15August2011

The Capitol Hill Litmus Test

Posted by njreck13 under: Summer 2011.

At the start of the summer, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. I had never worked in an office, let alone a Washington office, and I had never spent any time in DC. But as a government major, I could not turn down the opportunity to work for a Senator. This summer became the litmus test for my prospective government career: Can I work a 9-6 job? Can I live in DC? Will I enjoy the pace of Capitol Hill? The answer to those questions rang out a resounding yes.

I need to offer a quick caveat. The Senator’s press office was less than thrilled to hear that I was blogging about my job, and as a policy would not allow me to divulge the inner-workings of the office, or even the Senator’s name. The best I can do is say that I worked for a Democratic Senator in DC, and write about my more general experiences. However, through a bit of luck I was able to extend my internship into another office, and later will be able to write candidly about my internship on the House side.

In this first entry, I’ll write about the general workday and DC Life. In the next entry I will talk about some of the cooler things that I got to do while working in the Senator’s office. And in the last entry I will explain how my work with the Senator got me an internship with Congressman Barney Frank, the differences I saw between the House and Senate, and my general takeaway from the summer.

I love DC, and I really enjoy working on the Hill. Whereas metro rides during the beginning summer mornings are full of wide-eyed interns, by the middle of July, most have caught the blank stare of the daily commuter. That being said, despite the rut of routine, the excitement of walking to work past the Library of Congress, Supreme Court, and Capitol Building does not fade.

While Congress is in session, the workday is 9-6. Yet, the convention of an office schedule belies the incredible variety in the day-to-day work. The day can consist of any number of general, grunt-work intern tasks. For example, sorting mail is a staple in the day of the office intern. We also work the autopen whenever something comes through the office that needs to be signed. The autopen is a machine that can create an exact duplicate of the Senator’s signature. In turn, interns are often sent to other congressional offices to obtain signatures of intent on behalf of the office.  It was on such an errand that I nearly knocked Senator John McCain flat on his back. I turned a corner too quickly and almost bowled him over. He was very nice about the near incident, and all parties emerged unscathed. It is such high-profile encounters, not uncommon in the Senate office buildings, that made otherwise menial tasks so engaging.

In addition to these basic tasks, we are also assigned more interesting assignments depending on the needs of the staffers. The Senator’s office boasts an extensive staff, filling room after room down the hall. The administrative staff handles all the office paperwork and supplies, mans the front desk phones, and manages the employees. The legislative staff splits between Legislative Correspondents who handle constituent mail, and Legislative Assistants that work more closely in shaping the Senator’s legislative agenda. Outside of these positions is an entire legal and press staff to handle specific wording and all media attention. Additionally, the Senator has a personal staff of special assistants and a Chief of Staff.

The interns work most closely with the LCs, and thus, any substantive work that we received came from these staffers. For instance, I enjoyed composing Dear Colleague letters requesting action from other Senators, and letters that responded to particular constituent issues. We also would attend hearings and briefings and submit memos to the appropriate staffer to keep the office up to date. It was through these briefings that I learned the most about policy and how the Hill conducts business.

No two days were the same. The routine of each morning and the consistent hours were much easier to swallow when the same hours were spent differently every day. It also doesn’t hurt knowing that Georgetown waits after close of business. I’m not a city guy at heart, but DC won me over with its work-hard play-hard mantra. There was always some free activity going on around the city, like movie showings or softball on the Washington Mall. But more often than not the fun to be had came with a hefty price tag—particularly debilitating to the unpaid intern.

Now that I’ve slogged through the basics, the next entry will be on some of the more memorable things I got to do through the internship. A quick preview: meeting both the current and a former Secretary of State, hearing a Supreme Court Justice speak, greeting foreign dignitaries and Heads of State, and taking a peak inside the candy-filled desk on the Senate floor.

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15August2011

Bye!!

Posted by elsaphant under: Summer 2011.

