Washington Experience Gives Students Real-Life Political Experience through Internships
From the May 2013 Desktop News | For students with career aspirations in public service, there is no better place to see politics in action than in Washington, D.C. The Washington Experience, which is coordinated by the Department of Political Science under the direction of Dr. Michael New, annually connects students with internship opportunities in the Capitol. This year’s student internships represent 20 different congressional offices and political organizations.
According to New, the Washington Experience is a unique opportunity for students to enhance the knowledge they have gained in the classroom. Being in Washington, D.C. at the epicenter of U.S. politics is the best way to apply that knowledge to the real-life experience of politics. “There are some lessons that you can only learn by being there,” he said.
Internships also provide students with the chance to try out a career in politics for a short time to determine if it is a career they want to pursue. Even if they don’t end up going into public service, the experience they gain while being there is something that will stay with them for a lifetime, New said.
Erin Armstrong, a senior from Islandia, New York; will be interning at the Center for American Progress, which is an independent educational institute that works on progressive policies for energy, national security, economic, immigration, education, and health care issues. Armstrong, who is a double major in political science and journalism, sees this opportunity to combine her two interests of politics and media.
“I’m excited about the chance to work on real policy and help promote ideas that I think are valuable,” she said. “I’m expecting a quick-paced environment with a lot of things going on. I expect deadlines and big ideas and feeling like I’m working on something important.”
She also knows that her experience in Washington will have an impact on her future education at UA. “I think being in an environment with decision-makers is definitely going to change the way I see things and the way I form arguments and opinions. I am taking what I’ve learned so far and applying it to real work and real discussions that have a chance at actually becoming policy, there aren’t really any words for it,” Armstrong said.
Danielle Dubose, a junior from Birmingham, will be interning at Heritage Action for America, a division of the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation. The organization primarily handles government relations and has lobbying capabilities in Congress. As an accounting and political science double major, Dubose said she is excited to get some practical experience related to her interest in finances and politics.
“I’m also really excited to be working at an organization that is working toward a goal and a cause, instead of just doing administrative work,” she said. In addition to learning more about the mission of the organization, Dubose also hopes to improve her research, reading, and writing skills during her internship.
Claire Chretien, a junior from McLean, Va., will be interning with the Susan B. Anthony List, a political organization that emphasizes the election, education, promotion, and mobilization of pro-life women in Congress. Chretien was interested in working for the organization because of her interest in pro-life activism. As the president of the Bama Students for Life organization, Chretien hopes the experience will help her learn more about the pro-life movement and the legislative processes aimed at protecting life.
In addition to responsibilities at their internships, student participating in the Washington Experience also have weekly events that include meetings with congressional delegations and other chances to discuss their experiences in the field. Since it is the summer, New says he tries to incorporate social events that complement the youth outreach and programming that happens in Washington, D.C. such as attending a Washington Nationals game.