Serving others takes UAB alum inside the White House

UAB alum uses White House internship to help hundreds of thousands in need.

Josh Carpenter. Download image.

Most 23-year-olds looking for fun with a little drama would tune in to The Hills. Not many would go to work on The Hill, as in Capitol Hill. Yet that is the choice UAB School of Business alum Josh Carpenter made.

“The value of service-learning that UAB emphasized has enabled me to invest in my colleagues the importance of the work we are doing for the people we serve and ourselves,” says Carpenter.

Carpenter is spending his summer in the White House Internship Program (WHIP) with the Office of Presidential Correspondence.

“Josh has many leadership qualities,” says Stephen Yoder, director of UAB Collat School of Business Honors Program. “He is an extrovert, collaborative, empathetic and has terrific interpersonal skills.”

Almost immediately Carpenter was named a co-leader of one of WHIP’s public-service initiatives. He organized a team to create an alternative service project for the 55 volunteer leaders and interns. “We coordinate interns to aid the Capital Area Food Bank in the distribution of 25 million pounds of food to those in need,” Carpenter says. “Hunger is a real problem in D.C.; one of every three residents are at risk for hunger. This includes 200,000 children.”

Carpenter (above, right) and fellow interns pose with President Barack Obama and (below) First Lady Michelle Obama.
Carpenter with First Lady

It is not surprising that he has taken the lead in serving the community. Carpenter recently finished the first of two years in the Teach for America program. He is in the first class of Alabamians to join Teach for America, a program that sends future leaders to low-income communities. Carpenter is teaching English plus coaching football and baseball in Marion County, Ala.

“The challenges are, indeed, numerous, but so are the rewards,” says Carpenter. “Professionally, I developed a deeper understanding of the deficits that plague many low-income public schools. Students often are the victims of a number of deficits, including chronic underfunding, low teacher support and misaligned incentive structures. I hope to use this experience to inform my future endeavors in public service.”

The White House intern, who has not yet met President Barack Obama, says his typical day varies. In the Office of Correspondence he has learned the level of effort placed on responding to the emails and letters the president receives. He is amazed by “the substantive value the president places on hearing from the American people.” But the most valuable lesson he has learned is that sometimes it takes more than hard work to be successful.

“Most of the government officials we’ve heard from said one serendipitous opportunity ultimately propelled them to where they are now,” says Carpenter. “I think the point here is that you must be willing to take on a job that you may feel is incommensurate with your abilities and work hard at it because that very well could be your starting point or provide you with a connection to develop your career. Breadth of experience is as important as your education.”

Carpenter’s short-term goal is to finish his commitment to Teach for America and his students in Marion County. Afterward he plans to pursue a master’s degree and maybe a doctorate.