Politics up Close: Students Intern at General Assembly

Feb 06, 2018


students and Gov. Northam at General AssemblyDuring January Term (J-term) 2017, Randolph-Macon College students got a close-up look at Virginia's political scene during their internships at the General Assembly in Richmond, Virginia.

Baxter Carter '18, Lauren Keiser '18, Catherine Condyles '19, Rebekah Hale '20, Kelsey Wilkinson '18, and Clark Lewis '18 experienced firsthand how the General Assembly operates. Political Science Professor Richard Meagher coordinated the students' internships and served as their mentor.

"Delegates, Senators, and their staff really appreciated the help our students provided during the busy legislative session," says Meagher. "And while bipartisanship may be difficult to find in today’s political environment, we have great relationships on both sides of the aisle; whether with Republicans or Democrats, our students got invaluable firsthand experience and made important career contacts."

Baxter Carter '18 (political science and philosophy major; classics minor)
Carter assisted then-Governor-Elect Ralph Northam's transition team as it prepared for the upcoming administration. After the governor's inauguration, on January 13, Carter assisted Northam and his team in the first few weeks of the administration.

"The experience allowed me to work with different areas of the administration, including the Council's Office, the Policy team, and the First Lady's staff," says Carter. "I learned firsthand how a governor's administration transitions into power. The only way to get a true understanding of how this process works is to be a part of it."  Carter has participated in three other politically themed internships. Not surprisingly, he wants to stay involved in politics after he graduates from R-MC. He plans on working for a few years and then may attend graduate school.

"Richmond is a great area and is my first choice of places to live after college," he says. "Although I will miss R-MC dearly, I am excited to start the next stage of my life!"

Lauren Keiser '18 (political science major)
At Delegate Buddy Fowler's office, Keiser met with constituents and lobbyists, sent correspondence, and assisted in legislative research.

"Thanks to my contact with constituents, I improved my communication and networking skills," she says. "It was an unbelievable opportunity for me to grow as a political operative with the responsibilities entrusted to me. My internship engaged me in the political world as I wrote emails, made calls and met with concerned citizens. This wasn't a class project with mock meetings or mock bills—it was the real deal." After she graduates this spring, Keiser plans to work for a Virginia congressional campaign in either communications and scheduling or as a political director.

"My internship created in me a new passion for state politics," she says, "and I hope to eventually work as an LA in the General Assembly. Internships help students learn skills that can't be taught in a classroom."

Catherine Condyles '19 (political science major; sociology/anthropology minor)
"The most eye-opening aspect of my internship was applying what I’ve learned in the classroom to day-to-day situations," says Condyles, who served as a legislative intern for Delegate Chris Peace. Condyles, who worked closely with both Peace and his Legislative Assistant, Julie Coggsdale, drafted constituent letters and emails and answered phone calls.

"My internship helped me improve my communication and organizational skills," says Condyles. "I also learned how to adapt to others' work methods." Condyles' post-R-MC plans include law school and a career in politics. "Internships are beneficial because they give students insight into career choices and teach necessary life skills," she says.

Rebekah Hale '20 (classics and archaeology major; art history minor)
Hale, who interned for House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert, worked closely with his Legislative Director, Jeff Walters. With days filled with a variety of duties—drafting commending resolutions, writing letters to constituents, and tracking bills—Hale became a more effective and diplomatic communicator.

"I also became more comfortable using the technology involved in a busy office environment, and I learned important legal jargon," says Hale, who plans on attending law school and working as a cultural heritage lawyer. "Internships are important because the practical reality can be drastically different from what you experience in a purely academic setting. My internship made pursuing a career in politics and the legislative process even more appealing."

Kelsey Wilkinson '18 (political science and business major)
As an intern for Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, Wilkinson focused on constituent relations. After Filler-Corn met with interest groups and lobbyists, for example, Wilkinson catalogued and tracked which bills these groups and individuals support or oppose.

"I sat in on a lot of meetings and saw what a difference a motivated group or person makes in teaching a Delegate about the impact of the passage or failure of a certain bill," says Wilkinson. "I also accompanied the Delegate to events, took photos and updated her social media sites. In addition, I transcribed speeches and proofread talking points. General Assembly during session is an incredibly taxing and fast-paced environment. There is always work to be done." Although graduate school is probably in her future, "right out of college, I'd love to continue working in state and local politics."

Clark Lewis '18 (English major; religious studies minor)
There was never a dull moment during Lewis' week: From Monday through Thursday, Lewis interned with Senator Ben Chafin, and on Fridays he interned with Senator Ryan McDougle. He talked with constituents, responded to emails and phone calls, and attended meetings—activities that demand excellent communication and problem-solving skills, as well as patience and persistence.

"Even though I've worked in session previously—I interned in Senator McDougle's office in 2016, and on Ed Gillespie's campaign in 2017—it was still amazing to see the amount of work needed to get a bill done properly," says Lewis, who plans to work after graduation before applying to law school. "No matter how hard you try, there is usually some opposition to each bill. It's quite an interesting process."

January Term at R-MC
R-MC's January Term (J-term) gives students the opportunity to immerse themselves in another culture, embark on an internship, conduct research or explore other areas of study on campus. R-MC's Edge Career Center and dedicated faculty assist students in finding the perfect internship opportunity.

The Edge, a four-year career program, gives students a competitive advantage in the job market or graduate-school admissions process. Workshops, internships, one-on one advising, a career and networking Boot Camp, and other resources ensure that students who graduate from R-MC are lifelong learners who can think critically and adapt to new situations.

R-MC's Bassett Internship program offers academic credit and connects students with tailor-made internships to explore a wide range of career fields in various locations. Students can also choose from a variety of paid or volunteer internship opportunities.