Pursuing a bachelor’s degree at one of the most progressive liberal arts colleges in the nation poses many challenges for a young conservative. The students at Wellesley College make most radicals seem moderate and as co-President of the Wellesley College Republicans, I easily stand out by being one of the very few vocal Republicans on campus. Some days it’s tough.
Preparing for my junior summer, I searched for an internship located in Washington DC that would be intellectually simulating and allow me to interact with other conservatives. At Wellesley, I am currently writing a senior honors thesis on welfare and marriage for my major in Political Science. Accordingly, I wanted to take a behind-the-scenes look into the policy-making process, one that might prepare me for a future career in Washington DC, and work somewhere where I could gain solid research experience that would help me with my thesis.
That search led me to an internship at The Heritage Foundation. Heritage has gained prestige throughout conservative circles by producing not only the highest quantity of policy analyses, but also the highest quality. It is also known for the outstanding internship experiences it provides through its Young Leaders Program where it brings together 70 conservative students each summer. The students enter the program ready to learn and they leave as conservative powerhouses, knowledgeable about every contentious and politically relevant issue. Heritage experts work with them on a daily basis and train the interns to unlock their potential as conservative leaders. One way Heritage promotes leadership is through their speaker program. We heard from experts in every department and from almost every Vice President of Heritage. During these meetings, we were not lectured at, but instead we were active participants in the discussions, frequently asking questions and offering our own insights. Heritage also enhanced our future prospects by offering us resume writing workshops, op-ed writing classes, and workshops about how to find a job in DC. We were also invited to all the daylong forums that Heritage held on site. When we weren’t listening to speakers and working, we went on organized trips to The Pentagon, The Capitol, and Mount Vernon.
While all interns are part of a larger intern program, they also have the opportunity to work in a specific Heritage department. On my Heritage application, I asked to work with Heritage welfare and marriage expert, Robert Rector, who is commonly cited as the “godfather of modern welfare reform” after his extensive work on the 1996 welfare reform legislation. His research directly relates to my honors thesis and instead of constantly citing him in my paper, I hoped he would provide me with guidance and research experience. To my benefit, he did both. My daily intern schedule with Mr. Rector usually consisted of reading relevant literature, writing summaries, and examining current research in the field. Six months after my internship concluded, he is still graciously guiding me. Other interns placed in The Devos Center spent their time writing blogs for The Foundry, composing policy briefs, analyzing current legislation (one fellow intern read the entire Waxman-Markey climate bill), and working with their respective Heritage experts to bolster conservative thought and policy.
Interning at The Heritage Foundation has opened many doors for me. I certainly left Heritage with an enhanced understanding of the political world. Yet, I also met many life-long friends who I am certain will be active members and future leaders within the conservative movement. I am glad that my Heritage internship provided me with a launching pad for my own involvement and success within the conservative movement.
How did you get involved in the conservative movement? Leave your comments and join in the conversation below.