Roddy champions benefits of virtual internship program

Bridget Lynn Roddy, the Virtual Student Foreign Service program manager at the State Department, is nominated for a Service to America Medal.

The State Department dispatches people to countries all over the world, but now it’s trying something new — employing student interns who stay at their universities while working on projects abroad.

They’re part of a virtual foreign service that has grown exponentially under the management of Bridget Lynn Roddy, the Virtual Student Foreign Service program manager.

The program originally began at State in 2009 with 44 projects.  In six years, the program has added 10 agencies and grown to include 300 projects annually with 650 positions.

The success of the program is in large part due to Roddy’s efforts in educating students and agencies about the benefits of virtual internships.

“In the internship world, this is very cutting edge,” said Eric Woodard, director of fellowships and internships at the Smithsonian Institution, a participating agency. “For her to manage and grow this program is a real achievement.”

For her ongoing efforts to recruit more students and expand the Virtual Student Foreign Service program, the Partnership for Public Service recently named Roddy as one of the finalists for the 2014 Call to Service Medal. The award recognizes federal employees for professional achievements that demonstrate important contributions being made by a new generation coming into public service.

Getting to know Bridget Lynn Roddy

Federal News Radio asked each of the Sammies finalists five questions about themselves. Here are Roddy’s responses:

What three words best describe your leadership philosophy?

Inspiration, aspiration and dedication

What’s the best piece of advice (or words of wisdom) you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?

The most recent words of wisdom that really resonate right now is something I heard in Denver when I was at the GlobalMindEd conference.  One of the keynotes was Lisa Brummel who was head of HR for Microsoft.  She said she hadn’t done a speaking engagement in six months, yet her words couldn’t be more relevant.  She said, “Just go do it because it’s the right thing to do” and “Surround yourself with people not like you and you will learn and grow and challenge each other.”

Who is your greatest role model and why?

The greatest role models are people who I meet every single day who have experiences and ideas to share that are new and relevant to me, right now, and I in turn, share my experiences.  There is no one person that can inspire us on every level. And there is no one person after whom we should model our lives. To me, role models make us want to be better people and more human to each other.  They encourage us to be open to every possible experience.

Right now, Lance Weiler who is a filmmaker, storyteller, writer and experience designer (also Director of Experiental Learning & Applied Creativity at Columbia University) has had the most immediate influence on me after meeting him at DIG South in Charleston in April.  He is so honest and open and real and warm that “the world would be a better place if there were more Lances” (said David Park at Columbia). Many things he does and says stick with me every single day, and one, more than any other is that we should say “Yes,  and …” instead of “Yes, but …” to help move ideas and each other forward.

Someone who I’ve know for years who died on May 30 of ALS is Robert Sedlack, my graphic design professor at Notre Dame, who helped me find my “home” in Riley Hall after shuffling between majors and never feeling like I found something that “fit”.  Robert showed me how design for “good” can help bring an end to “bad”.  And, we should always do good, and never do bad, in design or in life.

What’s the last thing you read and what’s next on your reading list?

I read signs and recipes and magazines, but if you mean “books”, I am still reading “The Tipping Point” because I tend to get distracted and never finish. Up next is “The Misfit Economy — Lessons in Creativity from Pirates, Hackers, Gangsters, and Other Informal Entrepreneurs” by Alexa Clay and Kyra Maya Phillips.  Two people have suggested in in the last few weeks and it just released today (June 23).  I sometimes feel like a misfit bureaucrat.

Who would you most like to have lunch with and why?

A really amazing chef who understands the importance of supporting local farms and farmers and raising happy animals. Lunch should be in someone’s home so you can hear their story. I know this is not the answer that you are looking for, but I’d love to have lunch with my friend and colleague, Nora, because we get so caught up in work which is mostly enjoyable, but we have a tendency to forget to eat or eat at each others desks so I’d love to sit with her and just “be”, without distraction or deadlines (both of which are mostly self-imposed).

The Call to Service Medal is just one of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) presented annually by the Partnership for Public Service. View a photo gallery of all the Sammies nominees.

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