Students Intern for McCain, Obama on Capitol Hill

Posted: May 18, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Evan Baum

As the presidential election year approaches, three College of Humanities and Social Sciences students find themselves in the middle of the democratic process and national politics on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Sophomore Maryellen Pascoe and junior Andrew Shelnutt are interns in the office of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), while junior Allison Bauman is an intern in the office of her own senator and presidential candidate, Barack Obama (D-IL). All three are government and international politics majors at Mason.

Pascoe was chosen for an internship in McCain’s Office of Constituent Relations after giving tours of the Capitol last summer. Having admired McCain since middle school, she was thrilled with the position.

With an energy and motivation driven by her interest in politics, Pascoe corresponds and interacts with constituents and routinely hears the many voices that are competing for the senator’s attention. Her obligation to provide time and attention to all constituents is based on the political principles discussed in her Mason classes.

One of the most challenging aspects of her job is dealing with constituents who hold a full range of political views and perspectives, which may differ dramatically from hers or McCain’s. “Even if it’s just because I spoke kindly to a constituent on the phone,” she says, “I made them happy, so I’m happy.”

While Pascoe assists McCain in his current position, Shelnutt’s work is focused on the senator’s aspirations for the presidency. Drawing on experience from an internship with former Sen. George Allen, Shelnutt now finds himself within McCain’s war room for his 2008 presidential campaign.

Shelnutt’s job is to assess and evaluate any media coverage of McCain or the other Republican contenders for the presidential nomination. He researches and reviews political TV shows, radio stations and web sites to collect media information about McCain and his opponents.

Shelnutt hopes to transfer his experience on Capitol Hill to political work at the local level that will allow him “more opportunity to reform and shape the political system.” No stranger to the political process, Shelnutt is the incoming Student Government president at Mason.

On the other side of the aisle is Illinois native Allison Bauman, who was drawn to Obama’s campaign office.

“Senator Obama is a political rock star,” is the way she describes the atmosphere surrounding her office and the senator’s recent emergence as a national political figure. Student reaction to Obama during his visit on Mason’s Fairfax Campus last February confirmed her perceptions when a capacity crowd came to hear him speak.

In addition to basic intern responsibilities, Bauman is able to apply her interest in the policymaking process by conducting background research and analyzing education policy and legislation.

She has drafted policy briefs for the senator on local schooling projects in Illinois, as well as national programs such as No Child Left Behind. Daily, Bauman sees the tension between the need to advance a policy agenda swiftly and the need to represent the often contradictory views of an extremely diverse constituency.

Pascoe, Shelnutt, and Bauman are just three of the many undergraduate students in the Department of Public and International Affairs who have diligently pursued the department’s internship connections that come from Mason’s unique location near the nation’s political epicenter.

These three students are expanding their classroom knowledge through their internships and gaining a real world education about politics — learning how challenging governmental philosophies, political ideologies and policy are put into practice.

This article appeared in a slightly different form in the spring issue of College of Humanities and Social Sciences newsletter. Evan Baum is director of Undergraduate Academic Programs.

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