Headed to the Capitol

Two WSU students selected for top internships in D.C. 

Two of the three student internship positions allotted by U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop’s office will be filled by Weber State University students this summer. The Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics & Public Service will send Dillan Hancey, a junior and political science major, and Kassidy Gibson, a junior and health administrative services major, to the congressman’s office in Washington, D.C., for three months, starting in May 2018.

For Hancey, this will be his first time in Washington.

“I’ve never been to D.C., or had the opportunity for political involvement in this way, so I’m really excited,” Hancey said. “I’m hoping to learn more about how the government works, more about how Washington runs, and to see how our country is really established in that area.”

Interns’ responsibilities include answering constituent correspondence, taking phone calls and giving tours of the Capitol, among other things. Interns also have the opportunity to meet with Rep. Bishop face-to-face throughout the process.

Ezekiel Lee, program assistant at the Walker Institute, believes internships like this one are a great way for students to gain exposure, forge important connections and obtain valuable work experience.

“A lot of students need summer jobs,” Lee said, “but oftentimes they won’t end up gaining a lot of valuable experience. Part of the reason we’re really trying to expand the program and send these interns out is so they gain unique work experience and one-on-one connections with legislators. These experiences really shape them, and they in turn come back and lead in their communities.”

Hancey hopes this will be the case and believes this internship could help put him on the path to his future career.

“I think, for me, I see this as an awesome opportunity for doors to open,” Hancey said. “I want to work for the U.N. and have no idea how to get there, so this feels like a good chance to make those connections along the way.”

The Walker Institute is able to fully fund four interns in Washington per semester through the America First Credit Union Capitol Hill Intern Scholarship, made possible by a generous $1 million endowment from America First Credit Union.

According to Robert Hunter, director of the Walker Institute, interns can be a valuable resource to state legislators, as well.

“We had eight interns from Weber State in the Utah Legislature this past session,” Hunter said. “These interns can be really helpful to state legislators, who don’t have assistants. Those young people actually serve as their assistants while they’re in session.”

The Walker Institute has been coordinating political internships for students since its establishment in 2012. Hunter believes one mission of the Walker Institute is to keep citizens informed about politics, and that interns can be an invaluable resource when it comes to engaging a community.

“I think there is generally a disconnect between the public and the political world,” Hunter said. “The Walker Institute provides a bridge between politics and the public. In terms of these internships, it helps students get a better awareness of what goes on in the political world and even if it’s just a handful of interns, it’s an infectious thing. A few interns can infect an entire community with understanding about politics.”

For this reason, the Walker Institute is working to expand its political internship program and create more slots for students, especially at a local level. The institute currently has students placed in Hooper City and Syracuse, Utah.