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Undergraduate Student to Give Back to CEHHS Through Summer 2023 Washington, D.C. Internship

By Macy Roberts, CEHHS Student Reporter, Class of 2024

Despite being a Biochemistry & Cellular and Molecular Biology major in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Arts and Sciences, Benjamin Bridges has ties to the University’s College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences and plans to give back to the college through his internship in Washington, D.C., this summer.

Bridges is connected to CEHHS through his work as a STEM Coordinator at VolsTeach for Appalachia since 2019.

Large group of student interns for Vol Teach. Students are wearing orange t-shirts with Vols teach on the front.

Benjamin Bridges (back row, right) with Vols Teach intern cohort

Bridges has wanted to pursue a career in the medical field since he was a student at Bearden High School, where he took many related courses.

“One of these courses was Cardiovascular Services, and this was where I really fell in love with learning all about the organ in charge of supplying your body with blood, oxygen and nutrients,” Bridges said. “It was also at this time that I first discovered my passion for advocating for others. I have since realized that each of my jobs or roles at the University revolve around advocacy in some form.”

Benjamin Bridges portrait photo. He has fair skin and dark hair. He is wearing a white lab coat with a light blue shirt, striped tie, and has a stethoscope draped over his shoulders

Benjamin Bridges

Bridges received his Emergency Medical Responder license in 2018. Two years later, he received an Associate of Arts Degree from Pellissippi State Community College.

Since being a student at UT, Bridges has served on the Office of the Dean of Students’ Rocky Top Roundtable and is an undergraduate student researcher in the BCMB department, where he studies Rett Syndrome, a rare autism spectrum disorder that affects only females.

During the fall 2022 semester, Bridges came across the university’s Congressional Internship Program on Handshake.

“Since I am not a political science or history major, I was initially very reluctant on applying, but I felt like I would be missing out on a great opportunity and was told that applying will never hurt my chances at anything,” Bridges said. “I believe that proper advocacy manifests and presents itself in many different shapes and forms, so having the chance to travel to the nation’s Capitol and support part of the State of Tennessee’s delegation would be a very new, challenging and exciting way for me to apply these skills and experiences to advocate for an entirely different population of people.”

So, despite his initial doubts, Bridges applied for the internship and ended up being offered a position in Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s office in the summer of 2023. In this position, Bridges will be performing data analysis and visualization of various voter and constituent metrics of all 95 counties in Tennessee. Additionally, he will serve as a Capitol tour guide.

“This internship is a way for me to give back to the CEHHS since I will use many of the communication skills and experiences that I have learned from working in VolsTeach for Appalachia while in Washington, D.C. this summer,” Bridges said.

Bridges expressed thanks to his career coaches in the Center for Career Development and Academic Exploration for supporting his interest in the internship. These individuals include Diondre Brown, Jesse Fisher and Mary Beth Woodward.

As a fifth-year undergraduate student, Bridges felt like he was potentially running behind and a less competitive applicant, but his mentors encouraged him and proved to Bridges that this wasn’t the case.

“This journey has been neither quick nor easy but rather exceptionally meaningful and I attribute much of the professional growth I have made this year to these people,” Bridges said. “I urge everyone to visit the CCDAE as early into their college career as possible and to use them as a resource to not only figure out where you want to go, but figure out the best way for you to get there.”