Green Mountain grad takes flight with internship at Air & Space Museum

ON THE COVER: Laura and a member of the Blue Crew assist a visitor at the National Air and Space Museum. // Photos courtesy National Air & Space Museum

By Andy Jackins

Laura Hofmann, the 2011 salutatorian at Green Mountain Union High and current Middlebury College junior, is spending 10 weeks in the nation’s capital after landing a highly competitive internship at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

The daughter of state library consultant Amy Howlett of Chester, and math professor William Hofmann of Grafton, was competing for one of 38 slots in the Smithsonian Summer Internship Program against about 400 other applicants nationwide.

As a Smithsonian intern, Hofmann was granted a $5,500 stipend and a chance to immerse herself in the operations of the second most visited museum on Earth, which had 8.3 million visitors in 2010. (The Louvre is No. 1 with 8.5 million visitors.)

Laura Hofmann, 2011 salutatorian from GMUHS and a Middlebury College student, is spending the summer interning at the Air and Space Museum in D.C.//Photos provided.

Laura Hofmann, 2011 salutatorian from GMUHS and a Middlebury College student, is spending the summer interning at the Air and Space Museum in D.C.

Priya Menzies, visitor services coordinator at the space museum who helped interview potential interns, says that “Hofmann’s personality and enthusiasm made it very clear to us that she’d fit, not only doing the work involved, but also as a member of our team.”

Hofmann also gets to experience an urban environment for the first time in her life after spending the first 20 in bucolic Vermont. “I’ve always pictured myself living in Vermont later in life,” she says, “but I want to do some exploring before I settle down and I’ve really been enjoying D.C., attending baseball games at both Nationals Stadium and Camden Yards, museums, monuments, parks and really delicious restaurants.”

Her internship duties within the Visitor Services Department include, “interacting with visitors and coordinating a volunteer base of 360 people many of which are retirees or veterans,” she says, adding that growing up in Grafton — where, according to the 2010 Census, the median age is 50 — helped her to easily connect with her older colleagues.

In addition to working with seniors and visitors, Hofmann’s work also involves museum education programming. She says she plans on “pursuing a career in museum education. … (It)  ties together my interest in working with people with my interest in teaching and education. I spent the other day revamping teacher packets that provide suggested activities for class visits.”

This fall, Hofmann enters her junior year at Middlebury College, where she is majoring in sociology-anthropology with a double minor in  history and elementary education. She plans on student teaching during the spring semester of her senior year and receiving her Vermont Elementary Educators License upon graduating. Hofmann is also member of the Rugby Club Team, American Sign Language Club and substitute teaches regularly at a nearby Catholic school.

Tips for college success

When asked what advice she might have for college-bound graduates from GMUHS Class of 2013, Hofmann emphasized the importance of connecting with professors, establishing social ties through joining organizations and making checklists to stay on top of what can be an overwhelming college workload.

Says Hofmann, “There is much less hand-holding in college than in high school. What’s helped me is keeping a weekly checklist and I think it’s important for others to find a way to become comfortable with the college workload and not become overwhelmed, take the newfound independence to be productive and to stay on top of things.”

Hofmann spoke fondly of the strong English Department at GMUHS, saying she, “gained much needed experience as a writer and an understanding of the writing process,” skills that Hofmann says are extremely valuable when it comes to applying for internship and scholarship opportunities.

She says, “Students should apply to everything — it takes a lot of time, and it’s almost like applying for colleges — but there are so many different opportunities. I’ve applied to 10 different internships this summer alone.”

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