This is officially my last week as NASFAA’s Policy Intern and it is so bittersweet. After this week, I will not have to wake up at 5:30 AM every morning, commute about 4 hours a day, and go to bed strictly at 9:30 PM every night. I also will not be able to go to my favorite coffee shop every morning, come into the NASFAA building and say good morning to the NASFAA staff, tag along with Megan to meetings on the Hill, work on copy-editing with Gigi, contribute to report summaries with Joan, update disclosure requirements with Karen, or take any more trips to the White House with Justin. Overall I’d say it is definitely more bitter than sweet.
It has been a great last week so far, which will make leaving that much harder. On Monday I took a trip to the Hill with Megan and met with the education legislative assistants for Senator Durbin and Senator Brown. Both are very nice and personable, and shared with me how they got their start on Capitol Hill. We also met with the Higher Education Advocate for U.S. PIRG, Rich Williams. He has done really great work in the past as a student and now as an advocate in DC. NASFAA has worked with PIRG on projects before, such as the Save Pell campaign in 2011.
Hearing all of their stories was very encouraging and shed light on how work differs between the Hill and associations and advocacy groups. These organizations gather ideas from their members and make suggestions to legislative staffers; the staffers then take those suggestions and try to incorporate them into policy. In that regard, organizations work more directly with their members and encourage them to share their stories and give feedback that can help influence policy. Legislative staffers work more closely with the actual written policy and the members of Congress.
I personally think that I am more interested in working for an association or advocacy group and hope to influence policy in that sense. However, all of the pieces of the puzzle are needed to create good policy and reflect the needs of the interested parties, so I definitely do not think one role is more important than the other. Without constituents and members, organizations and interest groups, or staff members and Congress, the United States would not be the representative country that it was designed to be! Working in DC has shown me the crucial relationships that are formed between these different groups and I have much more respect for each level of policy making.
Publication Date: 8/8/2012