Close up view of Washington changes career plans for Congressional intern

Topic: College of Communication Information and Media

April 24, 2009

Washington could use a Wal-Mart. Other than that, however, Ball State senior Starla Loyd has no complaints about her semester in the nation's capital serving as an intern with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

On the contrary, she says conducting research for members of Congress, sitting in on hearings and occasionally meeting political superstars such as House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) has been "really fun."

Chosen by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) as a participant in its venerable and highly competitive internship program, Loyd arrived in the District of Columbia on Jan. 12, or just eight days ahead of President Obama's inauguration. She and some of her fellow interns from across the country were able to walk to the historic event from their apartment just nine blocks from the Capitol.

"We were able to get close enough that we could actually see!" exclaimed the Indianapolis North Central grad, with the same enthusiasm that made Obama's swearing-in the largest event in the annals of Washington and one the most-watched broadcasts in television history. She also attended one of the inaugural balls, sponsored by CBCF, though the president didn't make it.

"Still, it was an amazing experience," said Loyd, who helped with some of the planning for the big event in Washington's Hyatt Hotel, including the drafting of remarks by CBCF President Dr. Elsie L. Scott.

"I was assigned to shadow Muriel Cooper, senior media manager for the foundation, and work with all the different media outlets that were there" covering the inaugural events for the country's first African American president, Loyd explained; it was samples of her writing from radio and TV projects at Ball State that helped the T-COM major secure the prestigious internship. Though even now, she's a bit surprised at her selection.

"Like most Americans, I watched CNN," said Loyd, describing the extent of her interest in politics and government prior to a meeting with Maria Williams-Hawkins, associate professor of telecommunications, who requested those writing samples and urged her to consider the opportunity in Washington.

"On my own, no, I would never have thought of pursuing something like this," Loyd admitted. Only months away from graduation, she said the experience "opened up my eyes more and expanded my opportunities, so I can feel a job maybe even in politics is a career option."

"My overall goal still is to own my own production company. But now I'm also seeing 'media consultant' or possibly doing political campaign ads."

Meet-and-greets with the political director of ABC News, the chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and scholars and fellows of assorted think and "action" tanks also highlight Loyd's capital diary.

This is the first year the program partnered with George Washington University to offer participants additional academic credit. Loyd enrolled for three courses on top of her internship hours, in one "working" for Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC) during a mock election as well as researching, writing and presenting an analysis of North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan's victory in November over the incumbent and much better known Elizabeth Dole.

On Capitol Hill, Loyd was assigned to the Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia, in charge of maintaining the database of U.S. commemorative stamps. When any lawmaker or piece of legislation proposes the issuance of a new stamp, one of the first steps is a review of the database. She also was tasked with compiling the members' daily news brief, comprised of clips relating to the postal service, federal workers, D.C. and other items of importance to the subcommittee.

Other than adjusting to a new city and getting used to a new routine of work and classes, Loyd said the hardest part was coping with the lack of a handy neighborhood Wal-Mart. The best part is being part of the process up close.

"Being here, learning outside of the textbook, seeing that Congress member or senator outside of the TV box and saying, 'Hey, I just met that person or saw that person' … It puts a different perspective on things and I believe makes the experience more genuine."

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