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WASHINGTON SEMINAR Writers: Christina H. Sanders & Danielle C. Leavitt Editor: Kim Reid Designer: Ellen Doxey

2010 - 2011

PREPARING for the FUTURE The Washington Seminar Program sponsored by BYU selects well-qualified students from all majors to have an applied learning experience in bustling Washington, D.C. Dr. Earl Fry, a professor of political science at BYU and the 2010-2011 Washington Seminar faculty advisor, spoke directly of the problems facing the United States, and how programs such as Washington Seminar will assist the rising generation in confronting the drastic trials ahead. “We need graduates coming out of BYU who are ready for changes that will be traumatic. We need lifelong learners who are dedicated, adaptive and committed to holding to the iron rod. They must have the gospel in their lives,” said Fry. Certainly, the young generation has some speed bumps ahead. Between a crippling national debt, unprecedented globalization, and technological advances that bring about change and connection the world has never seen, the United States’ rising generation faces a harsh reality. Now, their position as youth in the world’s superpower is stiff with competition. Fry argued that Washington Seminar is a program that gives students an unmatched opportunity to launch into the career world and job market and prepare for challenges that lie ahead. Its graduates come out with

a meaningful understanding of their role and obligation in society.

“There is absolutely nothing you can do on BYU campus that could replicate the experiences of Washington, D.C. and Washington Seminar” While Washington Seminar is not a new program in and of itself—it was established in 1973—each semester is unique, made up of different internships, experiences and connections for each student who participates. In the 20102011 school year, students landed internships in organizations such as the World Affairs Institute and the Federal Reserve Board. Others interned in the United States Attorneys’ Office or with U.S. congressmen and congresswomen. The seminar allows interns from any major and any field of interest to participate. As Fry said, “There is absolutely nothing you can do on BYU campus that could replicate the experiences of Washington, D.C. and Washington Seminar. It exists to network and help people get jobs, real-world jobs in Washington, D.C. That experience cannot be replicated.”

With its location in the Barlow Center, just off Pennsylvania Avenue and minutes from the White House, students are given unprecedented opportunities to see the city and work with some of the most powerful people in Washington. “We really have a great reputation in Washington, D.C.—anyone who gets a BYU intern is thrilled. The interns have a good work ethic, and when good work meets opportunity great things happen. [Washington Seminar] builds up a coterie of people who become public servants; people who know their obligation to society.” Along with the traditional fieldtrips to Gettysburg and Valley Forge, interns in the 2010-2011 year heard presentations from corporate leaders, politicians, and important members of the CIA, FBI, and the media. Among the presenters were Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute; Daniel Coughlin, Chaplin of the U.S. House of Representatives; William Kristol, Weekly Standard editor and Fox News commentator; and Donna Leinwand, USA Today disaster reporter.

Leinwand sent Fry an email after her visit to the Barlow Center: “These students are different than others. Their questions are insightful; they’re polite, well dressed, intelligent, bright. I’ll come back anytime.” Students reported that the speakers and presenters from so many different fields were among their greatest Washington Seminar experiences. “I loved the ‘Friday briefings’ part of the Washington Seminar,” noted Liz Jones, political science major who interned with Congressman Jeff Flake. “Professor Fry did a great job getting a variety of interesting

and accomplished speakers and presenters.” Economics and political science major DJ Dorff commented on his experience while listening to Donna Leinwand: “Here is a lady who has seen some of the worst things imaginable on the face of the earth. Some of these horrific events were natural disasters, while others were man-made. And yet, at the end of the presentation she said, ‘Despite everything I have seen, I truly believe that 99% of people in the world are good.’ This really touched me—her optimistic view on things, after all she

has seen. It was very inspiring. If someone like that, who has seen the worst this world has to offer, can feel like that, it offers a lot of hope.” Fry agrees—there is a lot of hope. The interns who participate in Washington Seminar are individuals who will become the leaders of the next generation, and the seminar is an opportunity to become better prepared for and positioned in a world faced with overwhelming problems. They will be individuals who can cope with difficult social, economic and political situations, and they will feel a duty to help.


