Presidential Interns

Group Photo of Interns at the University of Utah

Presidential Internship in Higher Education Leadership Program

The University of Utah’s prestigious Presidential Internship in Higher Education Leadership, housed in the Office of the President, provides undergraduate students from diverse fields and backgrounds the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with President Ruth Watkins and other university administrators. This unique experience offers an insider’s look into the nuances and complexities of higher education. Through regular seminars and working alongside members of the administration, students learn about and engage in the challenges and opportunities facing the University, as well as American higher education in general. Students gain practical knowledge and skills that enrich their academic and social experiences, while also honing leadership skills and building a professional network. Since its inception in 1992, more than 150 students have participated in the Presidential Internship Program. For many, the experience was a catalyst to a career in higher education. Others have gone on to leadership and career opportunities in public administration, nonprofit organizations, business, civic and public service.

The Presidential Interns help to staff senior administrative offices and work on strategic projects designed to help advance the goals of the university, act as student representatives at various university functions and events, and attend weekly higher education leadership seminars hosted by executive leaders from the campus and larger community. In turn, the university administration benefits from student insight, perspective and collaboration in helping shape the exceptional educational experience at the University of Utah.

The Presidential Internship cohort selection involves an application and interview process conducted each spring. The program runs in conjunction with the academic year, August to May. It requires a commitment of 10-12 hours per week, including some evening and weekend hours assisting with events, and attending Wednesday leadership seminar meetings from 2-4pm. Two lead interns help facilitate and coordinate the presidential interns.

For more information, please email us at:


Ilham Batar

Ilham Batar

Ilham is currently serving as a lead presidential intern during her third year at the University of Utah. She is pursuing a degree in Biology with an emphasis in Anatomy and Physiology. Upon graduation, she hopes to continue her educational journey by attending Pharmacy school to obtain her PharmD. In addition to being a lead presidential intern, she also works as an undergraduate research assistant for the Lamb lab in the Department of Pathology at the U. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends as well as investing her time in volunteering and giving back to her community. She is very humbled to be able to serve as a lead for this year’s cohort and is looking forward to promoting the importance of higher education.

Ben Battistone

Ben Battisone

Ben is currently serving as a lead presidential intern during his third year at the University of Utah. He is pursuing an Honor’s Philosophy degree in preparation for a career as a medical scientist. Ben works as an undergraduate researcher in the McMahon Lab at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, studying pathway-based treatments for melanoma and gastrointestinal cancers. A Salt Lake City native, he enjoys being outside, playing his violin, and spending time with his family and friends. Ben is honored to help lead the current presidential interns cohort and is grateful for the opportunity to constructively express student perspectives to the University administration.

Michelle Valdes

Michelle Valdes

Michelle Valdes is ecstatic to serve as a presidential intern entering her third year at the University of Utah. She is an Honors student studying Writing and Rhetoric with a double minor in Business and Spanish. She is originally from small-town Moab, Utah. Along with her studies during her undergraduate career, she has been involved in several leadership roles on campus at the Associated Students of the University of Utah, the Bennion Center, and the Union Programming Council. She places a great importance on advocating for students as well as working for student engagement on campus. She hopes to bridge communication and involvement through different campus organizations and work to create an involved campus community. Michelle plans to attend law school and work towards policy changes that assist those who are underrepresented.

Jami Margaret Harvey

Jami Margaret Harvey

Jami is from the Utah portion of the Navajo reservation in San Juan County. Jami is a transfer student who earned her Associates of Science in Chemistry at Brigham Young University-Hawaii. She is entering her second semester at the University of Utah and has chosen to pursue a degree in Nursing while completing prerequisites for medical school. Jami is working to earn a degree so that she might return home to serve in a role that will bring awareness to the importance of early childhood development to her people and community. During the summer of 2019, Jami taught mathematics in the Math and Science for Minority Students, (MS)2 program at Phillips Andover Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. In her spare time, she enjoys singing, cross-stitching, playing the guitar or watching Call the Midwife. Jami enjoys the many opportunities that the University of Utah has to offer, and is excited to be a part of this year’s presidential interns cohort.

