December 4, 2013 by Katie LeCornu
I can’t believe this is the last week of classes. Together, the students in our program have grown into young professionals and learned things that can never be taught in a classroom. I’ll give a recap of what we’ve been up to.
A few weekends ago, most of the program went down to campus for Homecoming. It was great to be surrounded by Tribe Pride instead of the concrete jungle of DC. The tailgates this year were awesome! A whole pig was being roasted on a grill and a bunch of student groups were rallying. Best of all, we won our game against JMU. Saturday night, a group of friends and I went to see Freelance Whales perform in Sadler. They were fantastic live – I’m always so impressed by the great bands W&M and AMP can book.
One of my highlights of the past few weeks was going to meet my Texas senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. I tagged along with one of my fellow Cato interns from Texas who was invited to “Texas Tuesday” where the senators meet with their constituents in town. There’s an inexplicable comfort that comes from being in a room of all Texans. Ted Cruz has made such a stink up here in Washington, and although I don’t always agree with his politics, I respect him as a Texan representative. And it was cool to meet the guy who shutdown the government.
We had our last Slice of Advice from Adam, and he told us how to wrap up our internship and leave a lasting impression. He said to hold onto projects that can be put into a portfolio. Write a letter of thanks to your supervisor, and write a letter of advice to be given to the next person in your position. I would have loved to have a bit of guidance coming into my internship, so I’m definitely willing to give some hints to the next person.
During the Slice of Advice, the W&M in DC office staff were decorating the room for a baby shower to surprise Roxane. She was so surprised when she walked in! We played games like unscrambling baby words and Nursery Rhyme Jeopardy. She got some baby outfits and baby necessities. Of course, she needed those things a lot sooner than she thought because 4 days later, she went into labor a month early, and now we have Piper Quinn Adler Hickey.
Upon realizing that we only had a few weeks left in DC, I spent a few weekends checking things off my DC “to-do” list. A friend from campus came one weekend and we went to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. It wasn’t the best Smithsonian I’d been to – it was a bit sparse in exhibits – but seeing the Star Spangled Banner was amazing. So much history in just that piece of fabric! After the Smithsonian, we went to Hill Country BBQ, which is apparently the best BBQ in DC. “Hill Country” refers to where I live – the hills in and around Austin. As an Austinite who has the real thing at home, this restaurant was impressively like the real thing. They even had Bluebell Ice Cream! Little did we know when we went, there was a Longhorn football game on. The entire restaurant was dressed in burnt orange. One guy had a Longhorn cape and a burnt orange suit! When UT scored, the restaurant erupted in cheers and chants. Eating BBQ with a bunch of Austinites, I rarely feel so at home even at home!
Also on my to-do list was a trip to Alexandria. The shops in Old Town were all really cute, and the trip was perfect for a fall day. We ended up stopping to eat in Killer ESP (espresso, sorbetto, pie). When it said pie, I thought that meant fruit pie, but turns out “pie” is quiche-like meat pies that were delicious. Also, we tried their home-made sorbet, and it was fantastic! I see why people love Alexandria – it’s a great escape from the city.
The next weekend I got up early on Saturday to go to the Holocaust Museum when it opened. It’s an interesting set-up: on the first floor, you pick up a little booklet that tells about someone in the Holocaust. Then you get in an elevator that takes you straight up to the fourth floor. In the elevator ride, you are shown a video introducing you to the museum, then you work your way through the exhibits. The fourth floor gave an explanation about the conditions in Germany that made the Holocaust manifest. The third floor gave detailed stories about the Jewish ghettos and the concentration camps. The second floor showed the rescue efforts and the aftermath. As you reached the next floor, you turned the page in your booklet to follow the journey of your person, and in the end you learn their fate. My girl “perished”. The most moving part was when the exhibit lead you through a train car that the victims had been shoved into for transport to the concentration camps. Standing in the car, you could smell the mildew and sweat, see hand prints on the floor, and feel the ghost of previous human presence. It was creepy. The museum was definitely one of my favorite things in DC – it gave me a much better understanding of the Holocaust.
