BYU students expand political involvement through Washington Seminar

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Washington Seminar students from left to right: Jessie Anderson, Madeleine Homer, Nathan Hogan, Alexa Anderson, Nicole Pavez, Harry Hansen, Eliza Riley. (Maddi Driggs)
Washington Seminar students from left: Jessie Anderson, Madeleine Homer, Nathan Hogan, Alexa Anderson, Nicole Pavez, Harry Hansen, Eliza Riley. (Maddi Driggs)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 30,000 BYU students have watched one of the country’s most historic elections unfold from Provo, Utah.

However, 30 students have had the unique opportunity to witness the political hype from the nation’s capitol.

BYU students participating in the Washington Seminar this semester are discovering a deeper connection to the political spectrum through different internships located in the heart of D.C.

Senior Madeleine Homer, a public health major from Midvale, Utah, is interning for the American Heart Association. She said the atmosphere in D.C. has been “relatively tame” but she’s seen the level of civic engagement increase during the election.

“Everyone talks about politics here and it’s not a taboo subject,” she said. “Everybody knows everybody’s political views and nobody is shy about expressing them. Even where I work, which is not politically based at all.”

While living at the church-owned Milton A. Barlow Center in D.C., what she describes as a “stake center meets Helaman Halls,” Homer said she has enjoyed learning from the other BYU students involved in the Washington Seminar.

“Everyone comes from diverse backgrounds of study with different political views, so we have really interesting conversations on just about everything,” Homer said.

Homer is not the only student who said the Washington Seminar has been the culminating experience of her BYU career.

Nathan Hogan, a political science major from Salt Lake City, said the Washington Seminar has encouraged him to return to D.C. to work in a congressional office after graduating from law school.

Hogan is an intern for Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, who represents Utah’s fourth congressional district.

Through his experience at the Capitol, Hogan said he has learned about how congress operates, and he has given more thought to his own political opinions.

“Things that I thought I knew from my political science classes I got to experience, and then I changed my opinions based on what I have actually seen out here,” Hogan said.

Public relations major Alexa Anderson said her internship in D.C. has also helped her with her future career plans.

“Before I wasn’t 100 percent sure what I wanted to do or if I had an interest in politics, but being here and being able to work on the Hill has been really eye-opening,” Anderson said. “No matter what I decide to go in to, just being able to understand how the legislative process works has been a really cool experience.”

While working at the Capitol this semester, Anderson said she has felt a lot of energy, excitement and fear in the air.

Anderson said there is a turnover that comes with each election cycle, especially with a new president and presidential cabinet — not to mention all the different seats that are up in congress.

“There is a lot of excitement because people might be getting promotions or new jobs. But there is a lot of fear because people might be out of a job in the next few weeks,” Anderson said.

While interning for Heritage Foundation, a conservative Think Tank, senior Harry Hansen, from Taylorsville, Utah, has learned the value of compromise between political parties.

“Political parties and affiliations are important, but they are not the most important thing in politics. The most important thing is to benefit everybody,” Hansen said.

Hansen said he doesn’t know if he would want to come back to D.C. after he graduates this April, but this experience has opened his mind to the kind of people he would like to be around in the future.

“I love D.C. It is literally an accumulation of all the people I want to be around, because out here everyone is pushing for some agenda and it’s very exciting,” Hansen said.

Hansen said this experience has allowed him to network with people who make important decisions, and to have connections he can always reach out to.

To hear more about the experience of Washington Seminar students, listen to a Daily Universe podcast.

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