Presidential Interns

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:


Merry Joseph

Merry is a senior at the University of Utah studying both biomedical engineering and psychology and minoring in chemistry. As an international student who immigrated to the U.S. with her family, Merry is passionate about helping underrepresented students access and navigate higher education. She serves as an international student ambassador captain and is on the U’s Council on Student Access. While at the U, Merry has also been involved in research through the ACCESS program, which unearthed her interests in becoming a physician-scientist. Merry aspires to reduce health disparities in communities of color through data science or bioinformatics research. To relax, she enjoys singing at her local church and spending time with her family and friends. She is thankful for the opportunity to lead this year’s Presidential Intern cohort and wants to learn from and work with fellow interns to bridge students’ needs to the university administration.

Sinndy Rios

Sinndy is currently serving as a Lead Presidential Intern during her senior year at the University of Utah. She is pursuing an Honors bachelor’s degree in political science and sociology. She was born in Chiquimula, Guatemala, and grew up in West Valley City, Utah. She enjoys being involved on the U campus, and currently serves as a Supreme Court Justice with ASUU and as a member of Somos Dreamers where she helps provide pathways for undocumented students to pursue higher education. Sinndy also served as a First-Generation Scholars leader and involvement ambassador, and completed a Hinckley internship in Washington, D.C., at Ibarra Strategy Group. 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.

Veronica Aponte

Veronica is a First Ascent Scholar and junior at the University of Utah double majoring in business and international studies. Originally from Cabimas, Venezuela, Veronica is very passionate about the Latinx community and advocating for others outside of her own community. Throughout her time at the U, Veronica has obtained various leadership and mentorship roles in ALPFA, BLinc. and Business Scholars. She also interned at the Women’s Resource Center during her freshman year. In her free time, Veronica enjoys traveling, helping her mom’s small business, sports, dancing and volunteering. Veronica’s post-graduation plans are to pursue a law degree encompassing her focus on Latin American and other countries’ economic development. She aspires to utilize her education to advocate and help countries going through humanitarian and unsustainable injustices around the world. Veronica is beyond thankful to be a part of this year's cohort and to serve as a representative for the U and higher education.

Ean Bigelow

Ean is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish with a minor in pediatric medical research. Ean completed an internship with the health care strategy firm Leavitt Partners and is currently a medical interpreter for hospitals around the Salt Lake Valley. Eventually, he plans to become a pediatrician and open a family clinic. Ean is passionate about local politics, education and health care. In his spare time, he enjoys podcasting, canoeing and collecting vinyl records. He is very excited and grateful to be a part of this cohort and to serve his fellow students.

Emily Black

Emily is a senior pursuing an Honors finance degree with a minor in economics. Throughout her time at the U, she has been heavily involved in the David Eccles School of Business as an Eccles ambassador, Goff scholar and peer advisor. She has enjoyed the opportunity of mentoring other business students and working on solving strategic business challenges through these programs. She has also spent time working for Housing & Residential Education as a front desk assistant, the Office of Orientation & Transition as a Swoop Camp captain, and Utah Athletics as a marketing intern. Emily is honored to be a part of this cohort and is grateful for the opportunity to expand her knowledge of higher education by serving as a Presidential Intern.

Debora Brito de Andrade

Debora Brito de Andrade is serving as a Presidential Intern during her senior year at the University of Utah. She is pursuing Honors degrees in health, society and policy and Spanish, with a minor in chemistry, in preparation for a career as a physician. She is originally from a small town in Bahia, Brazil. During her undergraduate career, she has been actively involved in the LEAP program both as a Health Sciences student and a peer advisor for LEAP Health Professions courses. She places great importance on mentorship and has been a mentor to freshmen through the Office of Orientation & Transition. Debora established the student organization International Health Scholars in order to learn about global health ethics and give its members opportunities to partake in medical mission trips. During her spare time, Debora enjoys being outside, dancing, watercolor painting and spending time with family and friends. Debora is very grateful and thrilled to work with this year’s cohort in the Office of the President and hopes to advocate for other students and student organizations.

Preston Hadley

Preston is excited to work with motivated students from many different backgrounds at the University of Utah. He has 9 siblings and has lived all over Davis and Weber counties. He is studying quantitative analysis of markets and organizations, developing his interests in statistics, intersections between economics and healthcare, and the impact of scarcity on quality of care. In addition to his role with the President’s Office, Preston volunteers at the Zelikowsky Lab at the School of Medicine studying social isolation, fear and neurobiology. His interest in mental health stems from previous jobs caring for youth with mental health disorders. His goal after graduation is to be a primary care physician. As a Presidential Intern, Preston is dedicated to minimizing mental health stigmas, promoting academic development and creating opportunities for students from marginalized backgrounds. In his free time, he enjoys basketball, football and listening to hip hop and country music (especially Taylor Swift). A campus food connoisseur, Preston loves a Lassonde chicken basket paired with a cold Dr. Pepper during late-night study sessions.

Alejandro Sanchez

Alejandro is a third-year student currently pursuing a degree in political science and international studies with an emphasis in foreign relations. Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, his native language is Spanish. Since his freshman year, Alejandro has been actively involved in several leadership roles, from the Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU) to Union Programming Council (UPC), Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute and the Hinckley Institute where he interned in the Washington, D.C., office of Sen. Mitt Romney during spring 2020. During his free time, Alejandro volunteers at the Huntsman Cancer Foundation and is an active member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity at the University of Utah. After graduation, Alejandro plans to either pursue a master’s degree in foreign relations and counterterrorism or an international law degree to become an ambassador to the United Nations or for the United States.

Sabah Sial

Sabah is a third-year student at the University of Utah, purusing an Honors finance degree. At the U, she works as an involvement ambassador with Student Leadership & Involvement and serves as the chief justice of the Supreme Court of ASUU. Sabah completed Hinckley internships with Erin Mendenhall’s campaign for Salt Lake City mayor, as well as the Salt Lake County Mayor’s Office for New Americans. Sabah also participated in the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Case Competition, along with a team of five other students, which ultimately led her to pursuing a degree in business. After her undergraduate studies, Sabah plans on attending law school. Sabah is passionate about ensuring that every U student has an exceptional college experience. She’s excited to serve as a Presidential Intern this year.

Alvin Tsang

Alvin is a senior at the University of Utah pursuing an Honors degree in quantitative analysis of markets and organizations (QAMO) with minors in computer science and advanced financial analysis. Prior to this internship, Alvin interned at the Sorenson Impact Center, a local nonprofit organization that provides research, consulting services and venture capital to social impact institutions; the Student Investment Fund, an $850,000 student-run portfolio; and Guidehouse, a management consulting firm that consults for commercial and public sector entities. He is currently an undergraduate research assistant for QAMO and is a resident advisor for Housing & Residential Education. Upon graduation, Alvin hopes to find a career in management consulting where he hopes to help pro-bono clients and education entities create social impact. He is grateful to be a part of the Presidential Intern cohort and hopes to bring his experience to prioritizing student outcomes in higher education, while learning about the administrative processes of the university.

Learn more about the Presidential Internship in
Higher Education Leadership Program