[Official White House photo by Chuck Kennedy]




Before interning at the American Conservative Union (ACU) with Washington Seminar, Rodney Vessels of Connecticut had no solidified career plans. “Prior to Washington Seminar, I did not have a specific career path in mind,” said Vessels.

“The Washington Seminar program was the catalyst to my current career path.” “I chose to pursue a degree in political science because I enjoyed the subject area. When I found out about the Washington Seminar program I was very excited about the opportunity. However, I became busy with school and postponed participating. As I got closer to graduation, I did not want to take the trouble to get an internship. I felt that I should just get school over with and worry about a job after graduation.” However, after being encouraged by others, he decided to make the effort to participate in Washington Seminar—reasoning that the internship experience might open doors to new opportunities. How right he was. The majority of his internship consisted of working on projects

to help the American Conservative Union become more recognizable, especially to college students. However, he had the opportunity to participate in other large events, such as the Conservative Political Action Conference and the annual Walk for Life, where pro-life groups gather and march to the Capitol. “I found it fascinating and hopeful that thousands of citizens can gather and express their views in a nonviolent manner. It was a gentle reminder on how fortunate we are to be able to speak our mind, regardless of the ideas, without violent retaliation from the government.” During his time at the ACU, he became aware of career opportunities in nonprofit organizations and found that people were excited to help him find a job. “I had many people ask me what I wanted to do and how they could help,” noted Vessels. His internship supervisor recommended that he apply for a job at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, a foundation that primarily supports research and education programs that analyze the impact of free societies and how they advance the well-being of mankind. His supervisor told him about some career opportunities with the foundation, and because of his recommendation, Vessels applied for a position. Currently, Vessels is working on the marketing and recruiting team at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. “This is a big change from year ago when I did not have a clear idea of my direction after graduation.” Vessels credited his job-finding success to Washington Seminar. “The Washington Seminar program was the catalyst to my current career path. I feel that it was the most important part of my university experience. It opened doors to opportunities previously unknown. Also, my internship helped me acquire more skills which made me more marketable for my current position. I think if I applied to the same position without an internship experience, I would not have been hired.”


As an intern in 1985, Troy Romero was sitting on the tram that runs between the legislative offices and the House and Senate floors. The alert warning that there were five minutes until a vote had gone off, and he knew that as a staff person he would have to give up his seat to a legislator if he or she needed it. Tip O’Neill, speaker of the House, boarded the tram Romero was on and told Romero to stay seated when Romero got up to make space for the speaker. O’Neill squeezed into the small space next to Romero, and as the two talked for a couple minutes, the House speaker gave Romero a piece of advice he would never forget. “This country is what it is because of what we do here, and you are part of it,” O’Neill said. As the sole intern for Senator James McClure, who only had 20 to 25 office staff, Romero was put right to work when he arrived in Washington, D.C. “The very first day I felt like I became part of the staff,” Romero said. “I got invited to the work Christmas party, met the Senator at his house; the sort of stuff you would never get to do as a young person.” Amongst the work parties and meeting senators, Romero’s proudest moment was when he had the chance to write a speech for Senator McClure to read on the Senate floor in support of a bill. “It was a pretty important bill, and it’s now part of the congressional record,” Romero said. “You felt like you became a small part of history.” Now, as president of his own law firm, having served two terms as mayor and currently serving as legal counsel to the Mitt Romney presidential campaign in Washington State, Romero said the experience remains on his resume and feels people see his experience as a positive thing. “For me it was the best thing I ever did in my undergrad program,” Romero said. “I know there are different opportunities for students to do study abroad, but if you’re interested in government, business or law, I can’t think of a better place because D.C. is the hub.”

