By Ali Eaves, ‘11

How many college students can say that their ideas are going to be implemented by the federal government? Julia Brannan, ’11, can.

As an intern at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Brannan not only got a front-row seat to significant decisions in the federal government, but she got to play a role in them, too.

Working directly under the EPA’s open government project manager, she was tasked with helping to implement President Obama’s open government initiative, a plan to encourage transparency and public participation in government.

As part of the open government initiative, the EPA created websites where the public could submit questions, comments and opinions to the agency. The sites were flooded with responses — but there was no plan for what to do next. That’s where Julia came in.

“Before I started, there was no sustainable way to respond to the comments,” Brannan said. “So that was my job: to figure out how to take in all of these comments and respond appropriately.”

Brannan, who is majoring in business administration, used her information technology knowledge and organizational skills to arrange the public comments into a manageable database. She came up with a plan that would allow officials to respond to the comments long after she was gone, and more importantly, to better use the comments.

“We wanted to find a way to make the online feedback result in more actionable suggestions,” she said, “because with such a broad topic, it was hard to really use any one suggestion. So we came up with the idea to narrow the topics to make the conversation more effective.”

Brannan also got some valuable public speaking experience when she presented her plan before a room full of high-ranking government officials.

“I was the fresh eyes on this initiative,” she said. “It’s cool to see a difference being made and to know that my work has a real impact.”

Brannan was one of 32 Spiders interning in Washington, D.C. this summer through the University’s D.C. Initiative program (DCI). The program connects eligible students with summer internship opportunities offered by alumni and friends of the University. The program also offers career development seminars and networking events with alumni in the D.C. area.

It was at one of these events that Brannan cemented her plans to go into consulting.

“Through DCI, I had the opportunity to meet one of the speakers who talked about his experiences in strategic consulting,” she said. “He talked about how you have the ability to work on a variety of different projects, which I like. I also like a fast-paced work environment and that’s definitely part of consulting, too.”

If there’s one other thing that the summer taught her, it’s the importance of networking.

“Everyone’s advice has been to make sure you’re keeping up these relationships that you’re acquiring this summer,” Brannan said, “because you never know when that person might be able to help you. Connections are important no matter what industry you’re going into.”