Later I met up with other students in the program for Andrew’s birthday. He wanted to go to District Taco (yum!) and then to the Smithsonians. We started out at the Air and Space Museum, and then we were about to go to the American Indian Museum, when someone decided to jump off the fourth floor balcony and they evacuated the building…
On Sunday night, the program had our own little Thanksgiving. Everyone brought something, and we had a feast. Chris cooked a turkey, and Megan made fantastic sweet potatoes. There was mac-n-cheese and cranberry sauce and lots of desserts – it was perfect, and it got our tummies ready for the actual Thanksgiving!
For the next few days, we will be finishing up our essays and our internships and moving out. On Monday instead of class, Professor Abegaz invited a panel from the Millennium Challenge Corporation to speak to us and a handful of DC alumni. Tonight we have our farewell dinner with our bosses and mentors. It’s winding down, and I can’t believe this semester has gone by so fast!
October 31, 2013 by Katie LeCornu
As stated in my bio, I’m a Texas resident. When I got ready to apply to college, I wasn’t interested in the schools in my state. I figured I would end up at a private school – if I wanted to go to a huge public school I could find plenty in Texas for half the price. But in the end, the small, prestigious, yet public W&M married all the things I was looking for most in a college. It was undeniably the right place for me and being directed to it has been an awesome blessing.
Of course, it’s hard to call W&M a public school with all the opportunities to thrive on campus. It’s been our tagline for decades – “the public Ivy.” I’ve always taken pride that our public school has such a private school feel. However, lately I’ve also been grateful that there are a few significant ways where we are NOT like a private school.
First of all, our diversity policy is not like that of a private school. I have a large group of friends who ended up at a small private college in the Midwest that expels students who are openly gay. The students have started fighting back against this policy – establishing a Gay-Straight Alliance on campus and petitioning the administrators. The fight has gotten pretty nasty because the students have no leverage against the crusty old Board of Trustees with outdated ideologies. The students truly have no voice in the matter. The student government is only a “government” in name, not in practice. At William & Mary, administrators take our concerns to heart, as exemplified in the annual opportunity to submit revisions to the Student Code of Conduct. Also, there are student representatives on the Board of Visitors to voice campus opinion. Administrators, alumni, students and board members alike are dedicated to making this campus a happier place. Activism is a responsibility encouraged for all parties.
This brings me to another aspect of W&M that makes us awesome as a public school, rather than private: free speech codes. I recently attended a forum with a speaker from FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education). The speaker talked about some college campuses with horrific rules against free speech. Many campuses have a designated area, a free speech zone, and only there are students allowed to pass out pamphlets and flyers for their causes. This area is usually small and in a secluded part of campus. Students who pass out flyers in other parts of campus have disciplinary action taken against them. A ridiculous example occurred a few weeks ago when a student at a college in California was prohibited by school officials from passing out copies of the Constitution on Constitution Day.
I listened to this presentation in disbelief – I couldn’t imagine going to a school that violated such fundamental individual liberties. Nor could I imagine the student body of William & Mary accepting such limitations on free speech. We take for granted being able to walk across Sadler Terrace and listen to various student groups advertise their causes. Free speech on campus, however, should not be considered a privilege, but a right guaranteed by the very men who walked the streets of Williamsburg centuries ago.
After the presentation, I went to the FIRE website. William & Mary has consistently been rated as a school with some the of best free speech codes in the country. This honor of a “green light” has only been given to a dozen other schools. Perhaps it’s because we are public, perhaps it’s because we’ve had 320 years to figure this out, or perhaps it’s because those men who structured our school also structured our country. Whatever it is, we are lucky to go to a school that values diversity, human rights and the pursuit of happiness.
In sum, W&M adopts the characteristics of a private school, but remains public for the sake of the issues that matter. Our school is the ultimate hybrid, and I’m so proud to be a part of it.
October 21, 2013 by Katie LeCornu
Whew! What a hectic few weeks: broken governments, broken garbage disposals, and broken hearts when we saw our midterm grades. I guess I’ll start where I left off last!
A few weeks ago, we went bowling with some students from Boston University who are doing the same kind of program we are – internships with classes. Their program didn’t seem as structured – many were working at random places instead of places focused on their major. I’m grateful we have such a great support team in the DC office which made sure we found relevant internships. Bowling was fun! We went to Lucky Strike in Chinatown, and Javier totally beat everyone. The whole venue had a really neat vibe.
