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UT Interns Go Behind the Scenes of U.S. Senate

Published: August 28, 2009
Mary Beth Hillery took the opportunity to intern early in her college career, spending this summer on Capitol Hill.

“Most people wait until their junior year, but I have no regrets,” said Hillery ’11. “It was priceless.”

Hillery is a business management major, pursuing a focus in either economics or finance. While politics isn’t in her plans, she said learning about policy and how it affects business was an invaluable insight.

Being from Richmond, Texas, Hillery said the internship experience helps broaden her small-town upbringing. Her sister works for the U.S. Department of the Interior and suggested Hillery pursue an internship with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

With the help of Cornyn’s office, Hillery spent the first six weeks of summer interning for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, of which Cornyn is the chairman. She spent the second part of the summer as a legislative intern in Cornyn’s office in Washington, D.C., on the fundraising team.

“It was a fabulous experience,” said Hillery, who processed the inflow of information from Cornyn’s contacts and constituents, researched topics and provided the senator’s stance on issues. “I really enjoyed it. I met a lot of various senators and their staff. I’m obviously a lot more clued-in now. It was eye-opening.”

One of her favorite parts of the internship was the Senate Intern Lecture Series where she was able to hear from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve Donald Kohn and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.

Hillery wasn’t the only UT student working for the senate this summer. She was joined by UT junior Carlos Salinas.

While he’ll be in Washington, D.C. this fall to work on his Honors research project, Salinas spent the summer as an intern for Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Florida, in Martinez’s Tampa office.

“It has been a wonderful experience,” Salinas said. “The office has treated me as a staff member rather than as an intern.”

Salinas said his duties included drafting letters for special events, engaging with constituents about the different bills debated in the Senate, tracking legislation, researching special topics such as the Presidential crisis in Honduras and translation of documents from Spanish to English and vice versa.

Hillery, who is vice president of external affairs for the Pan-Hellenic Executive Council and vice president of chapter operations for Delta Sigma Pi, said she will be pursuing another internship next summer, perhaps more in the field of business or with a policy group. The experience with the U.S. Senate she would recommend to other students.

“I considered myself a representative of the University of Tampa in Washington, D.C. this summer and I would love to let our UT students know that experiences like this are available to them,” Hillery said. “The more UT students and alumni we have making great connections for our school the better.”