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHTS Jon Maginot Jon Maginot interned for the Senate Republican Conference Fall 2006 and enjoyed the entire D.C. experience. “I remember all the great experiences that we had in visiting the different sights and having amazing speakers come in to speak with us, and just how great it was to be in D.C. and to be a part of the Capitol experience,” Maginot said. “Also, I think I gained a greater appreciation for the work that the Founding Fathers did and what goes into running the country.” Maginot went on to get a master’s degree in public administration, graduating right in the middle of the recession in 2009. Unable to find a job, he accepted an internship working for the city manager of Los Altos, California. Being the exact field Maginot wanted to go into, the internship was a great experience for him, and a year and a half later the internship turned into a job. Maginot’s advice to alumni who are worried about finding a job is to, “Just keep at it, and keep working as hard as you can. You never know when an opportunity may present itself.” Maginot said his internship with Washington Seminar helps him with his current job because it taught him how to work with elected officials and how to deal with members of the public who don’t always fully appreciate the work he is doing. “I learned a great deal about working in a government office and dealing with a lot of different personalities,” Maginot said about his Washington Seminar experience.

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHTS The summer of 1974 will forever live in infamy as the Watergate summer, a scandal that would lead to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. There to observe it all was Roger Madsen, a BYU law student, who was working as an intern for Chief Justice Warren Burger as part of the Washington Seminar. “I’ve had lots of internship experiences,” Madsen said, who had previously completed an MBA and Masters of Political Science. “This was by far the most outstanding experience I had. The experience was way more valuable than any money I could have earned somewhere else that summer.” Although his work was never involved in the scandal, Madsen said he was able to watch the whole scandal play out at a much closer distance than he would have been able to at BYU Law School in Provo, Utah. Madsen spent his summer observing Supreme Court rulings, reviewing law articles for bias and outlining and categorizing speeches the Chief Justice had given. “I

gained a lot of appreciation for the judiciary.” Madsen said. “It made me have even more respect and appreciation for the court system.” Madsen said the internship gave him a greater love for his country and the Founding Fathers. It also gave him a greater determination to finish law school and become involved in politics. Madsen went on to graduate law school in the first class, serve two terms as a state senator of Idaho and has worked as the Director of the Idaho Department of Labor for four consecutive governors. As he now deals with Washington, D.C. and federal issues on a daily basis, Madsen felt the internship helps him have success in his career and said he still has a good relationship with the people he worked with in D.C., including the chief justice who he sees on occasion. “It’s the greatest memory,” Madsen said about his internship. “[Students should] learn everything they possibly can from morning to night from it.”

Roger Madsen


“I think a lot of what you might learn is outside the internship itself,” Day said.

Leslie Day was a student studying international relations in 1984 when she decided to see what working for the State Department was like. After learning how to write memos, deliver documents around Washington D.C. and do a little translation work, she decided it was not the line of work she wanted to go into. “I still love international relations, but it wasn’t really a career path that was going to make sense for me,” Day said. Day, who runs her own financial planning firm and talk radio show, did learn some important life lessons despite the career interest disconnect. “You learn how important compromise can be. In order to get something, you have to give up something else.” Day recently adopted two children from the Republic of Georgia and used some of the skills she learned in her internship as she worked through the red tape of a foreign government. “You have to learn to look at things from a different perspective, and the State Department teaches you a bit about that,” Day said. Overall, she felt the Washington Seminar program was worth the experience because of the relationships she was able to make with the other students, who were much closer than if they had been on a large campus, and she was able to live in an older city with a wealth of historical buildings and artifacts.



SPOTLIGHTS Frederick Benson from Stansbury Park, Utah was introduced to the idea of participating in Washington Seminar by advisors in both the Kennedy Center for International Studies and the College of Humanities. As a double-major in international relations and Russian, Benson knew the experience would be impressive on his resume as he applied to law school and that the opportunity to live in Washington, D.C. would be a great adventure for him and his wife.

“We fell in love with D.C. and hope to return to live and work there”

He interned at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. and was put to work early on with basic secretarial services for the Victim Witness Assistance Unit. Later in his internship, he was assigned to work with the Homicide Victims’ Advocate. This unit was responsible for providing court support and access to state and federal resources for the families of homicide victims. He was also able to utilize his Russian skills and provide basic translation services for Russian victims whose freighter had been hijacked by Somali pirates a year previously.

