Student Success Internships: Summer on The Hill

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences encourages students to participate in internships that help them explore career options and acquire real-world experiences. In this Q & A, a student shares how his summer 2014 internship in the U.S. House of Representatives helped him gain new skills, knowledge and insights. His internship was made possible in part through the Latta Washington Internship Scholarship, created by alum Sandra Latta (Political Science ’84). Graham Dean is a senior majoring in political science. He is a member of the University Honors Program and is the 2014-15 NC State student government chief of staff.

How did you locate this internship? Last school year I interned under the NC State director of federal relations, Matt Peterson. During my time there, I had a lot of interaction with congressional staffers. When I decided I wanted to intern for Congress, I emailed one of the staffers about an application, and she put me in contact with their intern coordinator.

Describe the internship. I worked full-time for Congressman Howard Coble, of North Carolina’s 6th congressional district. My work ranged from answering the phone to giving tours to constituents. I spent most of my workday in the Rayburn House Office building, but I also spent a lot of time in judiciary committee hearings.

How do you feel the internship relates to your major, career goals and personal interests? This internship was something I had always wanted to do. As a senior in political science, I have taken quite a few classes about the federal legislative branch, but I have always been curious about how business is actually conducted on the Hill. I have plans to attend law school next fall, which made working for the chair of the subcommittee on courts, commercial, and administrative law all the more interesting. Being in D.C. also gave me the chance to network with interns from around the country with similar professional goals.

What did you learn? My internship gave me a lot of appreciation for the work that congressional staffers do behind the scenes. The amount of information coming into a congressional office every day is staggering, and it is up to these staffers to prioritize and manage everything to ensure productivity.

What were some of the challenges? Many of my challenges related to the logistics of this internship. The Capitol building complex is massive, and learning to move effectively between the buildings definitely takes time. While in D.C. I also took a class at the Duke Law Summer Institute, and balancing the case readings with full workdays was challenging.

What were some of the rewards? Interning on the Hill was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I had the chance to work hands-on with some really brilliant staff members, many of whom took time out of their day to teach me about their work. I also had the chance to hear a lecture from Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg, who came to speak to my Duke law class. I would suggest that all political science majors give interning on Capitol Hill a shot. I would like to thank the Latta Washington Internship Scholarship and University Honors Program for helping finance my time there.

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