Participating in ND's DC Program: Sarafina Joseph

Author: Sarah Snider

By Sarafina Jospeh

During my time at Notre Dame, I explored different areas outside of my academic interests which included faith-based groups, student government groups, and even worked as a research assistant. Each contributed to my growth as a Notre Dame student. Over the course of that exploration, I added Africana Studies as a minor and have since been dedicated to advocating for social justice, particularly in urban communities throughout the nation. Participating in Notre Dame’s DC program provided the hands-on experience I needed to learn about the policy making process at a ground level. An opportunity that led eventually resulted in a great summer opportunity.

During my time participating in Notre Dame’s Washington Program, I interned for freshman Congressman Boyle. My semester on the Hill was an eye-opening experience on the legislative process as a whole but especially on the impact at a micro-level. In short, interning for Congressman Boyle really helped defined what I hope to accomplish this summer. This opportunity has helped me determine that I want to continue my commitment to serving under an instrumental supporter for voting rights, healthcare reform, and immigrant rights. This experience allowed me to continue my role in public service while molding the issues most prevalent to the constituents, which I was able to do this summer with my district. With the addition to the social justice issues, I ultimately plan to use my experience in Congressman Boyle’s office to not only help guide my future academic areas but to also help determine possible post-graduation careers. In addition to further insight, the help MSPS African-American Study Abroad Scholarship helped lay the foundation for future internship endeavors and also help generate the possibility in having more student researchers on often overlooked yet powerful topics on Notre Dame’s campus.

My goal working as an intern on Capitol Hill was laying the foundation to develop the foundation to grow my network in Washington, DC. By completely immersing myself into the Capitol Hill experience, I was able to lay the ground work. Since these connections will essentially lead to more connections, I now realize that this is an ongoing process and continue to nurture those relationships.  Since I ultimately want a staffer position on the Hill, there is a lot more I must learn and my list of contacts must and will continue to grow. As far as expectations, my internship site exceeded my hopes and has shaped my growing interests for a career on the Hill.

Since all congressional offices operate differently, I was not completely sure what to expect with the Hill, let alone my office and coworkers. However, my internship site did a great job at introducing me to the Hill basics. I was amazed and glad about the level of responsibility placed on interns. I was able to work on several projects and provide a lot of the leg work for long-term assignments. Due to that, I now have a better idea on how the Hill works and a better understanding of staff responsibilities which fostered my growing interests on working on the Hill. I am I was able to work in this office particularly because the foundation is mostly the same and that knowledge really helped when I worked in another office. During this internship, I was reminded of my Foundations of Public Policy course. Particularly when thinking about the impact these policies will have, the role lobbyists play, and the overall policymaking in American democracy. Prior to this internship, I planned on pursuing a career in a think tank like Center for American Progress, the Brennan Center for Justice, or the Urban Institute. Although I have not completely ruled out the possibility of me pursuing that route, I am seriously considering a future on the Hill. While I ultimately intend to pursue a career as criminal justice attorney, I intend to pursue a route that would adequately prepare me for that. Overall, the Hill provides the ideal platform for me to enter my ultimate goal.

Although I great relationships with all of the staffers in my office, I developed a close relationship with my intern supervisor. Her experiences and advice was and is continuing to be helpful. Her knowledge on how the Hill works at a micro-level, particularly when looking for a position, is invaluable as I start to do the same in the coming years. My only concern is the turnaround time for positions. In most cases, positions are filled quickly which makes it difficult to apply for positions as a graduating undergrad, though I know my former intern supervisor may have a few ways to surpass that. In addition to the relationship I developed with my intern supervisor, I was also able to develop a relationship with a Notre Dame alumni. His advice provided insight I likely would not have encountered outside of the program. I have a more comprehensive understanding of the American political system and discover what role I wish to play in that system. From the conversations in the office, to the debates with people that have different political views, I believe this experience provided a widespread view that can’t be achieved in a classroom or on campus.

Overall, this experience was enriched by the MSPS African-American Study Abroad Scholarship. The scholarship played a huge role in me commuting to work, attending networking functions, where I was able to develop the knowledge I currently have. With the help of this scholarship, I confirmed my interest for a future on the Hill. I’m grateful to know this early on because I can shape my coursework to better prepare me for my immediate Hill career after graduation.