Whether at the federal, state, or local levels, the Leonard D. Schaeffer Fellowship encourages undergraduates to consider a career in government. The program connected three University of Virginia students with internship opportunities at the Fluvanna County Economic Development Office and the Culpeper County Department of Economic Development, Ava Purcell, Dana Korotovskikh, and Austin Katstra, all under the leadership of Bryan Rothamel.

As someone who had his fair share of experiences with underwhelming internships in college, Rothamel wanted better for his students. In fact, he made it a point to not repeat the same mistake, by assigning meaningful work to interns that will elicit a meaningful response.

“We could not do what we do without interns,” Rothamel said. “They’re viable members of our group. My interns helped me get ahead — it frees me up to work on projects I couldn’t do. Interns have brought work product that is not only acceptable but exceptional.”

All three joined the office in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, so a majority of their work was done remotely; despite the physical barrier, the students were still able to put out good work.

“Even though it wasn’t in person, I felt it was just as impactful,” Korotovskikh said. “It’s nice to work with someone who didn’t just see you as an intern. Bryan truly had my best interest at heart.”

Korotovskikh, a statistics major with a concentration in economics metrics, interned with Rothamel in Fluvanna in the summer of her second year in 2021.

“I hadn’t had any experience working in a local government office, so it was nice to be a part of [Fluvanna County Economic Development], especially something that impacts a county,” Korotovskikh said.

Korotovskikh had the pleasure of creating a sweet promotional video for a Fluvanna County local treasure, PaPa Jim’s Soft Serve Treats, which has more than 1,000 views on Instagram.

Purcell, a youth and social innovations major, interned with Rothamel in Culpeper in the summer of her third year in 2022. She focused on creating marketing materials for the Culpeper Farm Tour and helped with researching how to redefine the technology zone incentives program.

“This [internship] exposed me to opportunities that I definitely wouldn’t have looked at without this internship,” Purcell said.

When it comes to the end of their internships, it’s always a sad day for Rothamel because he said he truly does enjoy working with his students.

“They could definitely all have a future in economic development — the goal of the program is that they get experience in local government and they got that,” Rothamel said.

Rothamel, now with the Culpeper County Department of Economic Development, can be contacted for an internship at brothamel@culpepercounty.gov.

For more information on Central Virginia internships, check out the Region 9 Internship Collaborative.