DC at 25: Greg Ferrante, alumnus
By Craig Brandhorst, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-3681
The Washington Semester Program celebrates its 25th anniversary this fall. Administered through the South Carolina Honors College, it provides fulltime, semester-long internships at congressional offices, federal agencies, nonprofits and other D.C.-based organizations — plus courses on politics, current events and theater — to qualified college students from around the state. Several program alumni and current participants from the University of South Carolina recently shared their experiences in the nation’s capital with USC Times, the university’s news magazine for faculty and staff.
Chief financial officer, Global Policy and Advocacy Division, Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation; chair of the audit and finance committee of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS,
Tuberculosis and Malaria
Internship: Spring 1996, Department of Education
How did you end up doing the Washington Semester?
I was a biology major and a minor in chemistry and then had a separate minor in government and international affairs. I was really interested in the intersection of policy and health, and so to me, being in D.C. was just an opportunity to see policymaking happen, to experience it up close. That was my primary driver, and then I was looking at different opportunities to see something outside of South Carolina.
Take us back. What was going on in D.C. that semester?
We moved into the house around 2 p.m., and at 4 p.m. a blizzard started, and we got something like 20 inches of snow. We had no idea what we’d gotten ourselves into. Sen. Connie Mack lived next door at the time, and he literally helped us dig out. It was a great opportunity to see public service at work — the senator from the great state of Florida helps a group of South Carolina students dig out of a snowstorm! It was also the year of the government shutdown. I think it had just happened when we got there, and they were debating if there would be another round.
I love watching what they do after they graduate. So many of them come back to D.C., some to the offices where they interned. They get the D.C. bug and they make the contacts to come back. We have had students who have had remarkable success.
Korey Rothman, adjunct professor of theater
Tell us about your internship.
I worked at the Department of Education under Secretary Dick Riley. I worked for the senior adviser on budget, and if I recall correctly, I wrote the department’s first white paper on what its website could be and why people would use it, which is kind of an amazing thing to think about in retrospect. Kind of dates me a little bit, doesn’t it?
People often talk about the opportunity to network through programs like this. Did you find that to be the case?
At the time that I was there, it was only Carolina students, I think, but there were people with a lot of different personalities and backgrounds, and our internships were wildly different. Some people were on the Hill, some were in the administration, some were in the private sector, so it was it a good opportunity to meet folks. I’m still really good friends with a couple of them.
In terms of personal development, what did you get out of the experience?
It was my first real exposure to senior level policymakers and to understanding government procedure. It opened some questions in my mind that led to where I am today. At the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, I chair the audit and finance committee, and in my day job at the foundation I try to make sure that other governments also understand the real and positive development impact that organizations like the Global Fund can create — and that they will be able to support it as well — and that in recipient countries they have effective policies in place that will allow the delivery of health programs to marginalized populations — sex workers, intravenous drug users and the like — to help save lives.
The Washington Semester Program celebrated its 25th anniversary this fall. Several program alumni and current participants from the University of South Carolina shared their experiences in the nation’s capital with USC Times, the university’s news magazine for faculty and staff. Read all of their stories: Heidi Brooks, Greg Ferrante, Meghan Hickman, Seth Ismail, Kimberly Medina and Katie Schwichtenberg.
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