GW sends more graduates to Capitol Hill than any other school in the nation, according to a report released earlier this month.
GW topped the list of schools that produce congressional staffers from undergraduate and graduate alumni, according to data compiled by LegBranch – an organization that researches Congress. Politics and career experts said the University’s strong internship culture and location in the heart of D.C. play a large role in its high position in the rankings.
About 103 alumni with bachelor’s degrees and 169 alumni with graduate degrees from GW currently work as congressional staffers, according to the report. American University ranked second for schools that send the most former undergraduates to the Hill, while Georgetown University clocked in at second for the graduate student ranking.
Taegan Goddard, the founder and publisher of Political Job Hunt – a job search website – said students at GW are ideally placed to land internships on the Hill during both the academic year and over the summer, if they choose to stay in the District.
“With Washington being the national capital, there are a lot of opportunities for students to not only have people here at the University to lecture, speak and to take part in events, but also it’s easy for students to get internships either during semesters or the summer,” he said.
Goddard said he was “not surprised at all” that GW was placed high on the list given its strong internship culture. University President Thomas LeBlanc has previously decried GW’s internship culture as detrimental toward developing school spirit.
Goddard added that the report shows “great things” for GW because the data demonstrates strong career placement in politics for alumni.
“It’s really hard to judge employees based solely on course work or recommendations and so internships play a big role, and that’s particularly true in politics,” he said.
GW placed 16th in U.S. News and World Report’s most recent ranking for the best college internship programs. Sixty-eight percent of GW students who graduated between 2015 and 2017 interned during their time at the University, according to GW’s career services website.
When adjusted for size, GW drops off the list of top schools that produce congressional staffers with bachelor’s degrees entirely while Sewanee, a private liberal arts college in Tennessee, topped the list, according to the report.
The University ranked third among the top producers of lawyers in Congress, behind Georgetown and American, the report states.
Students who have interned on Capitol Hill said they believe the experience will help them stand out when they apply for jobs in congressional offices after graduation.
Alex Arbaiza, a freshman majoring in political science who interns for Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., said his internship provides him with “real-world” experience before he graduates that congressional offices will probably “like to see” if he applies for a job on the Hill after graduating.
He said during his internship, he has fielded phone calls from constituents, given tours of the Capitol and drafted policy memos for permanent staff.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Arbaiza said. “It should not be taken lightly – it is a very humbling experience. People take semesters off to do this thing, but it’s right at our doorstep, so it’s something that should not be looked over.”
Arbaiza said he is “definitely considering” working on the Hill after graduation.
Elizabeth Gonzalez, a sophomore majoring in political communication who interned for Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., last spring, said studying in D.C. allowed her to avoid applying to intern during the summer, when positions are more competitive because they receive a greater number of applicants.
Gonzalez said she is considering applying for a full-time job on the Hill after graduation.
“Once you get there, you get to immerse yourself in the culture of real legislative politics and stuff like the national news which is really interesting,” Gonzalez said, “I really enjoyed it.”
Ashok Kaushak, a freshman majoring in international affairs who interns for Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said his time on the Hill has been a “great experience” to boost his resume if he decides to apply to work at the Capitol after his time at GW.
“I recommend it for anyone and everyone regardless of major,” Kaushak said. “Being in D.C. is unique and even if you’re not a political science, international affairs, economics or history major, it is still valuable and can help teach you about things you don’t get to learn inside a textbook.”