Well, as  I sit here on the porch in North Carolina at the beach, I can finally say it’s summer vacation! My internship at the Truman National Security Project concluded on Thursday, and yesterday I moved out of our apartment in DC. I can’t believe it’s all over–it literally feels like I was just getting lost on my way to my first day of work! The summer has been extremely education for me. In May, before I began my internship, I had my future plans all laid out: I would graduate, join the Peace Corps, and then go to law school for human rights law. Now, I have no idea, but I think that’s a good thing because with such a rigid plan, it’s easy to miss spontaneous opportunities. I learned a lot of little things through the process: how to write a radio ad, how to write an op-ed (& get it published!), and even how to live in a city. I knew very little about political communication when I started my internship, and even though I’m far from an expert, I’ve really learned more than I could have imagined, and I have to thank the Truman Project for giving me that opportunity. I think my favorite part of my internship though was meeting the Truman community. Everyone was so inspiring–they work in areas they’re passionate about and make real and actual change. And everyone was so willing to help me–a 20 year old girl with nothing to offer in return. I met so many people who taught me so much about their area of expertise, and I also met people who challenged the way I think and the way I thought my future would play out. They’ve given me amazing advice that I’m sure will benefit me throughout my career. I’m not sure where I’ll be in 5 years, or even where I’ll be in 5 months, but my time at Truman has showed me that’s ok and maybe even preferable! One thing I do know is that in 16 days I’ll be in Buenos Aires for the semester and I can’t wait!

Thanks for reading my blogs!

Elsa

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9August2011

Internet Based Health

Posted by tedeatley18 under: Summer 2011.

Upon conclusion of my sophomore year, I found the major I declared a drastic change from the international relations major I planned on pursuing the beginning of my freshmen year. I quickly concluded that international relations was not where I was headed, and subsequently considered a number of options. The second half of my sophomore year, I created my own Public Health major. While excited about my declaration, I was concerned that it was late in the game to secure an internship for the summer. I applied to work for the District of Columbia Department of Health, UNAIDS, and several other health organizations.

Ultimately, my persistence paid off. I contacted the Jeanie Schmidt free health clinic in my hometown of Herndon, VA. I thought the clinic could always use additional summer help. My application process included a standard application and an interview. Fortunately, one of the doctors working for the clinic needed interns to help collect data for a new website. The website, DiabetesLocal.org, launched at a wellness conference this past weekend. Diabetes Local is literally a local search engine for individuals who suffer from type of 1 and type 2 diabetes. The search engine provides end point locations for medical assistance, healthy eating venues, exercise groups/clubs and nutritional and mental health assistance.

Depending on the individual suffering with diabetes the disease can come from a variety of sources. This site addresses issues that men and women struggle with which are related to diabetes, such as weight, diet, lifestyle, ect., and lists places in the area that work with people struggling with the disease. The theory behind the website is to provide exact end point locations and contacts. For example, there is a Farmers marker in Herndon which is a great source for vegetables and fruit. The individual who organizes the market is the contact person on our webpage. The person can be used as a clearinghouse for important information, and vice versa, such as any change in calendar or location. This change of information would then be reflected on the web site. The interns and doctors associated with the clinic think that this will maintain the site’s ability to stay “live” and keep information current. Right now the interns add all the data, and find all the  venues. However, as time goes on the goal of the website is to have the individuals running the events or participating in them as a source, keep the data current. Ultimately, the flexibility of the website to constantly update information will keep both the clinic and the users of the site engaged. The website is simple. With a zip code, one is only a click away from receiving contact information, a description of activities, services, and meeting times. The goal is to provide information which can be used to foster health lifestyle choices.

I am currently gathering medical information on the state of Tennessee. I will update you on how the conference went in which the website was showcased. Both the motto for this search engine and the answer to my internship worries coincidentally stem back to the same concept: Going local is always the best way to start.

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9August2011

All is politics in this capital –Thomas Jefferson

Posted by elsaphant under: Summer 2011.

