Collin Parks graduated from the University of Arizona in May with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law (PPEL). After receiving her diploma, she and sophomore Andrew Pongrátz participated in The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) Washington, D.C. Academic Internship Program from June 3 to July 28.

Mary L. Rigdon, Freedom Center Director and Associate Professor in the Department of Political Economy & Moral Science invited Anne Rathbone Bradley, the George and Sally Mayer Fellow for Economic Education and TFAS Vice President of Academic Affairs, to come to Tucson and engage with students. She gave a talk called Human Flourishing and Economic Freedom, which asserted that market economies are the world’s most powerful anti-poverty program. Dr. Bradley invited Collin, Andrew, and other students to consider the summer internship program.

“As a graduating senior considering my future, I wanted to take advantage of the TFAS summer program to build my knowledge and network and to take advantage of internship opportunities,” Collin said. “We were located in a very nice part of Washington, D.C., and I gained invaluable professional experience.”

During the summer, TFAS offers academic internship programs for undergraduate students. The program includes academic credit from George Mason University, an internship placement, and furnished housing in Washington, D.C. Students participate in exclusive guest lectures, site briefings, and professional development and networking events. Students gain over 250 hours of professional experience, an expanded network of contacts, and a better understanding of various career opportunities.

“The economics course was market- and people-focused, like the UArizona PPEL courses. We had vigorous debates and learned many things to prepare us for the future,” Collin continued.

Collin interned with the Navajo Nation Washington Office to complement her academic coursework. The experience stimulated her interest in pursuing policy as a career.

Collin Parks (left) was a Government and Legislative Affairs intern at the Navajo Nation Washington Office.
Collin Parks (left) at the Navajo Nation Washington Office.

“I knew that the Navajo Nation was a fully autonomous government located within the United States, but it really hit home in a way that I didn’t fully appreciate until I had the chance to work with them,” she said. “The TFAS program was a valuable transition from college to career. I strongly recommend it.”

Andrew K. Pongrátz didn’t fully appreciate the value of the TFAS program until Dr. Rigdon and Saura Masconale, Freedom Center Associate Director and Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Economy & Moral Science, urged him to seize the opportunity.

“I thought it was just another internship opportunity, but they gave me that kick I needed to take the next step,” Andrew said. “I am so glad that I did. The George Mason University Arlington Campus differed from the vast UArizona campus, and both provided a great experience. I worked hard, learned a lot, and established valuable connections to help shape my future.”

In addition to his academic coursework, Andrew had precise expectations for the internship experience he sought.

“I wanted a federal government opportunity that focused on the law and legal issues,” Andrew said. “The TFAS program tapped into their deep network of relationships to help facilitate my opportunity to intern at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in the office of Commissioner Peter Feldman. It was everything I hoped it would be.”

Andrew Pongratz outside of the Committee on the Judiciary Hearing Room at the U.S. Capitol
Andrew Pongrátz outside of the Committee on the Judiciary Hearing Room.

Andrew also cited the great networking and other educational opportunities. He visited Arlington National Cemetery, met professionals from the State Department, and interacted with representatives from other federal agencies, corporate lawyers, and lobbyists. All provided their perspectives on the careers available to public policy students.

“I thought the summer program would help clarify what I wanted to do, but instead, I learned that there are a wide range of careers that I could pursue. Finally, being part of the program will provide benefits through the vast TFAS alumni network that has existed since the 1970s with members across the U.S. and worldwide,” Andrew concluded.

“I am so pleased that Collin and Andrew took full advantage of everything TFAS offers,” Laura Cusack, Director of the TFAS Public Policy & Economics Program, said. “They both gave it their all. We’re very grateful for our partnership with the Freedom Center and look forward to continuing to work together to provide opportunities for students in the future.”

Cusack noted that several full scholarships will be available for Arizona students applying to the Summer 2024 program. The application process will open in September 2023. To learn more about TFAS and the Washington, D.C. Academic Internship Program, visit TFAS D.C. Academic Internship Programs (