Tag Archives: Washington

Student Voices – How my internship in Washington, D.C. made me realize something: our government is run by people

Honors Students away from campus for study abroad, co-ops, or internships are encouraged to write about their experiences to share them with the Honors community. In the post below, Abby Spiegelman ’18 shares her biggest lesson from interning in Washington, D.C.

– By Abigail Spiegelman

My name is Abby Spiegelman and I’m a senior University Studies major with a concentration in Biomedical Science. Two summers ago, I had the privilege of interning for Congressman Bill Flores (TX-17) in his Washington D.C. office.

Abby Spiegelman ’18 and Congressman Bill Flores ’76 (TX-17)

First and foremost, let me confirm and deny some assumptions you might be having at this moment. You are correct in your assumption that interns are at the bottom of the totem pole. Two of us shared a small desk that placed our backs to the door. After our computers, keyboards, and phones were positioned on this desk there was additional room for one of use to place an elbow on the corner. But we were interns, we shouldn’t have expected anything more- and we didn’t.

Nevertheless, you would be wrong to assume that all we did was fetch coffee and copy papers. There was some of that throughout my summer, but there was so much more.  I answered calls from constituents, helped write responses to constituent questions, gave tours of the U.S. Capitol, and attended Congressional committee hearings. These activities were amazing, and I learned from them all. But I don’t consider any of these impactful enough to dedicate this post to.

There is a general progression that interns tend to follow. On the first day we feel extremely important: after all, we’re interning in our nation’s capital. We select few are helping the cogs turn in our legislative branch. However, our bubble is burst when we quickly come to realize that “we select few” is actually applicable to hundreds of other interns, just as qualified (if not more so) as us. We then settle into a dazed stupor as comprehension dawns: the sheer number of people that work on the Hill is intimidating. How will we ever stand out? How will we make an impression? These questions lead to the acceptance phase. We realize that we probably won’t stand out, that the only way we’ll leave an impression is if we do something seriously wrong (and I’m talking “setting the copy machine on fire” wrong). We didn’t go to D.C. to rub elbows; we came to learn. Once we’ve accepted this we hunker down and get to work. That’s when the internship becomes meaningful.

Over the course of my summer I watched congressional staffers do their jobs and sometimes even helped them. I didn’t so much learn about the legislative process, but about the people behind that process. The staffers had good days, they had bad days, and they had days in-between. They made mistakes and were forgiving when I made more. I’m telling you this because there’s a tendency to glorify—or more accurately, vilify—our nation’s capital, and by extension, the people that work there. But if we’re being honest with ourselves, everyone there is someone just like us. They’re people that do the best they can with what they have and hope that that’s enough. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t.

When I started my internship, I didn’t realize this. I don’t know why; it should have been common sense, but it wasn’t. Congressman Flores has a remarkable staff (yes, of course I’m biased, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong). Every one of his staffers knew what they were doing and how to do it; the shared experience in the office was impressive. Each day I learned something new that I didn’t know before, be it a technical skill or a life lesson. I don’t have the time to write about everything I learned from each person, and you don’t have the patience to read it. Therefore, I’ll pick the one thing that stuck out to me the most about my internship in D.C.

Working in D.C. is not constant fun. The people there are overworked, overqualified, and underpaid. Like all jobs, it has its ups, but not enough to justify the corresponding downs. The volume of calls that I fielded from angry, unappreciative constituents was impressive and not in a good way. But as I stated earlier, there is a vast number of people that work there. Why? Obviously, you have some people that are using these jobs as a stepping stone for something they deem to be better. But most of the people I interacted with over the course of my summer were there because they felt a duty to help their country. It’s that calling, if you will, that keeps staffers working late nights and early mornings for seemingly little benefit. Our government is dependent on these staffers and the members they work for, and that’s why government will never be perfect. My internship taught me to appreciate the imperfections in our government because achieving perfection would mean the loss of the people that make our government meaningful.

