| by Jason Warburg

News Stories

Woman (Blaine Barkley) standing in front of a building
Blaine Barkley MANPTS ’20 outside of GAO headquarters in Washington, D.C., during her internship at the GAO field office in Virginia Beach, VA.

Congressional watchdog agency the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently named the Middlebury Institute of International Studies a partner school, signaling that it will increase outreach to and recruiting of Institute students for internships that frequently lead to job offers after graduation.

The GAO conducts oversight and investigations of all executive branch agencies, including those engaged in implementing security, environmental, and development policies.

“Internships with the GAO provide MIIS students with policy and investigative research experience in a paid internship with a US federal agency,” says Director of Immersive Professional Learning Carolyn Taylor Meyer, who worked closely with Director of Employer Relations Bryce Craft and MIIS and Middlebury alumni employed at GAO on securing partner school status for the Middlebury Institute. “Students can explore whether the work is something they would like to pursue after graduation, and approximately half of the MIIS students completing an internship there have gone on to permanent positions with the GAO after graduation.”

“Being a Partner School for GAO is significant in that it will ensure an intentional effort to strengthen and sustain the recruiting relationship we have with the organization,” says Craft. “A partner school has an assigned GAO campus executive to formally manage GAO’s relationship with the school,” which typically includes outreach and activities specific to the partner school and an annual school-specific diversity recruiting strategy.

The Government Accountability Office is charged with providing Congress, the heads of executive agencies, and the public with timely non-partisan information that can be used to improve the functioning and efficiency of government operations. Its work is typically conducted at the request of congressional committees or as required by law. According to Career Advisor Scott Webb MPA ’07, “There’s something for everyone at GAO, since they review and analyze literally anything the US Government is involved with, from nuclear submarines to the Forest Service to the Agency for International Development.”

Institute alumnus Sam Hinojosa MAIPS ’89, a senior analyst in the GAO’s Business Process Analytics Group, has played a significant role in strengthening connections between the Institute and the GAO, hosting MIIS students at GAO headquarters several times during the Institute’s DC Career Exploration Week. “Those meetings are often a highlight of the week,” says Webb, “because the Comptroller General of the GAO comes in and several MIIS alumni who work there usually visit the group.” Alumni Matt Levie MPA ’18 and Christina Pineda MANPTS ’19 have also been “incredible champions for MIIS and our students” at GAO, says Craft.

Man standing outside with his arms folded looking at the camera
Sam Hinojosa MAIPS ’89, with more than 30 years’ experience at GAO, has hosted Middlebury Institute students at GAO headquarters several times during the D.C. Career Exploration Week.

Hinojosa emphasizes that GAO focuses on creating generalists over specialists. “At MIIS, I studied International Policy Studies, concentrating on Japan-U.S. relations and East Asian security. In my first few years at GAO, I never once worked on any projects related to East Asia. I soon began to realize that I enjoyed learning about new issues, and with GAO’s wide-ranging responsibilities, I had the opportunity to turn my personal curiosity into a professional career.” In the future he hopes “to see GAO and MIIS build on the informal connections we established over the past several years to create more avenues for MIIS students to learn about the agency and connect with GAO staff,” as well as working on establishing new relationships with MIIS faculty, staff, and student groups.

Middlebury alumnus Jeff Arkin ’95, director of federal budget and intergovernmental issues at the GAO, emphasizes that “GAO has been fortunate to hire a number of MIIS students and graduates for intern and entry-level analyst positions over the past few years.” Arkin advises students interested in working for the GAO to do their research, contact Institute alumni there, read GAO reports and watch Congressional hearings to learn more about the type of work it does. “In addition to providing insight on the fit between students and GAO, this kind of due diligence can really help with the application and interview process, in that students can relate their own experiences to the work we do at GAO.”

GAO’s commitment to its employees and the sense of community it has cultivated resulted in one of the best office environments I’ve experienced.
— Archie Scoville MAIEP ’21

“GAO treats their internship opportunities as an extended job interview,” adds Craft. “With GAO regularly being voted as one of the best places to work in government, offering internship opportunities that are dynamic and relevant to several of our graduate programs makes for a great partnership.”

Students pursuing internships at GAO in the past through the Institute’s International Professional Service Semester program report having very positive experiences. “GAO invests heavily in its professional development programs and there was constant support and numerous trainings,” said Archie Scoville MAIEP ’21 of his summer 2021 internship. “GAO’s commitment to its employees and the sense of community it has cultivated resulted in one of the best office environments I’ve experienced.” Blaine Barkley MANPTS ’20 agreed, calling her colleagues at GAO “incredibly supportive and always encouraging.”

The GAO is frequently described as “the investigative arm of Congress.” GAO supports Congress’s oversight efforts and works to “improve the performance and accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people.” The GAO was a presenting employer at the Middlebury Institute Community Career Fair on September 14 and will be presenting at the NASPAA DC Career Virtual Trek that MIIS is participating in the week of October 25.

Student standing on a walking bridge, holding a coffee, wearing sunglasses and smiling
Archie Scoville MAIEP ’21 had a great experience as a GAO intern