities to work on environmental and climate policy within the federal government or a nonprofit.
Disclaimer: This story and any opinions presented in it do not represent the views of the White House.