We were blessed with another “Slice of Advice” from Adam Anthony. This one talked about writing professionally and communicating effectively. These skills can seriously set you apart from other interns. It’s surprising how many brilliant people in the workforce can sometimes forget the simple rules of communication. It’s important to get a friend or co-worker to look over stuff – they see the mistakes that you don’t.
A highlight of the past few weeks was getting our well deserved dinner on the DC office as a reward for winning the scavenger hunt. After much deliberation, my group decided on the Daily Grill in Dupont Circle because it had something everyone liked. We got fantastic appetizers of onion rings in blue cheese, popcorn shrimp, and spinach artichoke dip. For the main meal, everyone got fish, and I got a burger. We splurged on chocolate cake and banana cream pie for dessert. All the hard work of meandering around DC for hours paid off!
A few weekends ago we went apple picking at Stribling Orchard in Markham. They gave us a long stick with a basket on the end to grab the out-of-reach apples. There were rows and rows of them, and many different kinds. I think we cheated a little by nibbling as we picked, fresh off the branch. It was very refreshing to be out of the city. The orchard had a bake shop where you could buy apple cider, all kinds of jams, and lots of apple pastries. I got some raisin bread stuffed with apples. The smell was irresistible!
October 1st marked the beginning of the government shutdown, in which about half of the DC program was furloughed. At first it was enjoyable – finally they had time to study for our upcoming midterms. But as the days dragged on, I think many of them started to go a little crazy. As for the rest of us, our lives remained largely unchanged. I didn’t go to meetings on the Hill, and the Metro was less crowded. There was a general haze of dismay over the city. But life went on.
We got the honor of being invited to the alumni event at the Italian Embassy. It was fun getting dressed up, and the venue was beautiful. The highlight was being able to talk to the alumni – they’ve all done so many cool things with their lives, and they are so ready to be a mentor and a guide. I left thinking about all the possibilities ahead. It’s a little terrifying all the paths you can take. And there’s no special formula to get where you want to go. I’ve learned that it’s not a straight shot – you have to take little steps in uncertain directions until you finally have fine-tuned where you want to end up. But as The Beatles said, “there’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be”.
We have crossed the half-way point for this semester. We met with Javier and Roxane for mid-semester check-ins, and they will meet with our bosses to make sure everything is still running smoothly in the office. We had our midterm exams, which were… well we just won’t talk about that. Then we had Fall Break, which is kind of just another weekend since we work and can’t really take off. The furloughed kids were off anyways, and a few people who were supposed to work took off.
Two good friends of mine came in from Williamsburg for the weekend. We got empanadas from Julie’s (recommended by the DC office). On Saturday morning we made apple pie from the apples from the orchard, then went shopping and walking in Georgetown. On Sunday, we ventured out to the Taste of DC festival, where a bunch of DC restaurants came together to showcase their dishes. My favorite was an ice cream sandwich out of a trailer called Cookie Monster – you got to pick the cookies and the ice cream in between. I took off of work on Monday, but convinced my friends to go to an event for libertarian youth that my office was holding.
This Sunday, Roma got a group of us to go to a pumpkin festival in Maryland. They had a hayride where the tractor took you out to the field to pick your own pumpkins. There was also a petting zoo, a corn maze, a big slide, and lots of yummy fall-ish food. It was great to be outside, especially on such a beautiful day with the leaves changing colors. We looked a little old to be there, but let our inner child shine. Sunday night we held a potluck to eat (as my boyfriend would say) “all the yums”. Our chef on hand, Chris, made fantastic homemade mac and cheese – the perfect snack to take on a new week!
September 25, 2013 by Katie LeCornu
This past weekend was Parents Weekend! My mom flew in on Thursday night, and we met for dinner after class. On Friday morning, I took off from work and we started our tour of Washington. I took her to the Eastern Market neighborhood, expecting the massive farmers market that I had witnessed the weekend before. It turns out that the outdoor vendors are only there on the weekends, and on weekdays only the indoor produce and meat vendors are there. Still, she got a taste of how cool that part of town is. Then we walked to the Hill. I showed her the Capitol Building, and took her inside Russell Senate building, where I sit in on a few staff meetings every week. Russell is home to many senator offices, so it was fun walking around and seeing their names on the gold plaques. We came across an office swamped with reporters and official-looking people, only to see that it was John McCain being bugged about something.
