As the summer internship season kicks off, the College media team has gathered reflections from a few students in each UChicago Careers In... (UCI) program who held Jeff Metcalf internships this past summer. Here is what they had to say about their experiences.
Nick Pielech, Class of 2016
Primary UCI program: Public and Social Service
Name of internship: Texas Governor's Fellowship Program
Internship location: Austin, TX
Q: What attracted you to the Metcalf internship that you have been doing this summer?
A: I became interested in politics and government when as our school president in 8th grade I contacted my local Texas representative and requested a Texas flag that had flown over the state capitol. She not only honored my request but also visited my school, and we had a ceremony inaugurating our new flag. This experience led me to pursue programs focusing on government and politics. I pursued my interest by participating in a young leaders program which introduced young adults to Washington, D.C., and the legislative process. I followed this experience by becoming active in State Representative Jim Murphy's reelection campaign in Houston. This summer I wanted to be on the other side of government and experience what happens on a day-to-day basis. The Texas Governor's Fellowship Program was attractive to me because it was close to my home and satisfied my desire to explore government in depth.
Q: How does your major or other coursework at UChicago relate to the kind of work that you are doing for your Metcalf?
A: The Core curriculum, with its emphasis on being a well-rounded individual and developing critical thinking and analysis skills, best relates to the kind of work I am doing for my Metcalf. I work in the Correspondence & Constituent Communication division of the Office of the Governor, and our division handles a broad range of tasks—from answering and responding to phone calls, emails, and mail, to mailing out correspondence between the Governor and the public. Constituents contact the Governor's Office for a wide range of issues, many to seek assistance in legal matters. Our work demands that we analyze a constituent's problem and respond with an appropriate solution in a timely manner.
Photo courtesy of Nick Pielech, Class of 2016
Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of your Metcalf, and how have you dealt with or overcome that challenge?
A: The most challenging aspect of my Metcalf was dealing with the enormous amounts of incoming correspondence to our office. My internship occurred at the same time the Texas legislature was passing a controversial abortion bill, and our division was flooded with phone calls and mail. It seemed that no matter how much mail we responded to or how many phone calls we answered, there were always more waiting. It was extremely daunting and frustrating. However, we worked through the situation doing as much as we could in a day, and when the incoming correspondence slowed down we were able to finish all of our tasks.
Q: What is the most interesting, memorable, or unique experience/assignment you have had while working in the capacity of your Metcalf?
A: The most memorable experience I had while being an intern was being able to view the protests and demonstrations regarding the abortion bill firsthand. It was an extremely exciting time to be at the Texas State Capitol, and it was amazing to be able to watch people from both sides of the issue fight for their cause.
Q: What is the most important lesson you have learned or the most rewarding experience you have had?
A: I have learned a lot about democracy and how government interacts with its citizens. The most important lesson I learned is that the government does listen to its citizens and our elected officials do listen to and care about their constituents. Each person who either called or wrote into our office was treated with kindness and respect, and if we could not help resolve their situation we directed them to other divisions that could.
Q: Is there anything else that you think would be particularly interesting or instructive to share?
A: I took advantage of being in Austin and met with people who worked with or in government. I had the opportunity to meet with a top lobbyist who explained to me how lobbying works and how lobbyists can influence bills and policies. He later got me access to the senate floor, and I was able to see how the senate conducts its proceedings from right behind the rail. I also shadowed a senator's staff member and learned about what role staff members play in the senate. I met with Samsung's general counsel and director of public affairs, and we discussed how business interacts with government and how government decisions can affect business. These opportunities added a tremendous amount of depth to the internship experience and gave me a much bigger picture of what government does. I am very thankful I had these opportunities available to me, and would suggest to others to take full advantage of not only the Metcalf internship but also the resources that surround it.
UChicago Careers in Public and Social Service (UCIPSS), a program of Career Advancement, aims "to help students find purposeful and rewarding careers in the non-profit, policy, government, and related public service sectors." To that end, UCIPSS offers Jeff Metcalf internships, which are paid, substantive internships exclusively for UChicago undergraduates. For more information, visit the Metcalf Internship Program website.
Metcalf Internships are available to College students throughout the academic year, and especially during the summer internship season. To learn more about currently posted Metcalf Internships, log into your Chicago Career Connection account to search for opportunities, and to make an appointment with a Career Advancement adviser.
Posted on: Friday, December 6, 2013 - 1:00am