Last week was definitely a week I won’t forget. On Wednesday my boss scored some VIP tix to Obama’s birthday celebration. No, I didn’t get to go (they were 21+), but it all started a crazy chain of events. My boss only had 2 tickets for about 5 interns who wanted to go, so the rest of us who couldn’t go decided to make the most of the evening. It just so happened that Politico was having an event for summer interns, so we decided to make an appearance. I was determined to meet Mike Allen, the author of the Playbook, who wakes up at some ungodly hour to keep as all informed on everything, literally, that’s happening in Washington. We also hoped there might be some free food (there wasn’t, but there were free t-shirts and newspapers!). Anyway, we got to the Newseum where the event was being held, and it was PACKED! I wasn’t sure that we’d even find seats despite the fact that we’d pre-registered. Luckily, we managed to get some seats, and it turned out this whole event was a pretty huge production. We were all in a TV studio and the event was being broadcasted live on politico.com and similar events were taking place all over the country. They had a pretty great line-up for panelists: Sergio Rodriguera who is a speechwriter for Eric Cantor, Chuck Todd of NBC, and William and Mary alumna and Deputy White House Communications Director Jen Psaki! When they opened up to the audience for questions, I knew what I wanted to ask. I’d been brainstorming all day! I wanted to ask the panelists opinions on the best way to close an internship so that the relationships you’ve built can be maintained in the future. I told the guy with the mic that that’s what I wanted to ask, and I thought all was going to be fine. Except when 1 minute before I was going to ask the question. I was handed a note that said, “Your question has to be policy based and about one of these 5 issues: environment, economy, jobs or debt.” My question did not relate to any of those, so it was back to the drawing board. I didn’t think I could come up with a question, but at the last minute I managed to scrounge something up, and I asked about compromising in Washington in light of the recent compromises on the debt limit and energy standards. I was so nervous I don’t even know how people responded. But that’s ok, because it’s archived forever on politico.com. Actually, you should check it out!

http://www.politico.com/events/politico-summer-school/ I come in at minute 38!

And, to top off the evening, I finally got to meet Mike Allen!

4 days left in the capital,

Elsa

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9August2011

Interning at the Department of Justice in the Office of Public Affairs

Posted by Jill Olszewski under: Summer 2011.

Interns from the Office of Public Affairs talk with the Attorney General
Interns from the Office of Public Affairs talk with the Attorney General

I cannot believe that July is over and that I have been an intern in the Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs (DOJ PAO) for more than six months! As the saying goes, “time flies when you are having fun!” Regardless, I should probably take a moment or two to introduce myself and explain how I became a DOJ PAO intern in the first place.

For those of you who do not know me, my name is Jill Olszewski and I am a rising senior at the College majoring in Government and Public Health. I have absolutely loved my time at the College and I am very excited to see what my final year in the burg has in store. However, that’s neither here nor there.

Last spring I participated in the William & Mary in Washington Program. The program, which I’d highly recommend, offers William & Mary students the opportunity to simultaneously intern and take classes with a W & M professor in Washington, DC (As a quick side note and shameless plug – for more detailed information on the program and upcoming themes, check out the W & M in Washington website!)

It is important to note that the theme of the Washington program not only varies each semester, but also – to a large degree – dictates the type of internship that a student in the program may accept. Last spring, the theme of the semester, taught by Government Professor Dan Doherty, was “Media as the Fourth Branch of Government.” As a result, my classmates and I were able to apply to, and accept, any internship that directly or indirectly related to the Media and the “Government-Press” connection.

Despite the many internship options that DC affords college students, I decided to accept an internship with DOJ PAO. The PAO internship is designed for undergraduate students who have an interest in understanding the roles of, and gaining first hand experience in, a government communications office. The application process was simple, and consisted of nothing more than sending a cover letter and resume to the intern coordinator at DOJ PAO by November 1st (the Spring application due date). Surprisingly, two days after I sent in my application, the intern coordinator contacted me to schedule an interview. Even more impressive was the fact that only one week after my interview, I found out that I had been selected as a Spring 2011 intern and the less-simple process of getting me cleared to intern with DOJ began.

All things considered, my internship with DOJ PAO has been nothing less than spectacular – perhaps the best testament to my internship experience is the fact that I decided to extend my spring 2011 internship into the summer. From interviews and press conferences with the Attorney General, Assistant Attorneys General, and other government officials, to assisting press officers with media inquiries and drafting and editing media advisories, press releases and speeches, my internship with the Office of Public Affairs has given me an insider’s perspective into the roles and responsibilities of a government press office and its spokespersons.

While some days are undoubtedly busier than others, I think it is safe to say that each and every day at PAO offers a new and exciting experience. For one thing, you never know who will be at the other end of the line (top of my list – George Stephanopoulos), who you will see walking the halls (Attorney General Eric Holder and Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division Christine Varney, for example), or what lessons you will learn from the incredibly talented and experienced PAO personnel (more to come on that later). I would encourage anyone who is interested in communications, the relationship between the media and government agencies, or a public sector career to consider interning with DOJ PAO in the future (more information on DOJ’s internship opportunities here); and, I hope you enjoy reading about some of my summer 2011 internship experiences.

