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Washington and Lee University

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Sally Platt '14

Washington Term Program Internship with the House Budget Committee

Sally Platt '14

Hometown: Fredericksburg, TX

Major: Politics

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
  • Ring Tum Phi
  • Pre-Orientation Appalachian Adventure Leader

Off-Campus Experiences:

  • Au Pair in Spain (Summer 2011)
  • House Budget Committee Intern (Chaired by Paul Ryan)
  • Virginia Program at Oxford
  • International Honors Program Fall 2012 (Brazil, South Africa, Vietnam)
Favorite W&L Memory: How to pick just one? But being initiated into Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority is certainly among the top eight.

Favorite Class: PE 151 - Golf. There is just something about the sun being out, and the beauty of a golf course, that make it more liberating than any "liberal arts" class could ever be.

Why did you choose W&L? It was a small liberal arts college in a beautiful location in the South, so in a word exactly what I was looking for.

Why did you choose your major? Politics is not only fascinating but interdisciplinary. With this major I can pursue so much: business, finance, journalism, and more.

What professor has inspired you? Professor Jasiewicz (Sociology and Anthropology). His class was great, but more than that he just has the most fantastic personality.

How have you spent your summers? After freshman year I studied Spanish in Madrid while working as an au pair, and after sophomore year I studied English and History at Oxford with Virginia Program at Oxford. After junior year? Who knows. That is still in the works.

Advice for prospective or first-year students? Study abroad! It can be really hard to take a break from all the social, academic and extracurricular activities packed into your schedule, but really, it's worth it.

This past spring I had the privilege of working for Rep. Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee. It was a wonderful experience. Not only did I get to work for the Republican vice presidential candidate, I also gained intimate knowledge of Washington politics through my work at the Committee. From helping with projects relating to spending statistics, foreign aid, Iraq Reconstruction and more, to sitting in on hearings and monitoring markups, I got the chance to experience D.C. as only an insider can. I will never forget the day Joe Biden and I happened to cross paths and I got to say hello to a vice president (albeit one from the other side of the aisle).

I did all of this as part of Washington Term Program, a six-week Spring Term course taught by Dr. William Connelly. In this program students both live and work in D.C., completing an internship and a class simultaneously. Internships are varied, ranging from think tanks and Congressional offices to news outlets. Students from my year worked at Heritage Foundation and CBS Evening News, for John Boehner and for Debbie Wasserman Schultz, even for Lexington's very own Representative Bob Goodlatte. Internships were not relegated to one sector nor to one party, but rather represented a smorgasbord of competing interests and institutions. This, as Dr. Connelly repeatedly told our class, is intentional. He says in choosing a class he sought to create, in our classroom, a microcosm of Washington itself.

It certainly felt this way, sitting in class every Friday. From outside our classroom on the 20th floor of our apartment building in Arlington, we could see Congress and Washington in the distance. And inside, we were Washington. While debating issues from education to healthcare, environmentalism to states' rights, we got the chance to take the knowledge gained from four days in the office and use it to get at the heart of the most pressing issues facing America and American democracy today.

That's not to say Washington Term is all office or class time. Yes, students are expected to be at work 9-5 Monday through Thursday and still have readings done for class on Friday morning. But there is so much more. My job at the Budget Committee led me to congressional hearings on homeland security and healthcare, to champagne receptions and cupcake soirees, even to the House floor. Using Dr. Connelly's method of "participant observation," whereby interns are expected to take every situation as an opportunity, I was able to gain something from even the most mundane tasks. It was while making coffee one day that I got to chat with Rep. Bill Flores of Texas about public education in the state we both call home. All this, in addition to class visits to the Pentagon, Department of Energy, and top lobbying firm Patton Boggs ensured a rounded view of Washington.

Washington Term and my internship with Paul Ryan at the House Budget Committee gave me a great introduction to politics in Washington, D.C. I now have the contacts, knowledge, and confidence to pursue my interests in the city and beyond.