Unfortunately, I can’t write about that one moment that changed it all for me. That single, profound occurrence that set me on my future path. That’s because my internship didn’t come down to moments, it came down to people. There are some incredible people that work in Washington, D.C. and there are some not so incredible people that work there too. But meeting and interacting with them all was truly an experience of a lifetime.

I don’t know if I want to work for Congress once I graduate. I still don’t know what I want to do with my post-college life, and that’s okay. But I do know that if I decide I want to work for Congress that I’ll be working alongside some of the most driven and brightest individuals I’ve ever met. Washington, D.C. isn’t for everyone, and Congress is for even fewer. But those few are why I still believe it’s possible for America’s government to be that “shining city on a hill” and why I’ll always appreciate my internship in Washington, D.C.


Former Student Spotlight: Stephanie Osborne

Stephanie Osborne,’09, is a lobbyist for an international oil & gas company in Washington, D.C. In response to an email to our Honors Former Students, Stephanie wrote to share how her experience in Honors has helped shape her career.

 Stephanie’s comments join a larger conversation about the value of Honors Education. For more of this conversation, see “What’s the Point of an Honors College, Anyway,” by Dr. Nancy West (Mizzou),

My parents (both die-hard Baylor grads) were furious when I chose to go to A&M. I decided to prove them wrong, that I would not be a small fish in a big pond. I did pretty much anything and everything I could during my time at A&M including:

  • graduating with  LBAR [Liberal Arts], University & Foundation Honors
  • studied abroad twice (Moscow & Kyrgyzstan)
  • international research in Moscow for my Honors Fellows Capstone Thesis
  • doubled majored and double minored
  • LBAR Student Council
  • pledged and served on leadership in my sorority
  • president of the Aggie International Ambassadors
  • worked part time during the school year and full time in the summers I wasn’t abroad
  • Academy for Future Int’l Leaders

– and never missed an Aggie Football or Basketball game. If it was an option, I did it! And I think I am still trying to catch up on sleep many years later!

I’ve been reflecting on my time at A&M—especially the honors program—a lot lately. I did not engage in the social aspects much, but some of the coursework and professors have really stuck with me.

Just the other day I bonded with a congressional staffer who studied anthropology in school because I was forced to take an LBAR course (that I didn’t want to take but was required) with a wacky professor who had us out in local cemeteries taking charcoal rubs of gravestones. Many of the research and analytical skills, as well as constructive criticism and tough love I received, from honors programs professors has really shaped my work ethic and way I approach my career.

Stephanie Osborne '09, Whooping at the Great Wall of China
Stephanie Osborne ’09, Whooping at the Great Wall of China

When things get tough here in DC, I think back to the day my Capstone professor told me he was disappointed in my effort halfway through the project and that I did not have what it takes to be an academic. Let me tell you – that hurt. But rather than let it get me down, I decided that nobody was going to tell me what I was or was not capable of. Since then I’ve gone on to get my MA from The George Washington University and scratched and clawed my way into being the youngest and only female executive in my office.

What I valued most about the A&M Honors program was that they didn’t coddle me. They didn’t tell me I was awesome and then give me my A’s. They made me work! They made me think! They forced me to experience things that were different and difficult. For that, I am very grateful.

We love to share updates and celebrate successes with our Honors graduates! Have something you want to share? Please send it to honors@tamu.edu

Congratulations to the Summer Class of Public Policy Interns!

By Hayley Cox

The Public Policy Internship Program (PPIP) is an academic service to Texas A&M University students, providing out-of-classroom opportunities and helping students build on and enhance coursework they have undertaken during collegiate education. As Texas A&M recognizes internships as an integral part of an Aggie education, PPIP helps students to find these hands-on internships and move beyond their classroom knowledge.

public policyPPIP was established in 1999 by Texas A&M President Dr. Ray Bowen and since then approximately 500 Aggies have interned in Washington, D.C., Austin, and Paris. More recently, PPIP has expanded to London and other European Union cities such as Nice, Brussels, and Berlin. The internship program is coordinated by the Texas A&M office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies.

