Maryrose Myrtetus is photographed in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., March 1, 2011 (Photo courtesy the White House)
Inside the White House
Three times per year, college students and recent graduates from around the country apply for one of 100-plus coveted positions as a prestigious White House intern. The White House doesn’t release statistics about the application rate, or the acceptance/rejection ratio, but such numbers are assumed to rival the nation’s most selective colleges and universities. This past spring, one of Vassar’s own—Maryrose Myrtetus ’09—made the cut.
Following a five-week European backpacking adventure immediately after graduation, Myrtetus moved to Philadelphia to work with Women Against Abuse (WAA), a prominent domestic violence prevention organization in Pennsylvania. She earned the slot through Philly Fellows, a program that places recent college grads in non-profit organizations to help them cultivate a career in public service. When Myrtetus's one-year fellowship ended, WAA hired her to stay on. It was good work for a good cause, Myrtetus explains, “but I majored in history at Vassar with the intent to work in public policy or government, and I wanted to do something more focused on that goal.”
A friend of a friend—a past White House intern—encouraged her to apply. “I had, like any diehard West Wing fan, dreamed of working in the White House someday, but I didn’t see that dream as a probable reality,” she says. Myrtetus notes that she doesn’t come from a political or otherwise well-connected family. She figured she’d need some sort of “in.” As it turned out, the “in” was the strength of her application: several essays, her Vassar transcript, a resume, and two recommendations (provided by Vassar professors Jim Merrell and Miriam Cohen).
Myrtetus got the nod right before Thanksgiving 2010. “It was a dream come true,” she recalls. Come January 2011, she headed from Pennsylvania to Pennsylvania Avenue to begin her 4-month-long spring internship.
She worked in the Office of the Chief of Staff to the Vice President, where her responsibilities included putting together briefing books, scheduling meetings, and taking calls. “It might not sound glamorous, but I enjoyed every minute of it because I knew that I was contributing in a small way to the Administration’s operations,” Myrtetus says.
Also—and fittingly, given her previous experience with WAA—she worked with Lynn Rosenthal, White House Adviser on Violence Against Women. Myrtetus drafted memos, did research, compiled fact sheets, attended meetings. One highlight was helping with preparations for Vice President Joe Biden’s late April speech about strengthening Title IX, especially as it relates to campus sexual assaults. “It was a fantastic experience to see the event grow from an idea floated in a meeting to a substantial and emotional speech that garnered national media coverage,” Myrtetus recalls.
Now, with her internship complete, Myrtetus has tasted Washington, and is thirsty for more. She is currently exploring opportunities that will keep her in the nation’s capital, solidly on the road to her desired career in government and public service. –Peter Bronski