Notes from the Capital: Kinder Scholars D.C. Updates, Round 1

Since late-May, a group of 21 Mizzou undergrads have been living, studying, working, and exploring in (and around) the capital as part of the Kinder Scholars D.C. Summer Program. We reached out to them recently for news about the first few weeks in Washington, and what follows is a wrap-up of some of their responses, including profiles on two of this year’s participants and tidbits on internships, field trips, and everything in between.

Round 2 of our “Notes from the Capital” series can be found here.

Test Driving the Capital City
with Tricia Swartz

The path from college campuses around the globe to Washington, D.C., is a well-beaten one. However, as junior Tricia Swartz noted in discussing why she applied to the Kinder Institute’s Kinder Scholars D.C. Summer Program, well-beaten does not always mean well-chosen.

“In the past, when I asked other people about their experiences in D.C., I was never given the exact same answer: some people love the environment there, and others believe D.C. is not the right place for them. I figured it would be best for me to experience the city myself, and then from there, I could decide if D.C. is something I want to pursue after graduating from college.”

If Swartz does end up deciding that the capital is for her, the transition will undoubtedly be seamless. In addition to the two-plus months in D.C. she’ll have under her belt as a participant in the Kinder Scholars Program, Swartz has spent the past few years building a resume that already reads like a veteran public servant’s.

She attended Missouri Girls State in high school and later participated in a youth leadership exchange to Beijing organized by the Midwest-US China Association and Missouri Boys and Girls State programs. On campus, where she majors in Political Science and minors in American Constitutional Democracy, she is a 2017 Sue Shear Leadership Academy Fellow; a staff writer and editor on the Kinder Institute’s Journal on Constitutional Democracy and an alumnus of its undergraduate fellows program; an active participant in the Missouri Students Association’s Student Court; a recipient of the J.G. Heinberg Scholarship; and an officer in the Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honor Society, through which she co-organized a Fall 2016 public forum on campus for Boone County’s candidates for the state House of Representatives (and this list could easily be twice as long).

While much of Swartz’s recent coursework has focused on the early history of the United States, as well as the natural law philosophy that shapes the nation’s moral aspirations, she described how her position as a summer intern in Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler’s office has already provided a unique opportunity to begin drawing connections between the origins and present state of American government.

To go along with “learning more about the different causes that Congresswoman Hartzler supports, such as efforts to reduce human trafficking,” Swartz cited witnessing the collaboration of the public and private sectors as an early highlight from the summer.

“Congresswoman Hartzler,” she wrote back to the Kinder Institute in mid-June, “is also the Chair of the Values Action Team, which involves frequent discussions with Congressional members and policy think tanks, and I have enjoyed seeing how these different entities work together to promote” such fundamental rights as “religious liberty.”

And regardless of whether she ends up in D.C. or not, Swartz is certainly starting to sound like a Beltway local. In fact, she’s already locked down spot number one on her list of must-see attractions for future D.C. visitors. “I would recommend Arlington Cemetery to anyone, because when you stand on the highest point there, which includes the Pierre L’Enfant memorial, you can see a beautiful view of the city” he helped design.

 (The Stone of Hope from a Week 2 visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial)

Breaking the Internship Mold (in a good way)
with Katie Graves

We have all heard horror stories about the summer internships people get during college. You sign on with an organization you believe in, immediately start daydreaming about doing so well that they promise to hire you as soon as you graduate, and…45,000 stuffed envelopes later, you have nothing to show for your time there other than a paper cut and a line on a resume. Now imagine the exact opposite of that familiar story, and you can begin to get an idea of MU junior Katie Graves’ summer as an intern with the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies in Washington, D.C.

In writing back to the Kinder Institute about the first few weeks of the Kinder Scholars Program, Graves described how she started doing meaningful work with the Federalist Society more or less from the minute she set foot in the office.

“I’ve been a part of the external relations team, mainly focusing on state courts. So far I’ve helped compile data for a new website and interactive map on State Attorney Generals that we plan to launch next week, and I’ve also been revising another website on State Supreme Courts. I have always found state politics incredibly fascinating, so I’m glad to be a part of a project to spread awareness for state courts and AGs.”

A membership-based legal organization with the mission of “reordering priorities within the legal system to place a premium on individual liberty, traditional values, and the rule of law,” the Federalist Society ensures not only that their interns do substantive work while there but also that they have a chance to fully experience the unique legal and political culture of D.C. Despite having only been in the capital for a month, Graves has already attended former F.B.I. Director James Comey’s Senate hearing, witnessed in person the Supreme Court hand down landmark decisions, and gone to a number of Federalist Society debates at the National Press Club.

In addition to discussing her internship, Graves also noted how her post-college plans have started to come into focus as a result of the interplay between studying the nation’s constitutional history in the “Beltway History & Politics” seminar that all Kinder Scholars take and engaging with contemporary issues in constitutional law at work.

“My internship focuses heavily on the necessity of the constitution in guiding modern American thought, and it’s been amazing to take what I’m learning from my internship into the class discussions and to take what I’m learning in class into my experiences throughout the city. Each part of the Kinder Scholars program has informed where I want to be after I graduate from law school and what kind of law I plan to study.”

And if where she wants to be post-law school is D.C., Graves has a head start on making sense of the city’s copious (and curious) dining options.

“My roommate is creating an interactive map of all the coffee shops we go to and I’ve been amazed at how many restaurants there are just for salad—do people here really love salad that much?”

(Clockwise from top left: Hughes Ransom and Cole Edwards at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial; Kinder Scholars on a Week 2 Tour of Frederick Douglass’ Cedar Hill; Group Shot on the Porch at Monticello; Allison Pecorin, Katie Graves, and Abraham Lincoln)

News in Brief

On internships, with Jane Kielhofner: “I absolutely love working in the Capitol. The tours are interesting to lead, and have made me a better public speaker [and] constituent calling has helped me deal with adverse opinions and hard conversations. I feel useful around the office, whether I’m making coffee or gathering signatures on a bill. As an added bonus, I’ve gotten quite a bit of free food and made a few interesting connections!”

On internships (part 2), with Kiara Lewis: “Internship is going great! I’m with the Polsinelli Law Firm’s public policy group, and their main focus right now is the healthcare bill. A lot of their clients represent nurses, and my job is to attend hearings and draft memos for them. So I get to go back and forth to the Capitol, even though I’m [technically] not working on the Hill. They are giving me actual and important tasks with deadlines and standards. I love it here!”

On celebrity sightings, with Tricia Swartz: “I’ve been keeping an eye out for any well-known figures in politics. One night at LiLLiES Restaurant, which is right down the street from our WISH Housing, I and a few other Kinder Scholars saw Kellyanne Conway eating dinner with her husband. You never know who you may run into!”

On big city life, with Katie Graves: “I’ve started a bucket list to ensure that I get to see and do as much as possible in D.C. I went to a restaurant that served Obama’s signature burger (yes, a lot of my adventures involve food), I went to a poetry open-mic night at Poets and Busboys, I took a barre class on the mail and nearly passed out from dehydration, and I bought fruit at Target even though they had a rat problem because I was in such a desperate need for produce. There are so many amazing things to see and do in this city, and I’ve loved learning not only about the history of our nation but also about the unique culture of D.C.”

And in the “file under: more to come” section, here are Allison Pecorin and Tom Coulter’s first two publications for the N.B.C. DC website and Street Sense, respectively.