Courtney Jacquin, Class of 2020.

Student: Courtney Jacquin, Class of 2019 

Position: Press Team Member, Office of U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth 

What is your policy area of interest?  Is there anything you want us to know about you? 

I’m a rising second-year MPP student at the Harris School of Public Policy, with an interest in political campaigns and education policy. Before coming to Harris, I worked in journalism as the editor of The Highland Park Landmark, a small local newspaper in the northern suburbs of Chicago. I received my BA and MA in journalism from DePaul University. At Harris, I’m president of Prairie State Society, an executive editor for Chicago Policy Review and an orientation leader. In my free time I volunteer for Planned Parenthood.

Tell us about your internship and the organization you are working with – what is the organization’s mission? What are your responsibilities?  What projects are you working on?

I am an intern on the press team in the Washington, D.C. office of Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). The Senator—an Iraq War veteran, Purple Heart recipient and former Assistant Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs—was elected in 2016 after serving two terms in Congress. Most of my job involves writing press releases, putting together daily press clippings and general research into events or organizations where Senator Duckworth will speak. Depending on the day, I may also attend press conferences, photograph meetings between the Senator and different interest groups in the office, or transcribe interviews the Senator has done. Just this past week I attended a press conference where Sens. Duckworth, Elizabeth Warren, Tina Smith and Patty Murray spoke with representatives from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America about President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. Afterward, I wrote the press release on her speech. It’s exciting to know you’re helping spread the Senator’s message to the people of Illinois.

How long did it take to secure your internship? What was the interview process like?

When I had my first meeting in October with my career coach, Nick Fahnders, I told him, “I want to work for Senator Duckworth.” I had other internships I was looking at as well, but my number one goal was to work for the Senator. Because I let the Career Development team know my plans so early, they helped me connect with a Harris alum in the Senator’s Chicago office. I learned more about the internship through an informal coffee chat, then applied directly through the Senator’s website, and it all worked out for the best. Turning in the application to accepting the position was about six weeks, but finding ways to connect to the office and prep my application was about a four-month process.

What has been the most valuable part of the internship so far?

As part of the internship program, we have lunch with individuals or groups from each department in the office to learn about different functions within a Senator’s office, and hear individual stories about how careers evolved on the Hill. Everyone has a unique path, whether it’s the scheduling team, the senior staff, or the operations team. I’ve learned there are so many different ways to create a career in politics and policy. One important lesson that’s been shared over and over again is “never think a task or a job is too small, or that you’re too good for something.” Everyone who works in a Senate office is extremely intelligent—and while that’s important, proving you’re both smart and willing to go above and beyond is what makes the difference for success in this competitive field.

What has surprised you about this experience?

Going from a full-time position to an internship has been a bit of a challenge. Previously, I was in charge of most of my daily tasks and trusted with many responsibilities, but as an intern I experience many levels of expectations and management. I’m given different projects to work on from my supervisors, but in the past I was in control of how my days would look, so this is a bit of an adjustment. Some days are slow, some are hectic—every morning brings a surprise.

What skills are you using most in your internship?

Not a skill per se, but one area of interest for me is education policy. Recently, I worked on a series of press releases about millions of dollars of grant funding to Head Start programs across Illinois, and this week, many local news stations picked up the story. While I didn’t write the policy or secure the grant, I like to think I’ve played a small role in letting people know about these important initiatives that can change lives.

How has this internship helped with your career path as you transition to your second year at Harris?

This opportunity has given me a clearer picture on how I can marry my two skillsets: journalism and policy. My plan all along in coming to Harris was not to be a policy researcher or data analyst like many of my classmates, but to understand policy on a deep level and communicate that to a broader audience. When I begin looking for jobs this year, I know I have a unique story to tell and can market myself because of this experience. I am more confident about career opportunities for my specific interests and skills.

What is the one piece of advice about holding an internship that you wish had been given to you?

Don’t stress out if it feels like everyone’s secured an internship by winter quarter (to be fair, my career coach Nick did give me this advice … I just didn’t listen the first time around). Don’t compare yourself to what your classmates are doing, especially if you have a different skill set and you’re looking at different kinds of internships. When you put in the work, things will work out. With that being said, don’t miss out on opportunities because you’re not networking or keeping your eyes peeled for new opportunities. Searching for an internship is a marathon, not a sprint.

Any social media handles you’d like us to tag (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)

Twitter @courtneyjacquin; LinkedIn: Courtney Jacquin