Students selected for PPIP’s Washington, D.C. internships (offered throughout the fall, spring, and summer) are chosen for their communication skills, initiative, potential, diligence, and personal integrity. While students must have excellent grades, but they must also be poised to take full advantage of the program. Prospective PPIP Washington, D.C. interns undergo an application and interview process.

Five Texas A&M University Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR) students have joined the crop of summer PPIP interns in Washington, D.C.!

Sarah Armstrong – Senior Editor and Layout Designer for Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal
Gus Blessing – University Scholar
Sophia Makris – University Honors
Alex Masucci – University Honors
Amanda Streetman – Undergraduate Research Scholar

Sophia Makris - University Honors - PPIP Intern
Sophia Makris – University Honors – PPIP Intern
PPIP intern for Summer 2013 Sophia Makris ‘14 has been selected to intern with the Texas A&M System Office of Federal Relations in Washington, D.C. Makris wrote a research essay, submitted a cover letter and letters of recommendation, and completed an interview process en route to her selection. She said, “Overall, the application process was a learning opportunity in itself and I greatly enjoyed my experience.”

Makris, a history major, has had the opportunity to attend meetings and learn about the higher education policy process since arriving in D.C. in late May. She said she loves getting to see so much of the work that impacts her university. The current PPIP intern said, “I have a very unique opportunity to experience this city for three months and I am looking forward to everything I will learn from my interactions here… Having the opportunity to live and work in D.C. as a college student is unbeatable! ”

Alex Masucci - University Honors - PPIP Intern
Alex Masucci – University Honors – PPIP Intern
Economics student Alex Masucci ’15 has also been selected as a PPIP Washington, D.C. summer intern. Since he arrived in late May, he has been tracking legislation and attending hearings on human services programs such as Medicaid and Head Start. He said his main duties are to report critical changes on these programs to state and local administrators of human services, relay their feedback to Congressional staff, and write weekly articles on particularly important items.

Masucci expects to gain professional experience from participating in the legislative process during his time as a PPIP intern this summer. He said, “I have never been to D.C., so I’m excited to explore everything that it has to offer over the course of the summer!”

The Honors and Undergraduate Research Department would like to congratulate the 2013 PPIP Washington, D.C. summer interns – Sarah Armstrong, Gus Blessing, Sophia Makris, Alex Masucci, and Amanda Streetman!

University Honors Student chosen for PPIP internship in DC

Clayton-CromerClayton Cromer

Clayton Cromer is a sophomore from Oklahoma City, OK, working on his bachelor’s degree in economics with a minor in philosophy.  He is a member of the College of Liberal Arts Cornerstone Program and traveled with the group to Vienna, Austria last spring. Clayton has been involved in several organizations, both on and off campus, during his time at Texas A&M University including the Univeristy Honors Program, the MSC Wiley Lecture Series, the Texas A&M Pre-Law society, and the St. Mary’s Youth Retreat Team.  Clayton plans to attend law school following his graduation from Texas A&M.  He hopes to gain valuable experience during his internship as he plans to pursue a career in national defense and national security.


For full story and complete list of 2013 PPIP Interns check out http://ppip.tamu.edu/current-interns/d-c-interns/

Former Student Spotlight: Adam Williams

Adam Williams 2012
Adam Williams ’04 with his family

Former Student Adam Williams ’04 was recently profiled by the Bush School and in President Loftin’s weekly update for his recent accomplishments, which include being named 2012 Most Promising Engineer-Government in the Black Engineer of the Year awards. Adam graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and in 2007 with an master’s in International Affairs from the Bush School. Adam is a senior R&D systems engineer at Sandia National Laboratories, but he was at one time renowned as the president the TAMU Hip Hop Society and for holding the record as the longest resident of Lechner—he lived there one year as a freshman, one year as an SA, and then three years as an RA as a member of Lechner classes XII through XVI! Adam recently took some time to offer reflections on his time as an Honors student at Texas A&M.