On Friday, my mom went to class with me. One of our speakers was a lawyer from the Department of Commerce, and the other worked at a nonprofit organization called Accion. Both were very interesting, and above all, passionate about their jobs! It’s reassuring to see W&M alums in great positions.
After class, the W&M DC office held a reception for the parents and students. THE FOOD WAS SO GOOD! Smooth brie cheese, rich cake balls, sizzling kabobs – fantastic!
After the reception, my mom got her first taste of the horrors of the Metro. First, the blue line was delayed, so by the time it got to the station, hundreds of people were waiting on the platform to get on. Somehow my mom and I squished on. I’ve seen the Metro full, but this was like in the cartoons when people’s faces are smashed up against the glass. We made it a few stops, cramming more and more people in. Then we smelled something terrible. My mom turned to me to ask what it was, and I sarcastically responded “the train must be on fire”. Turns out, I was right. There were so many people on the train, an electrical fire started underneath us, and everyone was kicked off at the next stop. Finally, after much delay and smoke, we made it to my mom’s hotel, where we met an old family friend and had dinner at a cute Lebanese restaurant.
Saturday morning began with a Costco run. I went in needing only three things, and came out with none of those things, instead five other items (Costco bulk sized). The second best part of Parents Weekend is having your family stock you up on food for the semester. (The first best part is just being with family.) After filling my fridge, my mom and I headed to the Newseum for the day. Even though we got the tickets for cheap through the DC office, it still would have been worth it to see the museum for full price – it was awesome. The purpose of the Newseum is essentially to tell history through the eyes of the reporters and journalists who witnessed it first hand. There was a display of pictures from the days of Camelot, and an exhibit of souvenirs from various FBI investigations. There were also pieces from history, like the very top tower of the World Trade Center. One of my favorite displays was the Berlin Wall. One side was clean, while the other side was covered with graffiti symbolizing the turmoil and unrest occurring on that side. I was awestruck to be that close to a piece of history. Another memorable part of the Newseum was the footage reporters got of the 9/11 attacks. It was incredible how close they were willing to get to the debris, and eerie to witness their reactions as events unfolded. My mom liked the replication of Tim Russert’s office – she was a huge fan of his.
After the Newseum, my mom and I walked to Clyde’s at Gallery Place for dinner. Again, the food was fantastic – crab cakes and spinach pastries. After dinner the group went to a show at the Reagan Center called Capitol Steps. The comedians make fun of politics and happenings in Washington. My favorite skit was when they replaced the words from Grease the musical with lyrics about Greece the country and how it is failing economically. It was surprisingly non-partisan: they poked fun at both sides of the aisle.
On Sunday morning, my mom and I headed back to the Newseum to soak up a little more of the exhibits. We watched a documentary about how the Holocaust was largely ignored by the US press because of the anti-Semitism at the time. It was moving. News about the Holocaust was only printed about once a year on the front page – most of the focus was to WWII. If only the press spoke out more about the killings, thousands of lives would have been saved. It made me realize the power of the media. Also, we went to the Pulitzer Prize picture gallery, which was again very emotional. While a few of the pictures documented victory and progress, many depicted war and violence and death. It is truly amazing the power of a picture.
After the Newseum, my mom and I walked through the Mall. The National Book Festival was going on, but it was overwhelming so we didn’t stop. I showed her the Washington Monument and the White House, and then sent her on her plane back to Texas. It’s tough going to school so far away from my family, so it was great getting to see my mom over the weekend.
