From Augustana to the White House

Augustana graduates find themselves working in positions all over the globe. Sioux Falls native Dirk Tedmon, 24, is no exception.

Following an internship in the White House, Tedmon, a Communications and Government/International Affairs major who graduated at semester of this year, was recently named an analyst for the Office of Presidential Correspondence.

Augustana caught up with Tedmon at his D.C. office.

Q. What was the White House internship like? Can you describe what you worked on; challenges; rewards, etc.?

A. At the risk of sounding cliché, interning at the White House was the experience of a lifetime. Words cannot express the feeling that electrifies your body as you step into the West Wing for the first time. Words fail when you look at your life and discover that your dreams are becoming realities.

As an intern in the Office of Communications, I worked on a variety of projects. My main task was conducting research in support of the various activities of and remarks for the President. The gratification came in seeing an event go off without a hitch and knowing that occurred, in part, because of your work.

The White House Internship Program provided other extraordinary opportunities as well. From a speaker series with senior staff — including the First Lady and the Communications Director — to professional development workshops to hone your interview skills or touch up your resume; there were many rewards for the sacrifices of an exhausting, unpaid internship. At one event I was even able to introduce Dan Pfeiffer, the White House Communications Director.

Q. What's your job like now? High-level details; major responsibilities; challenges; rewards, etc.?

A. Currently, I work in the Office of Presidential Correspondence as an analyst. I am in charge of a portfolio of correspondence dealing with energy and environment issues, which is a new area for me, but one that I am excited to learn more about. It’s thrilling to be in a position where I feel like I’m a liaison between the public and the administration. On a daily basis I read messages from constituents and help coordinate the administration’s response to them. It is essential that the government connects with people it represents.

Q. What do you like about working in Government?

A. My family has a history of military service, but I knew the military wasn’t right for me; therefore, I chose civil service. Working in government allows me to give back. It affords me an opportunity to offer my skills in public service, where I try to improve people’s lives.

Q. What's it like living in D.C.?

A. Living in D.C. is fascinating, exhilarating, and enlightening. Outside of the politics, I love the metro and public transportation and general liveliness of the city. There is always something happening, whether it be a new art exhibit or a National’s game or a political event. Also, I’d be lying if I said I missed the South Dakota weather…it [was] raining here in the middle of January! I came to D.C. thoroughly unprepared, but it has turned out to be a great place to live.

Q. Can you talk about some of your most influential professors at Augustana what made them special and how did they serve as mentors to you during your time on campus?

A. Asking who influenced me the most at Augie is like asking me to choose my favorite family member. All of my professors contributed to getting me where I am today, and I am unbelievably grateful for all of them. Both of the Barts, Heather and John, fostered my interest in Communications and supported me academically and personally. They were never too busy to listen to a personal story or chat about a recent news article. Furthermore, their passion for teaching was evident in every class. The same could be said of Dr. Patrick Hicks (English), whom I met late in my time at Augie. Professor Hicks encouraged me to follow my political aspirations, no matter how grand; he also edited about 35 copies of my White House internship essays. Professor Joe Dondelinger (Political Science, Government and International Affairs) challenged my assumptions about many things, not the least of which were his classes. Although he was incredibly tough, he strove to create classes of independent, individual thinkers able to take and defend a position. I could go on forever, but the point is that each professor at Augustana has a unique and genuine care for her or his students and their successes. I was lucky to be a Viking.