Until next time – Happy Interning W & M!

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26July2011

The Entire Experience

Posted by anirae under: Summer 2011.

Interning in Washington, D.C. provides many opportunities outside of the office.  Various events and activities around the city greatly influenced my experience this summer.

In particular, the W&M Summer Events Program provided ways to network and see the district. Over the course of the summer, I attended several of the program’s 13 events, and a few of my favorite events are described below:

Careers in Law: One evening, the program hosted a Careers in Law Panel and Reception at a D.C. law firm.  Several graduates from W&M Law and the Assistant Dean of Admissions discussed various elements of law school.  In particular, the panel addressed the decision to attend law school, the application process, the format of classes, and student loans.  Afterwards, students were invited to a attend a reception with law school alumni.  The alumni were happy to discuss their law school experience and career paths. I appreciated hearing straight-forward and useful advice about attending law school.

Capitol Hill Lunch: Later in the summer, the program invited students to eat lunch with capitol hill employees.  A few students joined UPS executives, hill staffers, and lobbyists to discuss working on Capitol Hill.  I found it interesting to learn about successful graduates’ career paths; it is reassuring to know that no single career path leads to success and that each path allows for changes in interests or taking advantage of unexpected opportunities.

Supreme Court Tour: The behind-the-scenes tour of the Supreme Court was, by far, my favorite summer program event.  I am fascinated by the Court, including the Justices and the decisions they render.  The tour took students to rooms typically closed to the public, and the tour guide, a W&M graduate, provided an interesting narrative throughout the tour.  Most memorable was standing the East Conference room where Associate Justice Sotomayor was sworn in.

These events illustrate a few of the many opportunities that have enriched my summer in the capitol.

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26July2011

Interning at Americans United

Posted by anirae under: Summer 2011.

Hello, my name is Ani-Rae.  I’m a rising junior at the College, majoring in Government and Law and Language.  I’m from rural Colorado, but this summer, I’m interning in our nation’s capitol.

Specifically, I’m working as a legal undergraduate intern at Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  Americans United is a non-profit agency committed to maintaining the “wall of separation” between the government and religion.  The litigation and legislative advocacy conducted by Americans United relate to my interests in government, law, and civil liberties.

Knowing my interests, a Government Department professor suggested I look into an internship at Americans United.  I applied for the internship by submitting a resume, cover letter, and writing sample.  I also interviewed for the position over the phone.

When I began my internship, the Americans United legal department was incredibly busy; the organization was representing an agnostic family in a lawsuit against a Texas school district in order to prevent prayers at an upcoming graduation ceremony.  The office was a blur of activity with attorneys collecting facts, composing briefs, and preparing for oral argument.  I quickly learned some legal terminology and court procedures while completing various case-related tasks.  Read more about the lawsuit here.

Often, I conduct preliminary research of programs and organizations that challenge the separation of church and state, so Americans United can sends letters encouraging groups to discontinue certain practices.

So far, the projects I have completed have provided me with a valuable opportunity to learn more about a field I am interested in.  Interning is only part of my experience in Washington, D.C., though.  Discussion panels, monument tours, and restaurant meals are another way to experience the city.  But, more on that in my next blog post.

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26July2011

Interning in VA-5

Posted by mlcrews under: Summer 2011.

This summer I am interning for my Congressman, Robert Hurt, in one of his district offices located in Danville, Virginia. While I knew I wanted to intern for my Congressman, working at a district office rather than his DC office seemed to be the perfect fit for me because I am able to live at home and work at my summer job to earn extra cash (since the internship is unpaid). I do have to drive about an hour to and from the Danville office which is where the Irwin Taylor Scholarship comes in handy! Thanks to the generosity provided by the scholarship I am able to make the long drive and not have to worry about the high gas prices!

The application and selection process was rather simple for this internship. I applied back in February as I started to wonder what I should do the summer of my junior year. I was called in for an interview the week I was home for spring break and anxiously waited until about the middle of April for an answer! I finally heard back and I would begin work when I returned home for the summer. I was nervous but also excited for my first day of work in the world of politics!

