AgEcon Senior Spends Summer in Washington, D.C. as Congressional Intern

Each summer, Purdue students studying at the College of Agriculture have the opportunity to apply for assistance to live and work in Washington, D.C.. The program, which is housed under the CATE (College of Agriculture Transformational Experiences), often provides an opportunity for students who would not have been able to otherwise attend or afford the summer living expenses.

Last summer, AgEcon senior Laura Barrett (Applied Agricultural Economics; Rockford, OH) applied for and was selected to receive one of these stipends while working as a Congressional Intern. “I was selected to be one of the CATE stipend recipients and was blessed to have our housing completely paid for the summer. I am so grateful that the College of Agriculture makes an internship like this possible. I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity so I could have a better understanding of my government and how it works.”

Located at the capitol building in the Rayburn offices in Washington, D.C., Laura served as a congressional intern for Bob Latta. Laura chose this specific position based on the district she is from and applied through her congressman’s staff. In order to be selected for this position, Laura went through a rigorous interview process. “Interviewing for a position in DC is very challenging especially in a pandemic year. To all those looking to intern in DC in the future, leverage your network and find open positions through the people you know rather than blindly applying.”

As an intern, Laura completed several duties including legislative research, constituent correspondence and office management. While completing her intern responsibilities, Laura gained new perspective and skill sets. “The dynamic between different aspects of government is very interesting. The house and senate are completely different vibes but both are looking out for the best interest of their state or district. The elected officials are working tirelessly and always double booked to make positive change.“

In addition to gaining new perspectives, Laura grew her professional network, built connections with her congressman and improved her soft and hard communication skills in an office setting.

When asked how the pandemic impacted her experience, Laura explains, “We were able to be in the office everyday 5 days a week without masks. The last week of the internship the delta variant was coming out so we were required to wear masks in the building or else we would be fined $500 or even arrested on the spot. I was fortunate to still be able to network with professionals in DC and meet other interns for the duration of my time there. The only thing we were restricted from was giving big tours of the capitol building to outsiders. The only people let into any of the buildings were those with staff badges. We would normally be giving tours to 8th grade groups and constituents from the district.”

While her internship has concluded, Laura looks back at all she was able to accomplish and the memories she has made that will last a lifetime. “Elected officials work tirelessly to do the best representing their district and love connecting with constituents. My congressman cancelled meetings just to spend time with us interns and eat lunch with us, provide fun professional opportunities for us to go to, and get to know us, our goals and concerns we had.”