Nov. 2, 2016
CU Boulder political science seniors Safia Malin and Dylan Rogers bolstered their education by serving as interns in Washington, D.C., through the CU in D.C. internship program.
Undaunted by a divisive presidential election, two CU Boulder political science students are still excited about pursuing careers helping to shape policy.
Seniors Safia Malin and Dylan Rogers bolstered their education by serving as interns in Washington, D.C., through the CU in D.C. internship program. Rogers interned for U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (Hist, PolSci ’79), a Republican representing Colorado’s 6th District. Malin worked for U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado’s 2nd District.
CU in D.C. internships allow students to work, study and live in Washington. The program provides abundant opportunities for students to work with leading federal government agencies, arts and cultural organizations, and nonprofit groups. Internship duties might include researching issues or pending bills, writing reports, attending meetings or tackling general office tasks.
Students earn CU Boulder academic credit for the full-time internship experience and coursework. CU in D.C. is housed in the College of Arts and Sciences and is open to undergraduates in majors across campus. Students typically intern Monday through Friday and attend one or two evening classes a week. CU classes are held in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace building.
Malin says she wants to study education policy. Last spring semester she interned for Polis, who has a history of working in education reform. She partnered with a staff member who focused on education policy, working on research projects and attending briefings, including one with U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr.
"I thought this internship would be the perfect way to see educational policy at the federal level," Malin said, "which is something I’m interested in pursuing. Being able to study education policy and issues five days a week helped me realize this is definitely what I’m passionate about, and I would love to be doing this as a career."
Malin started her internship after the Every Student Succeeds Act, a federal law passed in December that governs the country’s K-12 public education policy. Due to the flurry of implementation activities that went along with the new law, Malin got to attend some meetings about the Colorado issues.
While in Washington, Malin toured a high-performing charter school that serves mostly students of color and lower-income students. Seeing children affected by the kind of policies she wants to influence reinforced her career goal.
"Seeing the legislative process from start to finish was a valuable experience you can’t get in a classroom," she said. "In D.C. it was nice to be surrounded by a lot of young people who are beginning the careers. Which is what I see here on campus, students who are passionate about advocacy and social justice."
Dylan Rogers, who has a double major in political science and psychology, participated in a summer internship in Washington with Coffman. Among his duties was handling phone calls that came into the office.
One memorable phone call occurred when U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx called the office. The phone call reception was poor and Rogers couldn’t hear what Foxx was saying. Putting the call on hold to ask a staffer in the office for help, Rogers came back to find that the call had been disconnected.
"I was like, oh, no," Rogers said. "Fumbling a call from the secretary of transportation can’t be good. It’s funny now. One of the most important things I learned was being as professional and calm as possible when on the phone."
A major part of the internship, and a favorite of his, was giving tours of the Capitol to constituents. He represented his state and university by wearing Colorado and CU lapel pins.
"It never got old walking through the building and explaining to visitors how this building came to be what it is today," he said.
For fun on the weekends, interns in the CU in D.C. program would explore Washington, visiting museums and monuments around The Mall, sightseeing in Chinatown and Georgetown, and trying new places for dinner with cuisines from around the world.
Malin and Rogers both said their CU in D.C. internships exceeded their expectations, giving them experience, confidence and valuable work skills, along with powerful connections.
"I learned that you have to advocate for yourself," Malin said. "There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, or taking the lead, because internships are ultimately learning experiences."
"I learned so much about the behind-the-scenes of how the country is run and what gets done on a day-to-day basis," Rogers said. "I’d like to arrange another internship on The Hill to get more experience. It was one of the best educational experiences I’ve ever had."
Students can apply to CU in D.C. at any time and are encouraged to apply well in advance of their semester of participation in the program.