After landing a White House internship last year, Ernie Enriquez (BUS '14) made the exciting leap from studying economics at DePaul University's Driehaus College of Business to interning with the National Economic Council, which advises the president on national and global economic policy.
The honors graduate talks with us about how his DePaul experience prepared him for his internship in Washington, D.C. and what he learned when he got there.
Why did you decide to attend DePaul?
I loved the urban environment in which both campuses are located. Attending DePaul made it very easy for me to intern and attend class in order to build my pathway into the White House. During my education, I came to appreciate the theme of Vincentian service as it resonated throughout my course work.
How did you become interested in economics?
I became interested in economics because it was a versatile degree for me. I enjoyed having the choice of taking the degree under the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences or the business school. By pursing my degree under the Driehaus College of Business, I was able to get the business school exposure through its core curriculum. I strongly believe that having this choice between the two schools makes this major invaluable and is one of the strong points of the economics department at DePaul. By graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Business with an economics major, my degree affords me a multitude of career paths within the private sector or public sector.
How did DePaul help prepare you for your career?
DePaul's Vincentian education and course offerings really helped me build a customized foundation towards my career path. For me, it solidified the importance of service to those who are marginalized and displaced in society, no matter what your industry or work is. Civil service is my way of continuing St. Vincent DePaul's philosophy, which DePaul University has successfully instilled in my decision-making.
How did you land an internship in the White House?
Persistence. Luck. Hope. These were the three words I really came to understand during the application process. Overall, the process lasted about six to eight months. My top three department choices were the National Economic Council, the Domestic Policy Council and the Office of Legislative Affairs. Originally I had applied for the summer 2015 cycle and was denied. I then tried again for the fall cycle. Two months later I received a phone call to interview with my first choice, the National Economic Council. During the summer of 2015 I took the risk to move out to D.C. to find a job despite my wait to hear back for a decision. About a week before the official internship start date, I received an email asking me join America's brightest and ambitious individuals as an intern with the National Economic Council.
What projects did you do as part of your internship?
The projects that I worked on are classified. However, what I can say is that I worked on the financial regulation and housing team. A lot of my day-to-day work included policy research, meetings and policy conference participation.
How do you think this experience will help you in your career?
I definitely can say that this experience will help my career in the long term. Through the tough work and long hours, I learned about my work style and the type of workplace I excel in. However, the most valuable experience I have gained at the White House is the relationships I cultivated to build my network. This has opened many doors and a variety of career paths, both in the public and private sector. There's a saying here in D.C. — the District is a small town where everyone knows each other and news travels fast. By proudly saying that you have served at the pleasure of the president, you would be surprised about the many mutual connections you can make out there that are tied to the White House.
What was the most exciting part of your internship?
Without a doubt, having the president address the internship class. Let me describe the experience: you're standing in the East Room for about two to three hours and assembled with your whole internship class, 150 of America's future leaders. You're told to keep quiet, but the electric atmosphere in the air makes it hard to contain your excitement. When you hear his voice echo through the room and see a glimpse of a salt-and-pepper-haired man walking through with such pomp, you begin to realize that the President of the United States is standing only a few feet from you. You are standing only a couple feet from a man whose legacy will continue to resonate throughout American history, and you feel a sense of honor and privilege serving at his pleasure.
What's next for you?
My long term career goal is to become a diplomat while my short term goal is to give the private sector a try in order to diversify my experience. However, I know I will eventually find my way back into the White House in the near future. Who knows? Having worked in the West Wing, my next desk might be located in the Oval Office someday.
Interested in economics? Learn more about earning a DePaul BS in Business, economics major or a combined BS in Business/MS in Economics and Policy Analysis degree.
Note: This interview with Ernie Enriquez discusses his experience interning at the White House; he is not a representative of the White House administration or the views or positions of the administration.