Mason Takes on Capitol Hill

This story was originally published in the Nov. 10 issue of Fourth Estate.

Allison Lundy, staff writer

Students are taking advantage of living near Washington D.C.

Mason attracts many politically-minded students, and students interested in politics have good reason to attend a school just a metro ride away from Washington, D.C. Whether interning or just visiting, students at Mason have the chance to become very familiar with Capitol Hill.

Earlier in the semester, these students were given the chance to take a look inside one of the major functions of government – Congress.

Around 70 undergraduate and graduate students from Mason’s School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs were able to take a tour of America’s capital building.

The tour, organized by Mason’s Center for Politics and Foreign Relations, allowed students to get an inside look into how Congress works and where they operate. Robert Guttman, the director of the center, said the tour “was a great learning experience” and “an advantage of going to school so near Washington, D.C.”

Representative Jim Moody (D-Wisconsin) led the tour, and gave some of his own insight about working for Congress.

“It was a complete honor to have a tour by a former congressman, one who was very honest and genuine with his guests,” student and public administration major Kendra Waddy said.

Congress happened to be in recess during the tour, which meant students were able to gain access to the House floor – a privilege not granted for most tours. Representative Moody gave a talk to students on the House floor. Waddy says the tour “made things very realistic. Students were in a place where laws are passed and discussed.”

The Center for Politics and Foreign Relations plans on continuing these tours on a fairly regular basis. The next tour will tentatively be in the first part of 2015, according to Guttman.​

Carlos Zavala, a sophomore communications major, gets the chance to see the hill every week.

Zavala interns for Congressman Phil Roe, the Republican Representative for Tennessee’s first district. In the two months since Zavala has started working for the congressman, he has already learned a lot. One thing that surprised him was how much constituents actually interact with their congressman’s offices.

“It is overwhelming how many phone calls we get,” Zavala said.

Zavala is concentrating in PR and hopes to one day become a communications director for a politician. This internship is allowing him to “test the waters” and see if this career route is really for him.

At the office, Zavala answers phone calls and is in charge of getting signatures, among other tasks. One exciting moment was when he had to get signatures for a letter that was going to end up on President Obama’s desk.

“I touched a letter that went to the President,” Zavala said.

This is just one of the perks of working in a congressman’s office. Along with the opportunity to network and explore the political world, Zavala will gain much more from this internship, which he describes as “truly incredible” and “an adrenaline rush.”

If you’re into politics, Mason is definitely the place to be.

Photo credit: Niki Papadogiannakis