Exiting The Tank


Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg during her visit to AEI.

It’s hard to believe that my ten weeks at AEI, a think tank focused on free markets, are coming to a close. As I start packing up my apartment I realize how much I’ll miss passing the Capitol on my way to work, attending lectures by influential people from Melinda Gates to Sheryl Sandberg, learning about donor relations from the development team at AEI, talking about the election and public policy over lunch with the other 70 summer interns, and the Nespresso machine on the twelfth floor.

While I’m itching to get back to Boston after spending both my spring semester and summer away from BC, I’m sad to be leaving AEI and grateful for the opportunities I had to learn about how a successful non-profit operates and about public policy as well.

One of my biggest take-aways this summer is the importance of strong, personal relationships at a non-profit. Much of AEI’s financial success comes from the institute’s dedication to maintaining meaningful connections with corporate, foundation, and individual donors alike. AEI is committed to keeping its donor community engaged with their scholars, the research, and with one another and is constantly developing new ways of involving donors.

Building a community around AEI’s work starts at the institute itself. Whether it’s in the lunch line or in a movie viewing and discussion, AEI encourages its interns to engage with scholars, research staff, other employees, and one another. I quickly recognized that I would get the most out of my summer at AEI if I made a concerted effort to get to know other interns and members of my team. This not only made coming to work something I could genuinely look forward to, but also challenged my understanding of public policy and of what I want to do beyond graduation.

I had lunch with the VP of development at AEI to talk to him about my experience at AEI and overall career goals. Only after I mentioned that law school was on my radar did I learn that he had previously attended Harvard Law School before serving as the law school’s Dean of Admission. This unexpected connection has now given me someone to go to for advice about a possible career in law and has made me more confident in my plan to gain unique work experience, either in the private or nonprofit sector, to help me build an attractive law school application in the future.

This unexpected conversation helped me regain confidence in my post-graduation plan and reminded me that I will learn the most about nonprofits and the various career paths associated with this type of work by reaching out to people in the field. Though I’m sad to be leaving the think tank world for the year, I’m grateful that I was given the opportunity to be exposed to this new field, have a meaningful impact on the institute’s operation, and to pick up valuable skills that I am excited to apply both at BC and in a post-graduation position, perhaps returning to think tank development.

Written by Lauren Niles, BC Class of 2017


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