Alex Goodnight ’22 — My name is Alex Goodnight, and this summer I have been given the experience of a lifetime with the internship I was able to land this summer. Even though I would consider myself having more experience in biology than politics, I was able to work under my own Congressman as the only intern at the 4th Congressional District Office in Danville, Indiana. Even though I ultimately utilized other outstanding people in my network to get this position, I must thank WPPP (Wabash Public Policy Project) for helping me with the process of writing appealing resumes and checking my cover letters for the various other jobs I tried for. I especially thank Lewis McCrary for meeting with me often to discuss my deep interest in science and how it relates to the policies that are used in the government. He directed me to a few think tanks that I was intrigued by, but it was this Congressional position that really piqued my interest.  

I feel as if this internship position has been a wonderful experience for me for a variety of reasons, but the one that comes back to me the most often is the fact that the Congressman I work for, Dr. Jim Baird, is on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. This is outstanding from my perspective as a biology major since I get to see how the federal government works to allocate several billion dollars to the various fields of research that help people understand the universe around us. Since I was curious about this from the beginning of my job, I made it known to my superiors that I wanted to watch this process occur and they were able to deliver.  

A few weeks ago, I was allowed to sit in on a committee hearing about NASA’s budget for the 2022 Fiscal Year. Even though I only attended virtually, I was still able to hear the questions from each Congressperson on the committee that were answered by Bill Nelson, the 14th NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Administrator. In the meeting, I was able to hear a lot about how NASA plans to land a female astronaut on the moon for the first time ever in the next few years and how the United States is attempting to remain the global leader in space technology as the Chinese government begins to explore the stars. I am hopeful that the SST committee will help NASA continue with peaceful operations, whether it be on Earth, in orbit, or beyond our solar system.  

Even though I found that meeting exciting, a lot of my work consists of answering phone calls from constituents and compiling lists of community events that Congressman Baird should attend to interact with those that he represents. Even though the work is quite modest, it is always awesome to hear what people have to say about a particular issue that they are concerned about. Even if I do not necessarily agree with what the people on the other side of the line have to say, I am glad that I am able to help them have their voices heard in DC. It is also uplifting to hear about constituents that were having issues with a particular federal agency get the help they needed. A lot of people are and were struggling to get their federal tax returns from the IRS, but the staff in the office are great at communicating with the proper offices to speak up for those that were wronged.  

When the phones are not ringing off the hook, I spend my time searching town websites and newspapers to locate functions that the Congressman should attend to meet face to face with the people that placed faith in him to speak their mind on the Hill. The first project that I worked on in the office for the Congressman and his staff was a binder that provided information on all sixteen 4-H county fairs that take place in Indiana’s 4th Congressional district. It may not seem that difficult of a task, but it involved going to a variety of websites, visiting Facebook pages, and making multiple phone calls to extension offices to acquire information. Since this project has been completed, I have been excited to see where the Congressman is able to visit.  

This summer internship is something that I will treasure for the rest of my life because I am learning a lot about our government here in the United States and it has provided me with an excellent stepping stone to continue pursuing my dreams. I have a long way to go, but I feel like I am heading in the right direction.  I would also like to add that all college students, especially Wabash men, should never hesitate to follow a path that genuinely interests them. Life is far too short to not follow a productive passion! Take calculated risks and be willing to explore the opportunities that are waiting to be found by the ones that are willing to put in the work. I never would have pictured myself writing about my experience in a Congressional office, but here I am telling the world that truly anything is possible.