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The Washington Experience

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Stewart Atkins and Congressman Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Leader

For Carson Priest ’15, his summer as an intern in Washington, D.C., was anything but boring as he learned everything from how to navigate the Metro to how to properly interact with United States senators.

Priest was one of 21 Furman students who spent their summers in the nation’s capital as part of the university’s Washington Experience program, directed by Professor David Fleming.

While living in the metropolitan D.C. area, 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 was 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 institutions. Students also participated in weekly seminars, conducted political science fieldwork, and explored the city on evenings and weekends.

“The Washington Experience program provides a great opportunity for students to see politics and government in action. They are able to apply what they have learned in their Furman classes to current political issues. Further, students make great connections that they can use to find employment after graduation or when applying to graduate schools,” said Fleming.

Cole Vance of Newport Beach, Calif. ’15 spent the summer as an intern with digital marketing firm, Organic Marketing Analytics.

“I entered with goals of an experience living and working in a big city, working at a great internship site, and discovering what immersion in the political arena looks and feels like,” he said.

While he had much to learn, Vance said his liberal arts education at Furman gave him the skills and knowledge he needed to learn quickly.

Stewart Atkins of Arlington, Va. ’15 worked as an intern for the House Committee on Financial Services for nearly three months, where he connected with constituents, set up hearing rooms, and assisted with research for speeches given by Congressmen on the committee.

“It gave me a greater appreciation, perspective, and awareness of the many ways our government functions,” said Atkins, who plans to attend graduate school in the hopes of working in Washington one day.

After spending last summer working for Canadian Parliament, Lee Bolton ’15 went to D.C. to work for the Canadian American Business Council as their international affairs intern.

Bolton traveled to Ottawa, Canada, to assist with an event with the U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman. She also helped plan events at the Canadian Embassy and worked on business development and recruitment for the Council. A June event hosted by the Council, “North America Fueling the Future,” focused on energy policy in North America and what should be done to ensure energy security. The event was attended by representatives from the Mexican Embassy, the United States Congress, a member of Canadian Parliament, and Singapore’s ambassador to the United States.

“I learned to be bold, to ask for help, ask for references, and ask for advice!” said Bolton.

Priest, a native of Franklin, Tenn., had the opportunity to work for mCapitol Management, a bi-partisan government relations firm that lobbies for clients on Capitol Hill. He was able to attend rooftop fund-raising events, conduct research for clients, and participate in lobbying meetings during his internship.

For Priest, it was an experience that gave him both confidence and career direction. After graduation, he plans to return to Washington, D.C. to pursue a master’s degree in defense policy. “This summer changed the course of my professional and academic life,” he said. “It allowed me to see that this is what I want to do.”

Last updated October 30, 2014
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Clinton Colmenares
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