How did you end up at Texas A&M?
Growing up, I had always enjoyed playing with Legos–the freedom to create, the problem-solving behind the construction of my epic Lego cities–that is what directed me toward engineering.  I had thought about applying to out of state schools (Duke, Stanford, etc.), but something about my visits to College Station just drew me in.  Once I applied, I was offered an academic scholarship and eventually was awarded a Terry Foundation Scholarship.  Texas A&M’s high academic standards and deep sense of community are what drew me in, and TAMU Honors office’s dedication to helping talented students achieve their dreams is how I got there.

What are your favorite memories of Honors?
First, the friendships. Some of my greatest friends and deepest relationships were made during my time in TAMU’s Honors program (in fact, I’ve been in more than one wedding of friends that I’ve met through the Honors Program!).

Second, the academic challenges and opportunities provided through participating in the Honors program were incredible – and set the stage for where I am today (sitting in a room in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates as the US Government project lead for a regional human capital development program to develop the next generation of decision-makers in Middle Eastern nuclear power programs).

Third, in a word-Lechner.  Spending five years living in one place is bound to leave an indelible mark, and Lechner Hall – and it’s residents and my fellow staff members – have left memories that I will always remember.

The SAs (Sophomore Advisors) my freshman year designed Lechner’s first “Maroon Out” t-shirts.  These were some pretty sweet shirts!  I was walking with my friends near Simpson Drill Field on the way to game one Saturday morning when I heard someone yelling at me from behind.  I ignored it until a gentleman ran up to me and out of breath said, “Where did you get that shirt?”  I told him that it was only sold within Lechner and apologized and tried to continue on to the game. He called after me, “well, my wife was in one of the first classes of Lechner Hall and she would LOVE that shirt! How much for the one you’re wearing?”  So, I sold the shirt off my back because the spouse of former Lechner resident had heard about how special the community is in that residence hall.  In addition to being a hilarious story, this story symbolizes the most important aspect of TAMU’s Honors Program – it’s community.

In what aspects of the Honors Program did you participate?
As many as possible!  I graduated with both University and Foundation Honors distinctions.  I completed two semesters of Honors Level undergraduate research.  I took special topics honors courses in Globalization and Introduction to Hip Hop Culture.  I was an institutional nominee for the Rhodes Scholarship Program and a national semi-finalist for the Harry S Truman National Scholarship.  Though not officially selected as a University Scholar, I was able to participate in the University Scholar Seminars every semester throughout the remainder of my undergraduate career.  So, likely to the chagrin of many at the time, I was pretty much a fixture in Honors Program and a frequent visitor in the Honors Office!

How did your internship experience shape your career path?
My time in DC greatly shaped my career path as it opened my eyes to many different avenues and mechanisms currently available that were tackling my particular area of interest (nuclear nonproliferation). While I didn’t participate in the Public Policy Internship Program, I spent lots of time with students who did make it to DC through this program. So, I HIGHLY recommend getting to DC if you are at all interested in a career in public service. Summers spent in DC are invaluable in the professional experience you gain and the number of contacts you can make.

What advice can you offer Honors students as they look forward to an uncertain future?
I would have to simply say: “Don’t make yourself one-dimensional.”  Whatever your major is, take opportunities to delve into topics/areas that are completely different and take advantage of the wonderful opportunities that the Honors Program give you to do just that.  If I had not added an English Minor to my Mechanical Engineering undergraduate degree program, I would not have gotten my first big internship in DC that helped launched my current career.

I also find it incredibly stress-relieving to allow your brain to work on a topic that is vastly different that your academic emphasis. Reading for my African American Literature class or special topics Introduction to Hip Hop Culture class my senior year often saved my sanity as I was juggling senior level engineering classes and senior design.  Making yourself multi-dimensional not only makes you more attractive to potential graduate programs and employers, but it also exposes you to new arenas and avenues through which to pursue your dreams.

Any closing thoughts?
Take advantage of the opportunities available to you, don’t be afraid to try something new or different, and get ready for big things to come!  For those students considering the Honors Program, I simply want to say – don’t be afraid of something that seems too hard, too difficult, too challenging.  The Honors Program has been built on students just like you – tentative, maybe even hesitant at first – but all of us navigated the challenges and turned them from reasons to being scared to opportunities to excel.