Public Policy in Practice: From Garrett Hall to the White House

Marina Peebles
Marina Peebles, a 2nd-Year Accelerated Master of Public Policy student. 

The summer internship between the 1st and 2nd year of the Batten Master of Public Policy program is a pivotal moment for students. It's an opportunity to bridge the gap between theory and practice, to apply the rigorous policy writing, data analysis and leadership skills honed in the classroom to real-world public policy challenges. 

For Marina Peebles (MPP ‘24), the search for a policy-based internship led her all the way to the White House Summer Program with the Executive Office of the President. We caught up with Marina to hear more about her experience working to support policy development at the highest level of the U.S. government and how her time at Batten prepared her for success. 

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Batten: What department of the White House were you working in this summer and what was your position?

Marina: This summer I was an intern at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in the Office of International Relations and Supply Reduction—quite a mouthful, I know. This office in the White House leads and coordinates the nation’s drug policy so that it improves the health and lives of the American people.  

Marina Peebles with WH aide
Marina Peebles (right) pictured with her internship supervisor Vance Morgan, a 
U.S. Army Officer & Policy Analyst in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Batten: What are some highlights from your time working in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy? 

Marina: There are so many! Honestly, getting to work at a component of the White House and be surrounded by such dedicated and mission-oriented people made every day a highlight. Working and attending events in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, taking a picture with President Biden, and finding a wonderful mentor in my supervisor were some amazing parts of my experience.


Batten: Any advice for first year MPP students as they begin or continue their summer internship search?

Marina: Start early, cast a wide net, and don't get discouraged! I started searching for internships casually around October/November and ramped up my search in March/April. It can be a frustrating process, requiring a lot of writing samples, interviews, and time spent applying. I'd recommend meeting with Steve or Dana in Career Services, looking over Frankly Speaking every week (this is where I found ONDCP), and being as patient with the process and yourself as possible. Also, if you have any interest in public service or drug policy, I cannot recommend applying to ONDCP enough!


Batten: What skills and lessons from your time in Batten helped you be successful in your position?

Marina: I used a lot of the material I learned in Research Methods and Data Analysis and Economics in my position. I completed a policy research project for my office, which involved analyzing a lot of studies and also thinking critically about the economics of the illicit drug market in the Andean region of South America and its associated externalities. The knowledge I gained in those two core classes enabled me to do really well with my project and my daily work. Overall, though, all of the coursework from the first year gave me the language and confidence that I need to work in the policy sphere and do well in my role.


Marina Peebles with POTUS
The 2023 Summer White House Intern Program group photo with President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden. Marina (with dark suitcoat and green shirt) is the fifth person to the president's right. 

Batten: How has this position informed what professional pathway you want to pursue after Batten?

Marina: This position re-affirmed for me a deep commitment to work in public service, which is what I want to do following graduation. I was lucky enough to get to meet a lot of people in different agencies across the government, like State and USAID [the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development], which has informed where I will be applying to.


Batten: What are you most excited for in your final year at UVA and in the Batten School?

Marina: Graduation! Just kidding. While I am excited for graduation, I'm most excited to spend time with my lovely Batten friends and peers and soak up the last of my time in Charlottesville. This is such an awesome community and I feel lucky to be a part of it!



Garrett Hall at Sunset

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