So far I have worked 9 weeks for Congressman Hurt.  And while I have yet to officially meet Mr. Hurt, I’ve had an awesome time working with his constituent case workers in the office. First of all everyone is EXTREMELY nice! The ladies that I work with have taught me so much in the short amount of time, and I admire how hard they work at helping people in our district. I was unsure about what I would be doing as an intern in the Danville office; however, I was surprised to find out that the office is entirely devoted to helping the people who live in our district with problems ranging from Veterans Affairs to Social Security. Every day I am overwhelmed by how tough times are for people, especially in our district which in is rural Virginia, but it is always rewarding when we are able to help constituents!

I feel very lucky to be interning here and very thankful to William and Mary and generous donors for making it possible. I fell like my experiences this summer will be useful in my classes in the fall which are approaching quickly, as I can apply some of the invaluable knowledge I’ve gained on the operations of Congressional District Offices.  As I’ve gotten a small glimpse of the “real world” this summer I think back at how well William and Mary has prepared me by providing me with a well-rounded education, but I also think forward to all the bright possibilities that my future could hold.

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26July2011

Tweeting at Truman

Posted by elsaphant under: Summer 2011.

“Tough & responsible decision-Truman CEO @RachelKleinfeld reacts to Obamas #drawdown strategy in @DemJournal http://t.co/ywMJwRG #Afghanistan

Above is the text of a tweet I sent from the Truman National Security Project account several days ago. One of my responsibilities at Truman is to man the Twitter–a great task for someone like me who uses Twitter all the time. Everyday, I am in charge of creating a “Tweet of the Day”–a punchy, 140-character message that is sent out to all our followers and retreated by every staff member. Often times this focuses on an achievement of one of the Truman Fellows or Partners, or, like in the case above, a staff member herself.

I applied to be a Communications Intern at Truman National Security Project over winter break when a request for applications was sent out over several William and Mary list-servs. I decided to apply by sending a resume and writing samples, and was soon asked to come to DC for an interview. Since I was going to DC anyway, I met up with Dave Solimini, communications director and W&M alumnus, and Laura Britton, the press secretary. After the interview, I was extremely nervous–I hadn’t expected them to challenge my thesis from my writing sample that I had written nearly a year prior or to speak with me so candidly about their work and opinions. Nevertheless, I must have done something right, because a few weeks later, I was hired.

I began my work at Truman right after finals because the organization was prepping for their annual conference, which requires vast amounts of time and effort, and they needed as much help as they could get. Attending the conference was a great introduction to the organization–I got to hear about their values, meet members of the organization, and, the highlight–see Leon Panetta speak!

Since the conference, I have settled into a more regular role in the office, consisting of social media representation, such as the Twitter page, but also Facebook and Truman’s own website (www.trumanproject.org) I also have been conducting research on presidential candidates’ foreign policies, reporters in key states who we might contact to create a greater Truman media presence, and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Furthermore, I have written a few op-eds, which can serve as writing samples in the future.

Thus far, I have truly enjoyed my time at Truman. With only a month left, I am hoping to maximize my time by meeting with more Fellows and continuing to advocate a progressive approach national security.

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26July2011

A Day at Talk Radio News Service

Posted by vanessaremmers under: Summer 2011.

The summer of 2011 thus far has included riding on the Senate Subway beneath the Capitol Building; being with several feet of Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and current Speaker of the House John Boehner; watching fireworks against the backdrop of the Washington Monument and, of course, writing furiously. I was selected to participate in the Institute of Political Journalism for eight weeks in Washington, DC. The Institute is part of a larger non-profit organization called the Fund for American Studies, which requires students to enroll in three classes and complete an internship. The application process was open to both national and international students, and 80 students were selected by an admissions committee which read our resumes, recommendations, transcripts, topical essays on the state of journalism, and the most pervasive social problem of our time. From 9-5, I go to work at Talk Radio News Service, where I am typically assigned to cover through audio, video and by article a Congressional event. News organizations such as BBC and ABC are clients of Talk Radio News Service, who subscribe to our service and can take news content from the website to contribute to their articles, radio stations, or TV shows. My favorite events so far have been covering a hearing run by Sen. Bernie Sanders on oil speculation, reporting on the speeches of Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner,  and chasing Senate Republicans down with other reporters during a stakeout and asking whether they think the budget deadline will be a reality. At night, I attend one of three classes: Journalism Ethics, Microeconomics, and my Internship Seminar which brings in reporters to discuss their experience in journalism and how to survive in  the media world today. While some nights I can barely drag myself into bed, I would not trade this opportunity in for any other.

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