By: Olivia Woods, ASAS Science Policy Summer Intern
July 28, 2016 – Coming directly from a quiet college town in Western Oregon, the pace and intensity of Washington D.C. initially took me by surprise. During my first week on Capitol Hill, I learned the basics of working in a congressional office very rapidly. This is where my previous professional and administrative skills came in handy. On any given day in the office, I am expected to read and file incoming emails, field phone calls, or voicemails from hundreds of constituents, then tally their various opinions for the office’s daily report.
In addition to these administrative tasks, I am trained to give guided tours of the Capitol building to interested constituents. Although an intimidating prospect at first, these tours quickly became one of my favorite parts of the job because they provide the opportunity for me to get out of the office, stretch my legs, and meet some new people.
Once I acclimated to those various office duties, I was ready to do policy work. I was originally concerned that my animal science education wouldn’t be helpful in a political setting, but it has proven to be very useful when compiling research and writing memos for the office’s agriculture and environmental policy team. I’ve also found that having a unique background is an advantage as I am able to approach issues from a fresh perspective.
My background and experience in agriculture has also allowed me to network with fellow interns and professionals. One of the great aspects of working on Capitol Hill is the plethora of informational seminars and briefings, a great many of which pertain to animal science or agriculture. The topics are always varied and highly informative. My favorite so far was a lecture about new agricultural imaging technology that allows farmers to improve their nitrogen efficiency, benefiting both their production and the environment. When attending these seminars, my knowledge of agriculture has made it easy to ask pertinent questions and network with new people in the agriculture industry.
However, easily my favorite part of the internship is the unique experience that Senator Merkley and his staff offer. During my second week, the other interns and I were able to actually sit down with the Senator over breakfast and chat about our backgrounds, hear more of his story, and ask any burning questions we had. This opportunity, as well as many others in the office, provide a very team-oriented atmosphere that welcomes interns and makes it easy for us to get to know our colleagues. So far, my time in D.C. has been both challenging and engaging, and I am thoroughly looking forward to the rest of it.