As I was about to leave work on Tuesday, I got an email from the internship coordinator that he got us passes to go see Ted Cruz filibuster about the Continuing Resolution and ObamaCare. All my office left, and I started heading to class, but after about a block of walking, I realized that there will probably never be a time in my life where I get to sit in on a Senate filibuster, so I turned around and joined them. It was a weird experience – I thought since Senate was in session and a filibuster was going on, the chamber would be full. However, the only people in there were Ted Cruz, a senator from Alabama, the scribe, and a presiding chair. Ted Cruz kind of just rambled, but it was cool to see the formalities of it. They called him “Junior Senator from Texas” instead of just Senator Cruz. I’m excited to see how the CR unfolds in the Senate this week. Below is a sample of what we witnessed in the Senate Chamber Tuesday night…
September 19, 2013 by Katie LeCornu
Well, the DC Fall intern class has officially completed our first full week of work! Armed with pantsuits, briefcases and walking shoes, we venture out every morning with the fellow Crystal City-ers with “real jobs”. Not to say our jobs aren’t real or that we aren’t doing just as much work (and more) than our paid co-workers. We surely look just as professional as the other ho-hum commuters frowning on the Metro. We’ve entered the rat-race, but our spirits are still fresh, and we are ready to take on what is thrown at us.
Corporate America is not what I expected. There are so many little tasks that need to be completed just to keep things running. No, not getting coffee, but entering contact information or updating a database. These tasks seem insignificant, and I find myself asking, “When will the big work start? When will I have that groundbreaking project? When will I be the President of the United States?” Okay, maybe that last one escalated too quickly. But when I take a step back from the tedium, I realize that the small daily tasks I perform save my supervisors a lot of time, which then enables them to do the big things. Once I gain their trust by completing the little chores, they feel comfortable delegating to me the bigger projects, like representing them at an important conference that they don’t have time to attend. Or sending out a daily email to 9,500 people (eek!)
One of the most difficult parts is trying to find the perfect balance of how often to talk to your supervisors. I want to have something to do, but I don’t want to bug them to death. One of the problems I’m facing is the fact that I’m in two departments, so each supervisor assumes the other one gave me something to do. It’s tempting to continue to let them assume that so I don’t have any work, but it can get boring pretending to be productive. I’ve started going to my supervisors in the morning to let them know what is on my plate for the day, so they know that I have time to do certain tasks. I’ve learned that it is important to assert your desire to learn. By being eager to help out and showing you are ready to get your hands a little dirty, supervisors will respect you as an asset to the organization, and treat you like a colleague rather than an understudy. Also, I’ve found that many supervisors want you to get the most out of the experience, so they are willing to help you reach your goals if you just speak up about them. I know it’s nerve-racking, but speaking up to your supervisors can solve a lot of problems and keep you from being forgotten.
In other news, I got to explore a little bit of DC this weekend when a friend came to visit. On Saturday we went to the National Zoo, which is HUGE and free. Although I visited the Zoo on the scavenger hunt, we actually only saw chipmunks and no animals. This time I was able to make it through almost all of the exhibits. My favorite was the otters – they played follow-the-leader the whole time. Also, there was a butterfly room where the butterflies actually would land on you! It seemed like a lot of the animals did not have much room to play – the elephant kept ramming into the gate trying to get out. But I guess in the wild they don’t get fed and protected from poachers, so it’s a tradeoff. Unfortunately the animals don’t get to make that decision for themselves. I don’t know how much I would like being stuck in a cage with snotty kids banging at me…
On Sunday we went to Eastern Market, a super cool neighborhood with an all-day, everyday farmers market. There are a ton of great restaurants in the area, and we settled on one called the Chesapeake Room. After lunch we got a cupcake from a food truck, and headed over to the tents. There was a wide variety of produce – everything from beautiful heads of lettuce to juicy peaches. There were live bands playing, soap shops, art tents and jewelry artisans. It was an awesome atmosphere – definitely a place I want to return to.
Last night the interns had dinner with our mentors. It was fun hearing about their time at William & Mary. Although the campus has changed a lot, the prestige of the school remains. Also, many cool programs have been introduced since their time there, like the DC program. It was great to see that so many alums left W&M prepared for a career that they love. One of the most important things I got out of my dinner was that it’s okay that I don’t know what I want to do after college. My mentor was actually glad that I didn’t know what to do – it gives me time to explore and be flexible. He didn’t settle into something until he was almost thirty, but once he did, he loved it. I think it’s important to take the time to discover where you can do the most good.
