Capitol Hill GU Interns Gain Political Experience
August 8, 2011 – As the August recess begins for Congress after a long battle on the debt ceiling, Georgetown students are wrapping up successful summer internships on Capitol Hill.
“It has been incredibly busy and exciting because of the current budget battle,” says Luke Navarro (MSB’14), who worked in the office of Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.). “I have enjoyed watching the hearings and debates as it all unfolds.”
Students and university leaders say working in a representative or senator’s office provides a unique behind-the-scenes view of how the United States government operates.
“[Students] learn a great deal about how the process truly works,” says Scott Fleming (F’72), associate vice president for federal relations at Georgetown, who interned for Sen. Stuart Symington (D-Mo.) during his own undergraduate years. “It adds reality and practicality to their academic work on campus.”
the Political Arena
Rachel Park (SFS’13) worked in the office of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House.
“As a person genuinely drawn to the political arena, I was planning on interning at the Hill as soon I stepped in D.C. and Georgetown,” Park says.
The international politics major called working in Ros-Lehtinen’s office an “unbelievably terrific” experience as she gained “an insider’s perspective on the legislative process” and familiarized herself with foreign affairs issues.
Capitol Hill interns interact with a wide range of individuals.
“I worked with [Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.)] legislative assistant in foreign affairs and a military fellow from the Marine Corps on defense policy,” says Dane Shikman (SFS’13), an international politics major.
Shikman, who also attended the Senate confirmation hearings for Gen. David Petraeus as CIA director, says his internship gave him a sense of the “back-channel things that the rest of the American constituents aren’t privy to” if they aren’t on the Hill.
For those constituents that do visit Washington, D.C., Feinstein’s office hosts 200 California citizens at a weekly breakfast with the senator.
“The interns are the ones who are really helping run that behind the scenes,” he says.
Interns’ duties range from answering the office phone, clipping newspaper stories and researching items for aides to writing memos, attending congressional hearings and giving tours.
Fleming says that a “collaborative and cooperative” mentality is essential for interns to succeed and that interns willing to do whatever work is handed to them are also given interesting opportunities and exposed to great experiences along the way.
"As interns, we answer phone calls from everyone from constituents to organizations to other elected officials," says Amelia Kao (C’14), who worked in the office of Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.). "It is our job to send these calls along to the appropriate person or take down their information and pass it along."
Just answering phone calls in the office can be rewarding, the students explain.
“This gives you so much insight as to what ordinary citizens feel about huge issues,” Park says. She agrees that being proactive and asking supervisors for projects lead to a successful and challenging tenure.
According to Fleming, more than 200 Georgetown alumni work on Capitol Hill, with a good number of them starting their careers as interns.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that [Capitol Hill internships] are something the Georgetown students get to do more readily than students elsewhere across the country, ” says Fleming
Those one-of-a-kind opportunities are one factor that draw students to the university, he says.
“This experience is exactly why I chose Georgetown,” says Kao. “Nowhere else can students have the experience of working with those in government who directly shape policy on a national scale.”