Archer Fellows Gain Insight into Government Operations During Washington Internships
Jan. 30, 2014
Three UT Dallas Archer Fellows who spent the fall semester in Washington, D.C., may have had varying perspectives going in, but they all returned with an appreciation for the nation’s capital and the people who contributed to their experiences.
The three UT Dallas students were among 41 undergraduates from throughout the UT System who spent the fall semester in the capital, taking classes, interning, networking and discovering the city’s history and inner workings through the Bill Archer Fellowship Program.
“This fall class is a good example of how people from a variety of backgrounds and countries can benefit by a semester in Washington,” said Dr. Edward Harpham, associate provost and director of UT Dallas’ Collegium V Honors Program and primary faculty liaison to the Archer Center. “The Archer program is an excellent capstone experience if you’re interested in international relations, business or law, and there are a variety of opportunities for people to explore those different interests.”
Up-close look at functioning democracy
Tue Tran meets former state and U.S. Rep. Bill Archer during his time in Washington, D.C.
Tue Tran, an accounting junior who was born and raised in Vietnam, arrived in the United States in 2011. Tran interned in the office of government affairs at the Financial Services Roundtable, an advocacy organization for America’s financial services industry.
Tran said he always wondered why his home country struggled to grow. His D.C. experience gave him an up-close look at one reason.
“What I saw in D.C. was a functioning democracy. I could see how the interests play out and how they influence the public,” said Tran, who wants to work in public accounting and later go to law school. “It’s nice when a government tries to listen to all voices.”
At his internship, Tran worked with three lobbyists, summarizing research papers for their presentations to policymakers. He helped organize fundraising events and sat in on talks and meals with congressmen, senators and their chiefs of staff.
At Financial Services Roundtable, Tran worked for CEO Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota and a 2012 presidential candidate. Tran also met John Dalton, former secretary of the Navy, and the program’s namesake, former state and U.S. congressman Bill Archer.
“All those big names, they set aside time for us,” Tran said. “The only thing we had to do was ask. … I never thought I’d get to see those people. People in those positions have a lot of goodwill toward young people.”
Surrounded by history
Kyle Reynolds stands on the south lawn of the White House during a garden tour.
Kyle Reynolds, a political science junior from Georgia, interned at the in the Federal Programs Branch of the U.S. Department of Justice. Living in such a historic place was the best part of the Archer experience, he said.
“There are lots of museums and lots of monuments, so all that was fascinating to see,” Reynolds said. “At the same time, history is being made there. We went through the government shutdown of 2013. That’s a story that’s going to be in the history books.”
Reynolds worked as a paralegal intern, helping paralegals support attorneys by preparing materials and doing research for depositions. Reynolds said the hands-on experience was useful for an aspiring lawyer like himself. He also appreciated the dynamics of the office and the openness of the employees.
“When I went in there, I was expecting everyone to be intimidating because these are all Ivy League attorneys who are at the top of their fields; but it actually just felt like a normal office,” Reynolds said. “They were all nice people. Their doors were always open to me.”
Reynolds also learned a lot from the other Archer Fellows who, he said, were from different countries and in different stages of life. As the only American from UT Dallas in the group, he said he experienced “some pride, I think, and a little bit of patriotism,” experiencing what visitors to the U.S. see when they tour the nation’s capital.
Gaining new perspective through interactions
Rajiv “Raj” Dwivedi, an economics senior from India, interned with the Heritage Foundation. Dwivedi will graduate in May before heading to his home country to teach for two years through a program called Teach for All. He aims to later attend graduate school and work in the financial services industry.
Rajiv Dwivedi (left) listens to Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, (right) during a tour of the U.S. Capitol.
Dwivedi spent his internship in the communications office of the foundation, researching issues, taking calls and updating the website. He observed how various interest groups affect policy and learned more about the procedures behind the legislative process.
“The most surprising part was how educated the city in itself is and how the city runs, basically, on the pulse of the legislative, executive and judicial parts of the government and how the government so heavily influences the workings of the city itself,” Dwivedi said.
He took the opportunity to meet new people while in D.C., who he said challenged his ideas and showed him new perspectives. He said he was mistaken to initially think that relationships would be based on political ideology or cultural identities.
“One thing I realized is human interactions and meaningful relationships are based on common interests and understanding people,” Dwivedi said.
All three Archer Fellows came away with experiences and connections that will last well beyond their time on campus.
“Archers, we bond during the semester,” Tran said. “We become really good friends, if not best friends. … I have friends that I talk to now in cities across Texas. They’re really promising students and future leaders, and I feel honored to keep in touch with those people.”