Leah Terry

History student awarded MCLEAPS internship for environmental services

By

Rachel Bunning

Leah Terry is an Arizona native who has always enjoyed her history classes. When it came time to look at colleges and pick a major, Terry remembered a teacher saying, “Think about what you like, because what you are drawn to can become your major.” 

Two years into pursuing her history degree from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Terry received a newsletter from the school informing her about an opportunity called the Maricopa County Leadership and Education Advancing Public Service (MCLEAPS) internship program. The program is a special partnership between Arizona State University and Maricopa County that offers top students hands-on experience in county departments or divisions. 

On top of getting full-time, immersive work experience, the internship includes a full semester waiver of ASU tuition and fees, academic credit and a $5,000 stipend. 

Terry applied to join the environmental services department and, despite the tough competition for the program, was awarded the internship, beating out graduate students who applied for the same position. At first she worried she wouldn’t be accepted because she didn’t have a background in environmental services, but she is pursuing a sustainability minor from the School of Sustainability and had other indicators on her resume that told the department she would be a great fit.

“The one thing that set me apart was I’d been working with the André House downtown, which is homeless services, [a] homeless food kitchen, things like that,” said Terry. “So I worked with them for a long time, and a part of the internship, specific to the environmental services, is the Healthy Giving Council, which is an effort from the county to make giving to homeless populations more sustainable.”

Terry went into the internship thinking most of her peers would be in public policy or would be Arizona natives like her, but was surprised to find a different group. Most of the other interns are from out of state, and a few are international students studying all types of majors. 

“Meeting the other interns is really nice because some of them come from more unique majors, so it’s a very diverse group of people, which is interesting,” said Terry. 

Her internship advisers kept emphasizing the internship would be what she made of it, encouraging her to ask questions as well.

“I’m really trying to put myself out there and try to latch on to any different projects that I think are coming up,” she said. “That’s a big thing, just trying to be proactive. Once I get settled, even though the different divisions in the department are the ones that really initiate working with me, I will hopefully make each of them proud.”

Terry’s faculty mentor and associate professor of history, Catherine O’Donnell, wasn’t surprised to hear the internship was awarded to Terry. 

“Leah is a marvel: curious, hardworking and eager to contribute to every community of which she is a part,” said O’Donnell. “She will bring all of those traits, as well as the analytical skills she's developing as a history major, to bear in this terrific internship.”

Although the internship is not made specifically for history majors, Terry still sees her degree as important to the program.

“There’s a service aspect to it,” said Terry. “It’s so important to know the history of what’s around you. Growing up in Arizona, there was so much I didn’t know until coming to college, but it’s so important. Even just learning about the rhetoric of public policy through the years — it matters and it makes a difference.”