September 10, 2013 by Katie LeCornu
The Fall 2013 William & Mary in Washington interns are all settled into our new apartments in the lovely neighborhood of Crystal City. Move-in was astonishingly efficient with all the DC office staff there to help. As a girl with way too many belongings, moving is always such a loathsome experience. However, I pulled up and my stuff was out of my car and in my room before I could even turn off the engine!
Monday night began with pizza and a short introduction to the program by the director of the DC office, Adam Anthony. Then we took a tour of Crystal City so we know our way to the Metro and through the underground mall. Monday night, our group of 17 converged in one of the apartments for a movie showing – the girls outvoted the guys and we ended up watching the “Glee”-esque movie “Pitch Perfect”.
Tuesday morning began with doughnuts (yum!) and a meeting with Roma, our Community Advisor. She gave us the rundown of the building procedures and our duties as residents, and provided us with our pre-loaded Metro card (turns out you can’t walk everywhere like in the Burg…) We hopped on the Metro and navigated ourselves to the W&M office in Dupont Circle, where Javier gave us a packet of information for the program – calendars, forms, contact numbers, etc. We had a fantastic lunch catered from a Greek restaurant, and then got a presentation on stress from Dr. Reis from the campus Counseling Center. The presentation was a good reminder to manage our time, and leave room for fun and relaxation. After lunch we started our Scavenger Hunt – the winning team gets a free dinner! The items on the list were worth varying amounts of points depending on how far away from Dupont Circle they were. The list included everything from chess players to embassies to landmarks. My group made our way to Union Station and the National Mall, then up to Chinatown where we met the whole group for dinner at Matchbox, the pizza place. We didn’t think we were doing too great in the game, but when two groups showed up late and got points deducted, we once again had hope that we might win. After dinner, we met up with a tour guide at the Jefferson Memorial who gave up a monument tour. My favorite monument was the FDR one – it really told the story of his life. Also, the MLK monument was bustling because Wednesday was the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
On Wednesday morning the group met at GW’s Gelman Library, our designated library away from Swem. The library was 8 stories, but didn’t seem to have as many books as Swem. Although it was only the 3rd day of school, the library was surprisingly full of students. We then headed back to the Dupont office for lunch, and then adventured out for the second part of the scavenger hunt. This time my group was a little more motivated with the idea that we could win. We went down Embassy Row, then found our way to Georgetown University. We went past Dumbarton Oaks Park, and then trekked through a surprisingly uncharted dense forest area, before coming out at the National Zoo. We looked for the panda, but it had just given birth and was therefore not on display. Next, my group took the Metro to the Kennedy Center, where we were able to check off “Bust of JFK”, “Hall of States”, and “View of Georgetown from Kennedy Terrace.” As our time limit came close, I convinced my group to make a little detour to a coffee shop on the list that was only worth a point. It was a good thing because when we met with the rest of the students for dinner, we had beaten the group by only a 2 point margin! Dinner was at a wonderful Mexican restaurant called Lauriol Plaza – I can still smell the sizzling fajitas. After dinner we went to Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center. It was an incredibly funny murder mystery in which the audience decides who the killer is! The interaction with the audience made it different from any play I’d ever seen before.
Thursday morning started out with an introduction lecture from Professor Abegaz to set us on the right path for our classes the next week. We had a lunch of Mexican food, and then Adam gave us our first “Slice of Advice,” a series that will continue throughout the semester. This first presentation was about being better than the intern next to you by completing assignments before the due date, communicating professionally, and being eager to learn. After our advice session, we went to the National Building Museum to play mini-golf on super cool holes. The holes had to do with environmental and futuristic building – and some of them were impossible! We ended the night and our Orientation with a Nationals game. It was Nationals vs. Marlins, so of course we beat them. The best part wasn’t so much the game, but the hype and the energy that resonated through the stadium! DC has a lot of spirit and pride!
Although it was weird to go through Orientation again as an upperclassman, it was completely refreshing and really prepared us for the semester to come. I hardly stepped foot in DC a week ago, but now I know my way around completely. I was even able to give directions for a Metro stop to a foreign tourist the other day! Also, Orientation allowed us to have a little fun before the hardcore (but still fun?) work starts in September. I think this class of interns had bonded really well, and we are going to have a very successful semester.
Picture Credits: Ferra Chen and Donald Thibeau