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$76,000 in funding guarantees another term for the Michel-Lahood Congressional Internship

Sarah Sweeney pictured in front of House Office Building. Photo via Sweeney

The first cohort of students involved in the Michel-LaHood Congressional Internship have returned from the nation’s capital.

Bradley students Sarah Sweeney, Luke Borri and Lavannya Deolakilar spent their summer interning with three U.S. House representatives. While living and studying in Washington, D.C., they worked inside the Capitol and earned six credit hours free of tuition.

The Dirksen Congressional Center partners with Bradley to fund the internship, donating $21,000 to cover the cost of travel and living for the first group. More than $75,000 has been raised for this program, including key donations from Bradley trustees Garrett Williams and Jonathan Michael.

“It’s rewarding to see members of our community support the values of public service and experiential education,” Director of the Dirksen Center Tiffany White said.

These donations have guaranteed funding for the first three years of the program, which was announced during a reception and panel discussion at the Peoria Riverfront Museum on Aug. 19.

Throughout the hiring process, there were several requirements for candidates. The written application consists of two short essays, two letters of recommendation and a 3.0 GPA requirement. Candidates then attend an in-person interview with the selection committee.

The committee is made of Political Science/International Studies Associate Professor Megan Remmel, Brad McMillan of Bradley’s Institute for Principled Leadership and Tiffany White.

However, none of the application requirements are limited by major. Students of any major are welcome to apply, whether or not they want to pursue a political career.

“The goal is to make it clear to a variety of majors on campus that a congressional internship could be of benefit to you,” Remmel said. “There’s not anything on this campus, or profession…that is not going to be touched by politics.”

The biggest benefits to the interns were networking opportunities. The program worked with WISH, a company that rents housing exclusively to interns in Washington, D.C. The complex hosted interns from all over the world. Sweeney, a senior political science major, had a great time meeting new people.

“I felt like it was freshman year in the dorms at Bradley,” Sweeney said. “We would facilitate meetups to hang out and go to the monuments together, stuff like that.”

Sweeney aspired to visit every museum in the city, as well as every monument or memorial she could. 

“My favorite was the Natural History and the National Archives, because I’m a geek,” Sweeney said. “I loved to see the actual Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as well as the Emancipation Proclamation.” 

The interns were also invited to events by their representatives, where they met and spoke with people like Reps. Maxwell Frost and Nancy Pelosi.

“I went to [an event] where it was all female chiefs of staff, which was awesome because that was cool to see women in positions of power that have worked their way up,” Sweeney said. “I actually met and spoke with Nancy Pelosi, who is like an idol.”

On their day to day, the interns were a part of Constituent Services, which meant answering calls and emails sent to their representative by the members of their district. They also attended committee and chamber meetings in their areas of interest, where they got a close-up view of the legislative process.

“You develop skills, like communicating with people, having responsibility, being able to take initiative, writing and researching. This was a great way for me to get that experience… it was really transformative,” Sweeney said.

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