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Getting Started in DC: A Beginner’s Guide

Getting Started in DC: A Beginner’s Guide

Working or interning in Washington, DC, may seem like a stretch goal for many students. But according to Dr. Yuval Levin, Vice President and Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington is an exceptionally open place for people who are willing to work hard. Dr. Levin spoke recently to a group of University of Dallas students about securing work and internships in the nation’s capital.

Dr. Yuval Levin

“The world of congressional staffers is quite young,” Levin said. “The typical congressional staff will consist of 7 or 8 people in their twenties who are each assigned a specific set of issues. They’re very involved in the work of legislation.” According to Levin, working on a congressional staff is the best way to learn how Washington really works. “Congress is driven by process,” he said. “Working on a congressional staff teaches you about powerful personalities and about the scheduling and tempo of legislation.”

Working for a congressional committee or for a senior member of a committee is another way to get solid policy experience. “The substantive policy work is done in committee,” he said. Many staffers working on these committees are very young as well. Levin recalled his own experience as a young staffer: “I remember sitting on the budget committee and negotiating health care issues and thinking, ‘Do they realize I’m 21?’”

Levin said that although Executive Branch staffers are generally more experienced than Hill staffers, there are many lower-level departmental positions that offer a good start for young staffers. He emphasized that a recent graduate’s willingness to work is the most important factor in securing work in Washington. “Don’t limit yourself to one office or one area of government. If you’re willing to be paid pretty poorly, there’s work out there,” he said. Outside of working on the Hill or in the Executive Branch, Levin said that the organizations that support the policy apparatus–think tanks, party committees, and PACs–are also great places for recent college graduates to gain experience that could lead to other positions.

Levin recommends that interns or recent grads think first about working as a congressional staffer. First, it’s the easiest way to get in, and, second, working on the Hill provides the kind of experience that students can use as leverage to get other positions. “You can’t pretend to understand how government works if you haven’t seen it first hand,” Levin said.

The first step to getting a job on the Hill is to contact your local congressional representatives. “Call the offices of your two state senators and your local congressional representative,” Levin said, “and offer yourself up to opening letters, doing research, whatever they need.” This approach can work whether you’re looking for an internship or a job after graduation. “DC has a low barrier to entry,” he said, “if you’re willing to do the work.”

For more information about internships and employment in Washington, DC, or anywhere else, contact the Office of Personal Career Development for an appointment.

3 UD Students Embark on Important Internships

3 UD Students Embark on Important Internships

Three University of Dallas students are embarking on amazing internships this summer–two to Rome and one to Brussels. And they learned about these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities by reading emails from the Office of Personal Career Development.

Maureen O’Toole, Teresa Haney, Will McEvoy

Teresa Haney (Politics19) has an accepted a political internship with the Holy See in Rome. “I’ll be doing lots of research into things like the ties between the Vatican and other embassies and countries,” she said.

Maureen O’Toole (Politics ’19) has accepted an internship in political diplomacy with the Holy See. “I’ll be in meetings with diplomats, taking notes, writing updates and briefs, and sending reports back to Washington” she said. “And I’ll also get to make travel arrangements for visitors and attend events.”

Will McEvoy (Economics ‘19) will be a public affairs intern for NATO in Brussels. “I’ll be working at the U.S. Embassy to advocate on behalf of NATO to both European and American citizens. I’ll stay ahead of press briefings and update social media to that end.”

O’Toole said that she believed the Rome experience was one thing that made all of their applications competitive. “We’ve all studied abroad and we won’t be as overwhelmed by the experience,” she said.

McEvoy agreed. “My interviewer told me I was one of the only candidates who had visited more than two countries. I’ve been to twelve, many of them NATO countries, so I mentioned that it in my personal statement.” The person who ultimately hired McEvoy also told him that the style of his writing in his personal statement stood out. “She said it was not written like a typical research paper.”

Haney said she thinks her internship at the Vatican will help her discern if politics is right for her. “Attending UD has instilled lofty ideals in me about social justice,” she said. “I’m looking forward to discerning if public policy work will help me achieve those ideals.”

O’Toole said the internship in Rome is her dream job. “I’m interested in political journalism so being in Rome will help me discern if this is my path.”

McEvoy said he has always been interested in NATO as a way to promote peace and achieve the lofty ideals that O’Toole speaks of, albeit from a different perspective. He also said that although not being paid for the internship presents a challenge, it makes the experience all the more worthwhile. “I believe that voluntarily serving your country shows your commitment to your ideals. You have to make sacrifices in order to achieve your goals.”

Julie Jernigan, Director of UD’s Office of Personal Career Development, wants to remind students that there are other amazing internships available: “UD students are uniquely competitive for high-level and international positions. So read the emails we send you!”

For more information of internships or to make an appointment with a career counselor, click here.

Alexa Acquista Awarded Travel Grant With Support from Politics Department

Alexa Acquista Awarded Travel Grant With Support from Politics Department

Alexa Acquista
Alexa Acquista

Alexa Acquista is hoping that her experience at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. (March 2-5, 2016) will help will help her bring a new organization to campus. She was chosen by Turning Point USA to attend the conference, and she hopes to bring a Turning Point chapter to the University of Dallas. “Turning Point is a national non-profit with chapters in campuses across the country,” Acquista said. “Their mission is to educate and organize students to promote conservative values.”

At the CPAC meeting, Acquista attended lectures and policy panels on a variety of topics, including crime and foreign policy. “One thing that surprised me was hearing different approaches to the issues,” she said. “Although the panels and speakers represented conservative views, there were many different opinions on how to solve the problems.”

Acquista also attended leadership seminars and connected with representatives from organizations that sponsor similar conferences. “I learned a lot that I can bring back to campus,” she said.

With the endorsement of the Politics Department, Acquista received a University of Dallas Experience Award to offset the costs of attending the CPAC conference. UDE Awards encourage students to engage in activities in which they will present themselves professionally in pursuit of their vocational goals. Speak with your advisor and consult the UD website ( for specific details about the application process.