Frederick Benson - Fall 2010

[Fredrick is the third from the right]

“One of the biggest influences that Washington Seminar had on me was that it exposed my wife and me to life in our nation’s capital. Living in the Barlow Center and having quick access to downtown Washington proved to be one of the greatest adventures that we have experienced thus far in our marriage. We fell in love with D.C. and hope to return to live and work there once it becomes financially feasible.” Benson’s work at the U.S. Attorney’s Office exposed him to many aspects of the law he had not previously considered while researching potential careers. Consequently, he entered the University of Chicago law school this fall with a wide array of interests and much more excitement than he had previously anticipated.


SPOTLIGHTS Wes Christiansen - Fall 2010

worked in the Felony Major Crimes Division. He wrote sentencing memorandums, legal memorandums, summaries of wire taped calls between defendants and co-conspirators, and responded to a variety of motions. “I consider my internship experience in Washington, D.C. the most valuable semester of my education at Brigham Young Before venturing to law University. It changed the way school, sociology major Wes I view myself, my faith and the Christiansen from Kingwood, world around me.” His favorite Texas thought it prudent to aspect of the internship was the explore the life of an attorney intensity and importance of the before investing time and money things he was doing. “My work in a career he knew little about. was used in real cases with real Christiansen worked with the consequences. I loved being a United States Attorney’s Office part of something so significant. for the District of Columbia. This I loved the freedom I had to particular office is unique among either load myself up with all of the U.S. Attorney’s Offices work or to spend a day in court because of its sheer size and watching some of the nation’s the breadth of cases it handles. best prosecutors litigate. It was Not only does it prosecute crime all really exciting.” within the District of Columbia, Christiansen learned but it also handles federal time and time again that the crimes against the United social and historical context from States. This means the office which a person has been raised deals with cases varying from creates unique perspectives stolen iPhones to acts of terror that are difficult to understand committed against the United if not experienced personally. States of America. Christiansen

He believes that social context explains the vast majority of crime committed in our society. “Human beings are not simple, nor are the solutions to their problems,” he said. Christiansen decided, rather than becoming a lawyer, to pursue work in the management consulting industry or at a nonprofit organization focused on prison reform. “I hope to work in an industry I enjoy that provides rewarding relationships with those I love and cherish. My ultimate dream is to reform the American prison system.”


SPOTLIGHTS Liz Jones, a Wilmington, Delaware native and political science major, never thought she would collect 67 signatures for a bill that would end up on the desk of President Obama. Jones interned for Congressman Jeff Flake, who wrote a letter to President Obama asking him to veto any bills that included earmarks and “pork projects.” It was sponsored by Congressman Flake and 67 other members of Congress. Jones’ job was to collect all 67 signatures. She and another intern spent two days going to each office and obtaining signatures for the letter, which was eventually sent to the desk of the President. “It was a neat experience and I was privileged to be involved in such an influential assignment,” Jones said. Her job as an intern focused on constituent relations, and she was able to lead tours of the U.S. Capitol, answer phones, sort constituent mail, respond to letters to the Congressman, and aid visiting constituents with their tour and travel plans. She also assisted members of Flake’s staff with research requests and data entry. As Jones learned more about potential career opportunities, she became excited to become involved in politics. “I can honestly say that Washington Seminar was the best semester I’ve ever had at BYU. I learned a great deal about Congress, the legislative process, business/ professional work places, living in a big city, interacting with people with a variety of opinions and viewpoints, and keeping track of current events.” She plans on moving to Washington, D.C. shortly and would love to work on a congressional staff team or in a government agency.

