Spending his summer with the CDFI Fund at the Department of the Treasury, Cameron Ittner knew the importance of getting in touch with his surroundings. His determination paid off. “When I first got here,” he tells us, “I emailed everyone leading a program in my office to setup an informal meeting with them to hear about their programs and experiences, and they’re always so excited to share those experiences with you.” With the CDFI Fund, Cameron has been given the opportunity to work on a variety of projects, all centered around the Fund’s focus on improving community level outcomes in the United States. We talk about that and more in his summer profile.
What areas of public policy interest you?
I’m specifically interested in public policy that is related to economic development and fiscal policy, so trying to find programs that are effective at improving the overall economic welfare, well being, and growth of communities in the United States, which relates pretty closely to what I’m working on this summer.
What does a typical day in DC look like for you?
I’m able to walk to work, which is nice. I’ll come in, check my email, and address any short-term things I’m working on. I’ll sometimes have tasks related to grant management, compliance, or simple programmatic questions. Once I’ve addressed all of that, I’ll start working on the longer-term projects I have. Those include writing an impact report on the Capital Magnet Fund’s 2010 funding round, which involves reaching out to CDFI’s and housing developers that received funding from us and learning about the outcomes of the projects they funded with their grant. I’m also working on a project to update the Fund’s environmental regulations, so I’ll do some research and data collection related to that. The team I’m working on is very small, with only four other people, so typically we’ll have a meeting every other day in the afternoon to discuss the program or specific policy related issues that have come up. After work, I like to take the opportunity to explore different neighborhoods in DC. The city has been changing so much recently, so it’s cool to see the distinct vibe of the different areas and to find nice and interesting places to explore.
Have there been any surprises regarding living and working as an intern in DC?
It sounds like a total cliché, but DC seems like a really small city. It feels like everything in the city is related to it being the capital, so almost everyone you run into is working in the public sector or the private sector doing work related to politics or public policy. This makes it really easy to connect with people.
I also always forget that, in DC, you’re seeing things that people travel from all around the world to see. Just going from point A to point B, you really have to slow down and remind yourself of how cool it is to be living and working here, even if it’s just for a summer.
Name one object that you brought with you to DC that reflects your personality.
I packed pretty light, but I did manage to bring a number of books I’ve been reading. They’re about really disparate topics: one is Capital in the 21st Century, which is kind of related to what I’m doing, but then another is about Lenin’s return to Russia during World War I. I think it’s really important to read about things that you find interesting. It doesn’t matter if it’s related to your work or specific career goals or anything like that. It’s important to always be exploring topics that are interesting to you.
In 10 years, what will you remember about living and working in DC?
One thing that’s really stuck with me is how passionate everyone here is about what they do. In the meetings we have, we focus on minor issues that come up, that be something that is just an inconvenience for one grant recipient, but we’ll take the time to discuss it and find a way to make the program more efficient and effective. From the outside, it may seem that all the requirements we’re putting on our grant recipients are onerous or annoyingly bureaucratic, but everyone that works here is really passionate about what they do.
It’s important to remember that when you think about all the bureaucracy in DC, that the people here are doing this because they like having an impact, and know that they’re doing something that is valuable to the country.
Give an example of an experience that signifies why you came to DC.
Working at the CDFI Fund and in the federal government in general gives you the opportunity to have a much bigger impact than you would working at another level of government or in the private sector. Even though I’m just an intern, I’m helping to rewrite the Fund’s environment regulations, and that is going to have a pretty big impact on how everyone receiving grants from the Fund conducts their projects moving forward. Even at the most entry level position, you can have an outsized impact on the work of the Fund and the outcomes that it causes is something that is unique to working in DC.
What is one tourist attraction or thing outside of work that you are excited about?
Despite having been to DC a number of times before, I had never been to any of the Smithsonian museums before, so getting the chance to tour the Museum of American History and the Museum of Natural History, which are the two of been to thus far, is a cool opportunity. They’re both such unique treasure troves of artifacts and information. It’s really incredible.
What does being an intern in DC mean to you?
I think being an intern in DC is an opportunity to learn about yourself and what you’re interested in. The opportunities we’re given here expose you to what the work being done in DC is, and it’s up to you to use that opportunity to figure out what your specific interests are. I think that’s really important, because once you get back to school or start thinking about your long-term career plans, you’ll be able to do that more effectively, having come here and had these experiences.