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Q&A with Antonia Zito ’25

January 21, 2024

We recently caught up with undergrad Antonia Zito, a double major in Global and Regional Studies and History, who spent autumn quarter 2023 in Washington D.C. on an internship arranged by The Washington Center (TWC). Antonia, whose hometown is Panama City, Panama, tells us more about her experience as a research intern for the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies (WJPC) under the National Defense University (NDU) in Fort McNair. 

Jackson School: What inspired you to apply for a D.C.-based internship?

Antonia Zito receiving a Certificate of Appreciation, National Defense University, Washington D.C., December 2023

Antonia Zito receiving a Certificate of Appreciation, National Defense University, Washington D.C., December 2023

Antonia Zito: Like most opportunities, I was not necessarily looking for internship experience until I was told by the Jackson School that it was possible to complete one through the University of Washington. TWC was introduced to me by one of my Jackson School professors, as he sent us a Zoom link for an informational session. Shortly after learning about what types of internships I would be able to apply for, I was immediately interested. I am not from the U.S., so when given the opportunity to live in D.C. for a couple of months to work for the federal government, it did not take much convincing for me to go. Not only was this a great way for me to live in a new area, but this would also be the first career-building experience I could add to my resume. I also felt especially prepared because the whole time I have been a student at the UW I have been taking classes regarding U.S. foreign relations, policies, and research-based courses. For example, I took a research course in social sciences class (JSIS 300) where I conducted quantitative research, and I ended up conducting the same type of research at my internship three months after taking that class. 

Jackson School: Tell us more about what you did during your research internship.
A.Z.: I conducted in-depth research on current global topics regarding security and defense in Latin America and the Caribbean. One of the most interesting things about this opportunity is that the office I worked in is bilingual, everyone speaks both Spanish and English. Specifically, I assisted professors at the Perry Center with their own research or class material. For example, I helped analyze a project on women in Colombia living under the FARC conditions. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience. Not only did I get to read the first-hand experiences of these women, but I was also able to become proficient using MAXQDA, a software that I had never used before this experience. Another project I worked on had a bigger focus on climate change. Under this professor, I helped build the Perry Center’s climate change program, which was the first for a Regional Academic Center of the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense. I had the privilege to create an 18-page glossary of climate change terminology which has now been distributed to thousands of government officials. I also graphed climate vulnerability of Western Hemisphere nations using the INFORM index, and other projects focusing on water data for nearly three dozen Latin American and Caribbean nations.

 Jackson School: What work skills do you feel you gained?
A.Z.: There are a variety of skills that I gained and enhanced during my time at the Perry Center. Through my work, I developed work-related communication skills and efficient time-management techniques. I was additionally able to expand my professional network as I was employed by the Department of Defense. This opportunity also refined my research and analytical skills, and how to complete large projects promptly. Moreover, I learned various administrative office tasks, as well as how to properly coordinate, facilitate, and operate in a high-intensity office space as the office constantly receives distinguished scholars, military officials, and ambassadors.

Jackson School: How did the experience enhance your career goals?
A.Z.:
My internship experience has influenced my future career goals as I learned a lot about working, behaving, and networking in a professional office because this was the first position I have ever had relating to my career goal. The work that I did as an intern felt important to me because the office I worked for strives to create real change within U.S. foreign relations through security and defense collaboration. Overall, my time there taught me that I enjoy conducting research and that having a career in work relating to any sort of collaboration with a foreign country is something that I will now work towards. This all further taught me the kind of direction I want to take my UW education. For example, my major requires me to have an area of concentration and after this experience, I have officially decided to focus on Latin America.

Jackson School: Advice to prospective Jackson School majors?
I would advise upcoming Jackson School students to actively engage and participate in the various events offered by the School. There are so many opportunities offered through the Jackson School, whether it is events that academic advisers put together such as informational meetings regarding the types of majors offered, or whether it is meetings for internship opportunities, every week there is a new event. These events are great for meeting new friends and for being properly informed of the tools available to someone as a student of the Jackson School.