Internships offer new view of political process

Paul Thissen

The Daily Northwestern

When Northwestern students describe the political internships they had this summer, some of their memories could fit in a recruiting pamphlet — working with people passionate about certain issues, seeing how the political process works and responding to constituents’ concerns.

But such a pamphlet probably would omit any mention of the long days, unpredictable schedules and Capitol Hill happy hours.

Education junior Jon Marino spent his summer in Washington as an intern for Rep. Don Manzullo, R-Ill..

Marino noted there was “a lot of fellowship and camaraderie among Capitol interns,” as well as a “strong feeling of community” among NU students with internships on Capitol Hill.

Unlike in college, where students know the schedule of their classes and events, political interns often have no control over their schedule, Marino said.

“When you work on Capitol Hill, you never know what’s going to happen next,” he noted. “Everything changes in a second.”

One day last summer a vote on a segment of the USA Patriot Act remained undecided long into the night, Marino said, even though he and his co-workers had gone into the morning not expecting the ordeal to continue so late.

“(The internship) was a humbling experience,” he said. “I realized that there’s still a lot to learn about the world.”

Marino took his political aspirations back to campus; he’s the external relations chairman for the Associated Student Government.

Weinberg sophomore Nayna Gupta spent this summer interning for Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who represents Evanston and northern Chicago.

Gupta said working with the congressional staff, who sometimes work from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., was one of the most striking parts of the Capitol Hill experience.

“They’re all very bright,” she said. “It’s something you wouldn’t know unless you work there.”

Despite the long hours demanded by their administrative jobs, both Gupta and Marino found time to enjoy social events arranged for the summer interns by the Capitol Hill staff.

The staff organized a speaker series featuring well-known politicians, Marino said.

Gupta said more informal gatherings also provided entertainment for Washington interns, noting that “happy hour is a big part of the Capitol Hill experience”.

But not all politics occur in Washington, and not all political internships take place on Capitol Hill.

Medill senior Jared Goldberg-Leopold is completing a summer and fall internship as deputy press secretary for Democrat Joe Hoeffel’s senate campaign in Pennsylvania.

Goldberg-Leopold, a former city editor for The Daily, said working with reporters writing about the campaign is more interesting because of his background as a journalist.

“I get to see both sides of the journalism-politics spectrum,” he said.

Goldberg-Leopold does not expect it to be hard to switch back to writing news.

“Every time I write a news story, it’s something I believe. Every time I talk to a reporter (on the campaign trail), it’s something I believe,” he said. “To me, there’s not that big of a disconnect. It’s all about convictions.”

Reach Paul Thissen at [email protected].