Liz Jones - Fall 2010


SPOTLIGHTS DJ Dorff - Winter 2011

Interning in the Office of Financial Stability Policy and Research for the Federal Reserve Board, DJ Dorff had the opportunity to work closely with the office head and senior economists. For the Carmel, Indiana native and doublemajor in economics and political science, this was the jackpot. The majority of his internship was spent performing industry research—from money market funds to municipal bonds. He was asked to analyze past and current trends, dissect enormous reports detailing the status and outlook of the market and report back accordingly. Additionally, he performed two other large assignments. First, he created a presentation detailing the architectural framework of Financial Stability Reports. Second, the office head, Nellie

Liang, was asked to testify before Congress during DJ’s last week in D.C., and he was asked to write the first draft of her testimony. “It was a really awesome experience to attend the committee hearing where Ms. Liang testified before more than a dozen members of the House. When she was asked a tough question in response to her testimony. . . she used a statistic that I had given her weeks previously in order to answer the question and basically shoot down the aggressive representative. That was a great way to end the internship.” Dorff’s career plans have not changed significantly, though he has become more open to the possibility of working for the government or in some field related to law. In addition

to the wonderful professional experiences he enjoyed while in D.C., he said that the most meaningful takeaway from the entire experience was the friends he made inside the program. “The people I met through the program have become some of my best friends. I loved the conversations, laughs and experiences we shared together during the semester. Though the program was awesome in and of itself, it was the people that made the difference for me.”


SPOTLIGHTS According to Rebecca Ricks, a Middle East studies and Arabic double-major from Scarsdale, New York: “I have heard from so many people that simply attending college and maintaining good grades will no longer secure you a spot in a good graduate school. Most graduate programs now expect their incoming students to have completed at least one or two internships. I applied to BYU’s Washington Seminar Program with this in mind, knowing that I needed some professional experience while I was still an undergraduate student.” Professional experience is exactly what she got while interning with the World Affairs Institute, a print journal that argues the big ideas behind U.S. foreign policy. The journal offers a spectrum of opinions on international affairs and current events, and as an intern Rebecca worked primarily with the organization’s website, which was updated hourly with major news items. She was tasked with researching and aggregating the day’s global news in addition to writing short updates on the status of their original news posts. Because of her interest and experience in the Middle East, she would typically focus on that region’s daily headlines. “One of the most gratifying aspects of my internship was being surrounded by sharp coworkers who had all had some degree of international experience. One coworker had studied the impact of Islamic law in Somalia.

Rebecca Ricks - Fall 2010

Another had studied Arabic in both Jerusalem and Cairo, and incidentally, I have too. Every day in the office was a learning experience. I was able to talk through my career plans with others who had similar interests and see where their ambitions had taken them.” Though she does not believe that journalism is in her future, she is grateful for the time she spent as an intern as it helped her “parse her ideas into more cogent language.” She plans to attend law school and believes the skills she accumulated as a World Affairs intern prepared her for a career in law.


SPOTLIGHTS Keshia Lai - Winter 2011

[Keshia is the first from the left]

As a history major, it isn’t easy to find internships. However, history major and anthropology minor Keshia Lai of Singapore landed an internship at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars as a research assistant for two fellows. The Woodrow Wilson Center is a public policy institution and one of the leading “think tanks” in the United States. One of the fellows Lai interned for was Marjorie Spruill, history professor at the University of South Carolina, who is in the process of writing a book about the Second Wave Feminist Movement and its

impact polarization of American politics today. The other was Andre Laliberte, political scientist University of Ottawa, who is writing a book which examines the relationship between politics and religion in contemporary China. As a research assistant, some of Lai’s tasks included gathering sources and documents, compiling bibliographies, and minor translating and editing. Interns were encouraged to participate in the many dialogs and conferences organized by the center during their down time, and Lai was able to attend many

conferences and meet experts in their field of learning. Lai hopes to someday become a professor of American history, and working as an intern at the Woodrow Wilson Center confirmed to her that academia was really what she wanted to do. “The world of academia is certainly not for everyone, but I thrived in the environment. I enjoyed helping my scholars with their research, and I listened to the ongoing discussions and debates on current events with much interest. I look forward to the day when I will be able to make a contribution through my own research and teaching.” As part of the Washington Seminar lecture series, speakers included an impressive repertoire of professionals: an FBI agent, a reporter from USA Today, a lobbyist, a few congressmen and CEOs of various large cooperations. “Many of [the speakers] were Latter-day Saints who were very successful in their careers.” Lai said. “It was a testament to me how the Lord is eager to bless us when we try our best to live righteous lives and contribute to our community.”