Milan Oxspring

Milan OxSpring

Milan is in his third year at the University of Utah as a student in the Honors College, double majoring in Kinesiology and Health, Society, and Policy. With primary interests in public health and human anatomy and physiology, he aspires to be a primary or preventive care physician to help improve community health and empower individuals to live healthier lives. Milan has been involved in a variety of extracurricular roles on campus such as a member of the Global Health Scholars, a human anatomy teaching assistant, and an undergraduate researcher studying diabetes and metabolism. However, he has really found a niche within Housing and Residential Education (HRE). In addition to positions on various boards and task forces within HRE, he serves as a resident advisor, National Residence Hall Honorary member, and as the current Executive Board Director of the Student Leader Council. Milan loves his responsibilities in supporting and advocating for students and is honored to expand his role in higher education while serving as a presidential intern. Milan is a native of Gilbert, Arizona and enjoys hiking, sports, traveling, and volunteering in the community.

Alexander Becraft

Alexander Becraft

Alexander is a junior at the University of Utah. He has designed his own degree within the purview of the Bachelor of University Studies Program, focused on positive and cognitive psychology, as well as social entrepreneurship. Alexander aspires to be an entrepreneur in the field of mental health and performance psychology and to pursue graduate studies to further this objective. Alexander has worked as a fellow with the American Dream Ideas Challenge, an innovation challenge housed at the U that seeks to improve economic mobility in Utah. Alexander is a trail-runner, mountain-biker, and an avid backcountry skier. He also writes and performs music: playing guitar, piano, and singing. He enjoys creative writing in mediums of poetry, prose, and essays on philosophy and the human experience.

Merry Ann Joseph

Merry Joseph

Merry is a senior at the University of Utah studying both Biomedical Engineering and Psychology and minoring in Chemistry. Throughout her time at the U, Merry has been actively involved in undergraduate research through the ACCESS program, which unearthed her interests in merging research with engineering and pursuing a medical career after graduation. As an international student, she is passionate about helping underrepresented students navigate higher education in the United States and volunteers as an International Student Ambassador and on the Council On Student Advancement. Merry enjoys singing, dancing Bharatanatyam (Indian classical dance), and spending time with her family and friends. She is thankful for the opportunity to serve as a presidential intern and is excited to learn from and work together with this year’s intern cohort. 

John Nixon Jr

John Nixon, Jr.

John is currently in his third year at the University of Utah, seeking an Honors degree in Operations and Supply Chain at the David Eccles School of Business. He has been heavily involved in the Business School as an Ambassador in the Business Scholars Program, as well as a student assistant to the director of Operations and Supply Chain major. He has also looked to broaden his horizons internationally, and in conjunction with Eccles Global has visited over 20 countries during his time at the U. Apart from his time at school, John works as a funeral home assistant at Larkin Mortuary. Originally from Salt Lake City, John is honored to be part of such a diverse and innovative cohort and hopes to represent the student body well in the Office of the President this year. 

Christa Ishimwe

Christa Ishimwe

Christa Ishimwe will be serving as a presidential intern during her third year at the University of Utah. She is seeking an Honors degree in Health, Society and Policy, with a minor in Nutrition, in preparation for a career in Global Health. In addition to her role as a presidential intern, she also serves as a Social Justice Advocate within Housing and Residential Education at The U. As an international student from Rwanda, Christa loves to travel and explore Salt Lake City, Utah and the U.S in general. She is very humbled and excited to serve on such an honorable cohort, and hopes to use this internship to create pathways to higher education for others from vulnerable communities. 

Sinndy Rios

Sinndy Rios

Sinndy is a junior pursuing an Honors degree in Political Science and Sociology. She was born in Chiquimula, Guatemala, and grew up in West Valley City, Utah. Sinndy completed a Hinckley internship in Washington, D.C. at Ibarra Strategy Group. She is also very involved on the U campus with the Beacon Leader (first-generation college student program), Involvement Ambassador, and Somos Dreamers where she helps provide pathways for undocumented students to pursue higher education. Upon graduation, Sinndy plans to attend law school to become an immigration or civil rights attorney so that she can use her education to advocate for underserved and undocumented populations.

Courtney McBeth

Courtney H. McBeth, Ed.D.

Dr. Courtney H. McBeth, special assistant to the president, directs the Presidential Internship in Higher Education Leadership Program, as well as other campus-wide higher education innovation projects, such as the new "Invest in U" income share agreement program. Courtney is the executive director of the American Dream Ideas Challenge, a community innovation challenge that seeks to improve economic mobility and strengthen Utah’s middle class. Courtney is an adjunct professor in the Eccles School of Business and teaches social entrepreneurship and innovation. During her undergraduate and master's degrees at the U, Courtney was a presidential intern for President Bernie Machen and played on the U's women’s soccer. She earned a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania. Courtney and her husband, Mitch, have three boys and are enthusiastic University of Utah fans.

Learn more about the Presidential Internship in
Higher Education Leadership Program