Ensuring IU students continue 30-year tradition of D.C. experience
Story by Emily Cox
"My friend said I should do it.”
These are famous opening words to many a college tale—but in Matt Gentile’s case, they marked the beginning of a pivotal transformation. I had never considered a career in Washington before, but a friend who had completed the Washington Leadership Program a year earlier encouraged me to apply.
Gentile came to IU to study environmental affairs with plans to go into environmental law. But when he was offered an internship at the White House during the final semester of his senior year through SPEA’s Washington Leadership Program (WLP), he decided to put his law school applications on hold to explore environmental policy from a different angle.
Over the course of his WLP semester, Gentile collected his fair share of typical intern memories: missing the last Metro train of the night and having to scrounge up $40 for cab fare, proudly conducting West Wing tours for friends and family, and posing for photos with Socks, the Clinton family cat. However, he also recognized that by working in the White House Office on Environmental Policy, he was in a unique position to acquire substantive experience with issues that interested him.
Gentile landed in Washington early in President Bill Clinton’s first term. Clinton promptly pledged to cut and cap White House staffing levels, which left a lot of the workload to be shouldered by unpaid interns. As one of the few interns who hadn’t previously worked on Clinton’s presidential campaign, Gentile had to work doubly hard to get up to speed on the policy issues at hand. But what he lacked in political connections he quickly made up through determination and hard work.