SPOTLIGHTS Aimee Farnsworth, a recently graduated political science major from Wasilla, Alaska, spent her time in Washington Seminar as an intern for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which is the oldest and largest of the regional, multilateral development banks. It is also the largest source of development finance for Latin America, with sustainable development and growth, poverty reduction, and social equity as its priorities. “I figured the IDB would be a good fit for my interests,” said Farnsworth. “The opportunity to intern with the IDB came as a pleasant surprise. As they were impressed with their former interns from BYU, they were seeking to fill an open position with another BYU intern, and I was happy to accept.” As an intern at the IDB, Farnsworth performed research, including learning and working in the IDB’s procurement database, PRISM. She also learned to navigate through the IDB’s project database, as she commented “I learned more about the process of international development through use of the project database and PRISM, which illustrates how projects are carried out from their inception to their completion.” At times, Farnsworth was able to sit in on oneon-one counseling sessions that her supervisors had with their clients, usually owners of United States companies wishing to export into Latin America and the Caribbean. She noted that the meetings taught her about business

development and strategy, and she learned about the possible obstacles United States firms might encounter when trying to expand their businesses. “I now have AIMEE WITH a more SUPERVISOR comprehMACK TADEU ensive knowledge of the international development process from a government stance, which will be useful as I continue toward a possible career path in international development.” In August Farnsworth entered the University of Maryland, College Park, beginning her Master of Public Policy degree. “The Washington Seminar experience certainly helped me better understand what it is I’d really like to do in this great, big world, and it pointed me toward the type of higher education that would be necessary for what I want to do. While I’m still not completely sure what that is, it’s been a fun and rewarding journey along the way, and I know more about it now than I ever have before. It’s a nice feeling.”

Aimee Farnsworth - Fall 2010


SPOTLIGHTS Michael Monroe - Fall 2010

Michael Monroe decided to participate in the Washington Seminar program after hearing from a friend about a great internship his friend had with the U.S. Department of Treasury and how it had influenced his career decisions. “[I] knew immediately that I needed to have a similar kind of experience,” said Monroe, a native of San Diego, California. As an economics major and international development and political science minor, an internship with the U.S. Treasury could not have been a more perfect match for Monroe. “My internship was my dream job!” he claimed. Monroe interned in the International Affairs Division, in the Office of the Western Hemisphere. He had the opportunity to prepare and deliver daily oral briefings to the Under Secretary for International Affairs, research and draft analytical memos on the macroeconomic conditions of Latin American countries, and draft talking points for Treasury officials’ speeches and state visits.

“I recall a thrilling experience when I had the chance to serve as an official representative of the U.S. Treasury at an interagency meeting on recovery efforts in Haiti,” said Monroe. He had written the research memo and prepared talking points for his boss to present at the meeting, and when his schedule changed at the last minute, his boss asked Monroe to attend and present the Treasury’s point of view in his place. “I was terrified as the meeting began, but I swallowed deep and then shared our point of view and answered some questions when it was my turn. I left feeling exhilarated, confident and ecstatic.” Monroe’s internship helped him identify goals for his career and education. “It also gave me the courage to set out on a path that is very different than I had imagined, but one that has had serious input from experts, bosses and colleagues. I’m now headed to the London School of Economics, with a goal of returning to D.C. to work in macroeconomic and development policy.”


Service The historic district of Foggy Bottom, a neighborhood in Washington, D.C., was overrun by weeds, clogged gutters and fallen branches, but BYU student interns soon had the greenery situation under control as they participated in the neighborhood’s Urban Gardener Green-Up. On May 14, 2011 The students worked with other community groups and individual members, packing nearly 40 bags full of leaves in two hours. The Foggy Bottom Newsletter described the students as eager and wellspoken who were ready to work and knew how to work. “After a week of internships, they were primed and ready to fulfill their commitment to do volunteer work for the community, something which we very much appreciate,” the newsletter said.

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BYU Washington Seminar Newsletter  

A collection of stories and experiences from BYU Washington Seminar Alumni for 2010-2011