When Ashley Bykerk visited Nebraska Wesleyan University as a high school senior, the Political Science Department highlighted the opportunity to move to Washington, D.C. for a semester and participate in the Capitol Hill Internship Program.
She was sold.
“As a high school student, I was excited to learn about this program and have looked forward to participating,” said the junior political science and history major from Grand Island, Neb.
What she didn’t anticipate during that high school visit was the opportunity to intern at the White House.
Bykerk spent the spring semester interning in the Office of Vice President Joe Biden. For approximately 16 weeks, Bykerk was responsible for researching and fact-checking information for Biden’s policy priorities.
That meant no two days were ever the same. Wherever Biden traveled and spoke, Bykerk was teaming with his policy advisers to prepare memos and give updates on various issues. Her favorite issue during her time there was working on President Obama’s community college promise.
Bykerk is the second NWU student in two years to intern at the White House. In 2013, accounting major Hilary Krantz worked in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. Students go through a lengthy interview and screening process and background check. Those selected can choose from among 16 departments for their internship.
Bykerk’s work in the office was supplemented with work beyond the office including the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. She also participated in community service projects. As part of the Capitol Hill Internship Program students also attend class and seminars to provide further meaning to their internships.
Bykerk credits her political science classes and her political science professor, Robert Oberst, for helping prepare her to work in a prestigious place like the White House.
“The interns are truly treated as part of a team, which created a great environment to work and learn in,” she said. “While I was one of the youngest interns in my office, I felt just as capable because of the high standards and expectations I’ve been exposed to at Nebraska Wesleyan.”
Bykerk’s White House internship wasn’t her first political experience. As a first-year student she interned for Nebraska State Senator Mike Gloor. In high school she served on Governor Dave Heineman’s Youth Advisory Council. This summer she’s working for the City of Grand Island. She plans to attend law school following her NWU graduation and focus on public policy.
“Having this experience as an undergraduate will no doubt prepare me for my future and has given me a better idea of what I want my career to be.”
The Capitol Hill Internship Program (CHIP) connects NWU students to an array of Washington, D.C. internships. Students live on Capitol Hill in apartments located near their internship sites, work in government and non-government offices and take classes and seminars. Students have interned at places like the National Institutes of Health, Department of Education, CNN, The Kennedy Center and the NASA History Office.