As one of the oldest engaged learning programs at Furman, the Washington Experience allows students to work in government, interest groups, non-profits, and media organizations where they can rub elbows with Washington elite, all while earning course credit.
While living in the metropolitan D.C. area this summer, Furman students were able to take an in-depth look at the political, civic, and cultural aspects of the American political system. The centerpiece of the program is a 30- to 35-hour per week internship arranged for students by The Washington Center and matched to their interests. Internships included opportunities on Capitol Hill, in government agencies, interest groups, law offices, and other non-profit organizations. Students also participated in weekly seminars with Professor and Political Science Department Chair Liz Smith, conducted political science fieldwork, and explored the city on evenings and weekends.
What was it like? Clark Hickerson ’17, Nicole Hyman ’18, Alexi Muhumure ’17, and Chad Scott ’16 explain.
Clark Hickerson ’17
Hometown: Greenville, S.C.
Major: Political Science
Intern with Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)
How he got connected: I first heard Senator Scott speak at the Palmetto Boys State commencement ceremony in 2013. I remember being blown away by his amazing speech and the instant connection he made with everyone in the room. When I heard from Internship Program Director Susan Zeiger that Sen. Scott’s office was looking for interns, I immediately jumped at the opportunity.
How he learned to juggle: Each day was different. My responsibilities included everything from answering constituent phone calls and letters, distributing newspapers to the Legislative Assistants and Correspondents, assisting with research for legislative assistants and correspondents and giving constituent tours of the Capitol.
Unofficial job title: Sweet Tea Taster. I had the unique opportunity to be part of Palmetto Wednesday Meet and Greets with the Senator. There are only a few South Carolinians working for him, so every Wednesday when we prepared the sweet tea for the Meet and Greets, I was always the one that had to make sure the tea was sweet enough.
On sharing a desk with Senator Scott: This summer, the Senate had just voted on four new gun control measures, none of which passed, and the phones were ringing off the hook. Some were angry with the Senator and some were calling in support. I had one angry constituent on the phone and was discussing the Senator’s position on gun control measures. The Senator just happened to be walking through the office, saw me on the phone, and asked what was going on. He responded, “Let me talk to him real quick.” He took the call at my desk. It was awesome seeing a Senator take the time to talk to a constituent. He is truly committed to service.
Assignments that opened doors: I was required to complete two major interviews as part of my fieldwork. One of them came from an unexpected opportunity after Sen. Scott invited me to walk with him to the Senate floor. It was the week he had shared a series of speeches on race relations in America. The Senator had spoken about how he had been victimized by racial prejudice and had been pulled over by Capitol police on multiple occasions. The following day I was also able to go watch the Senator’s final speech in the Senate gallery. It was amazing witnessing the only black Republican Senator conclude a one of the monumental series of speeches ever spoken on the floor. This was by far the best experience of the summer.
What I learned about myself: I was thrown into a city only knowing a handful of people and had a new job where I did not know anyone; however, over the course of my time there I learned the ins and outs of the city and met some great people with whom I am still in touch. I also greatly improved my time management skills. I worked nine-hour days, went to class on Tuesdays for two and a half hours, and had another one-hour class on Wednesdays. Living in Washington, D.C., gave me confidence in my ability to adapt to a new environment and meet new people.
Nicole Hyman ’18
Hometown: Hartsville, S.C.
Major: Sociology, Political Science
Minor: Poverty Studies
Intern with Global Voice Hall
Communications 101: Global Voice Hall, a digital media platform aimed at reaching millennial voters, gave me lots of opportunities to explore my own interests. I would pitch ideas of stories I wanted to pursue, then I would be responsible for reaching out to interview contacts, conducting the interviews, and editing the videos. See one of Nicole’s videos here: http://www.gvhlive.com/gvh-daily/2016/7/11/6fgp7y41m1phq8yhvvchq6s4huhbz1?rq=nicole%20hyman
Highlights of her experience: I was responsible for helping GVH with an ongoing project they are working on this election cycle called “Dear Next President.” I secured and filmed interviews with millennials willing to offer their opinion on pivotal election issues. This experience in D.C. gave me a greater understanding of the inner workings of our political structure and what role different sectors play.
The hustle was worth it: It shouldn’t be sugarcoated that this is a very intense program—working a real job and taking three classes is no easy undertaking! I had never worked in the news media industry, or even taken a communications class before, so needless to say I was very concerned on Day 1. However, it turned out to be a wonderful learning environment for me.
Alexi Muhumure ’17
Hometown: Flemington, N.J.
Major: Political Science
Minor: Poverty Studies
Intern with Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services
The Job: I was able to work with a different department within the organization every week. One week, I might assist refugees in finding and applying for jobs. The next week I might assist with driving refugees to doctors or helping them apply for Medicaid. Most refugees came from Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Syria. A small number came from Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Democratic Republic of Congo. We also had refugee minors from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala who came through the Central American Minors (CAM) program.
The highlight happened at Dulles Airport: Witnessing the refugees and their family members being reunited at Dulles Airport was something I will never forget. One special moment was a mother and a daughter who were reunited after 20 years of being apart. After they made eye contact with one another, they both just broke down and started crying. That made my internship experience worthwhile.
What I learned: My internship helped develop my leadership skills in the workplace and my understanding of the current refugee crisis. Since I directly interacted with refugees from all over the world, I had a responsibility to advocate for them, to build relationships with them, learn their life stories, and understand who they are as individuals. I think it is up to us, college students, to educate the masses about who refugees are and make sure that the human face of refugees is being portrayed.
Chad Scott ’16
Hometown: Suwanee, Ga.
Major: Economics, Political Science
Intern with the U.S. Trade Representative
A perfect match: I am particularly interested in international development, so USTR was a great fit for me. I could do the international economics research that I enjoy while also getting first-hand experience on how the politics of trade factor into decision making.
The Job: I researched agricultural import and export trade data for the European Union, China, India, Israel, and CAFTA-DR countries. I prepared reports for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) round 14 negotiations. I assisted U.S. negotiators in meetings with foreign diplomats and business representatives and gathered data to aid in World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlements.
Obama was his boss: Getting to meet and work with United States Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman was fun. Ambassador Froman might not be a household name, but this is a man who works closely with President Obama every day. USTR is cool because there isn’t a long chain to the top. My supervisor reports directly to Ambassador Froman, who eats breakfast with the President twice a week. Plus, because USTR is part of the executive branch, I could tell people Obama is my boss.
His career plan: For me, the biggest thing I wanted to take away from my time in Washington, D.C., was to figure what exactly I want to do after I graduate. Eventually, I want to go to graduate school for international development. Until then, I am seeking out opportunities to spend a year abroad in a developing country and am applying to international development jobs in D.C. I left my internship feeling encouraged and at peace with whatever comes next.