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U-Idaho Graduate Takes Her Learning on the Road
Organizational Science major Stephanie Fuqua puts her talents to use wherever she's needed
By JOEL MILLS
Reprinted with permission from the Lewiston Tribune
At 22, Stephanie Fuqua has already worked in far-flung locales like Africa, Hollywood and even the White House. But the recent University of Idaho graduate said she ultimately wants to end up right where she started.
"I have a hard time staying in one place for long," Fuqua said via email from Washington, D.C., where she is working as a summer intern in the White House Office of Scheduling and Advance. (An administration official would not allow Fuqua to conduct a telephone interview with the Lewiston Tribune.)
Fuqua said she started building her restless resume during her freshman year, when she traveled to Pearlington, Miss., for what the UI calls an "alternative service break." The program lets students donate their spring break to charitable causes around the world, and Fuqua's trip to the Gulf Coast turned out to be a pivotal experience.
"I was hooked on learning outside of the classroom," she said.
Fuqua said her academic adviser, communication studies professor Annette Folwell, was a big supporter of allowing her to pursue "experiential learning." That support helped Fuqua escape the confines of the Moscow campus, and still complete her degree in organizational science, nonprofit and community management in four years, she said.
"With her help, I was able to spend a semester doing hurricane relief in the Gulf of Mississippi, work for the 'Dr. Phil Show' in Los Angeles for a semester, and travel to South Africa to work in an AIDS clinic."
Inspired by her alternative service break, Fuqua pursued a semester-long position with Mission on the Bay in Bay St. Louis, Miss. The Hurricane Katrina relief organization appointed Fuqua as one of its coordinators, and she managed more than 500 volunteers, according to the UI.
Southern California was Fuqua's next target. She managed to land an internship on the "Dr. Phil Show," where the famous counselor dishes advice to people facing major life challenges. She again spent a whole semester on the job, assisting the show's on-set staff.
Other jobs have stayed with the show business vein, like an internship promoting artists and working in public relations at the Knitting Factory concert venue in Boise, or working with the Festival at Sandpoint in her hometown, rubbing elbows with famous artists and booking music for the summer concert series.
But the possible crowning jewel among Fuqua's eclectic educational experiences was landing a coveted White House internship. She said the lengthy application process began in January with a written policy memo and two letters of recommendation, one from UI Dean of Students Bruce Pitman.
She interviewed for the position in February, and learned she got the job in April. The internship started in May and ends next month.
"The atmosphere here is amazing," she said. "I feel incredibly lucky to go to work every day and work with people who have done so much, but are down to earth and personable."
Fuqua's office supports the White House staffers who stage presidential events around the country. She also occasionally works on events in the Washington, D.C. Metro area, and helps respond to individuals seeking time with the president.
Fuqua said her future plans are up in the air, but she wants to continue working with "passionate, hard-working people and to see as much of the world as possible."
Ultimately, however, Fuqua dreams of settling down in her northern Idaho hometown.
And she emphasized that all of her achievements wouldn't have been possible without the nurturing influences she found in the region, including the university and her professors. But Fuqua said her primary inspiration has come from something as close to home as it gets: her family.
"In all things, my parents have been behind me 100 percent, even if what I wanted to do seemed crazy or out of my reach," she said. "I thought working at the White House seemed like something other people do, not a small-town girl from a small school in Idaho. But this experience has shown me that it doesn't matter where you are from or what your diploma says. It is about how passionate you are about who you want to become."