Guest blog post by Sarah Rush, MPAff
The Eleanor Crook Foundation supports students working summer internships for nonprofit, nongovernmental or governmental organizations that conduct development projects in the developing world. Student recipients, called Crook Fellows, share the value of their experiences in a series of blog posts.
More from the Crook Fellows:
- LBJ student works on Capitol Hill to end hunger
- When chocolate intersects with public policy
- LBJ student interns with health care, education startups in Ghana
- LBJ student supports a nonprofit during a crisis
I interned at Bread for the World Institute, a nonpartisan research group focused on ending hunger. As a research fellow, I fully expected — and hoped — to spend my summer at a desk focused on conflict, migration and food insecurity in the Middle East. On my first day, my supervisor mentioned a piece of legislation, H.R. 5273, The Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act (GFVRA), which was recently introduced in the House. The Act is both timely, as I came into the Institute with an interest in state fragility, and critical, as fragility and violence are growing barriers to ending hunger. Along with my research work, she encouraged me to learn about the legislation and identify any ways to incorporate hunger into the conversation.
Over the next two weeks, I split my time between research for my briefing paper and work on the GFVRA. I gathered information on H.R. 5273, wrote a memo on what the bill actually does and whether or not it advances the hunger agenda, briefed my colleagues on the political and practical considerations of the bill, and made recommendations to improve it. Most exciting, I drafted language to include in the legislation currently being reviewed by committee, upon which our full endorsement hinges.
"I was hooked on the piece of DC that I thought I would dislike the most." — Sarah Rush
Ultimately my work on H.R. 5273 prompted a government relations colleague to invite me to advocate for the bill as the “subject matter expert.” My role as research fellow continued to expand, and my original plan to stay away from Capitol Hill quickly fell apart. My first meeting on the Hill was with the bill’s author, and over the next two months, I met with more than a dozen congressional offices on both sides of the aisle. Every time, I walked out of the room surprised and excited that life in the trenches of congressional office buildings is nothing like I expected. Every staffer I met was diligent and informed, generous with his or her time, willing to listen and learn, and not afraid to ask hard questions. My most constructive meeting was with the office to which I felt most personally hostile — an experience that taught me a lot about politics and myself. By the end of the summer, a seed had been planted in me; I was hooked on the piece of DC that I thought I would dislike the most. I still feel passionate about a career as a researcher and policy analyst, but a new path has revealed itself to me.
As I begin my second year at LBJ with the glimmer of Capitol Hill still in my eye, I am grateful for many things. First, I am endlessly grateful for the generosity of the Eleanor Crook DC Fellowship, the support of which made my summer in DC possible. I am also grateful for the foundation that the LBJ School provided that allowed me to tackle the unknown this summer with confidence and professionalism. Rather than being overwhelmed, I felt prepared to navigate any task or challenge that arose. Further, I appreciate that the internship requirement is sandwiched between a foundational first year and a second “sculpting” year. After sending us out into the world, the program brings us back together, informed and enriched by our summer experiences, to fine-tune our skill sets and career paths. And finally, upon return to LBJ, I am grateful that the LBJ curriculum offers me the chance both to explore my unexpected legislative interests and also to continue to explore my original field of interest.
"[T]he LBJ curriculum offers me the chance both to explore my unexpected legislative interests and also to continue to explore my original field of interest." — Sarah Rush
Three weeks into my second-year courses, my coursework is already rounding out the experiences I had this summer. I am engaged with theoretical, historical and practical material that continues to inform my understanding of fragile states, hunger, migration and conflict, which has allowed me to draw on a deeper knowledge base when thinking about policy responses to these issues. The learning process never ends, and I am so glad that I get to continue this journey among my LBJ professors and classmates..