Elaina Foley

In the summer of 2019, I interned in the office of Senator Merkley as a legislative intern. I worked on maintaining office communications with constituents through the management of mail and phones. I also had the opportunity to work on three portfolios in the office. I worked with a Legislative Aide (LA) and a Legislative Correspondent (LC) on issues in the areas of education, abortion, and healthcare. I also worked with the foreign policy team to coordinate a daily selection of news covering 8 areas of the world, which was sent out to staff. My final pairing was with the legislative director and I assisted her on various projects, some of which were confidential. I attended several briefings during my time in the Senate and prepared memos on the previously mentioned issues. I used this summer to gain professional experience and begin to decide on a future career. I’ve always been interested in government, but it’s so different to be a part of it rather than being on the outside looking in. I’m comparing it with the nonprofit work I’ve done so my experience this summer has helped to really define what advocacy in government work means to me. Throughout my time on the Hill, I have gathered writing samples and worked on enhancing my writing skills in my memos. I have also used this chance to better understand what a career path would look like for me within government and feel very lucky to have gotten guidance from the staffers in my office. I worked on developing relationships and feel that I walked away from this job with a very full network. Before this internship, I felt that a career in government was fairly unattainable; I feel the opposite now. Understanding paths that people have used to get into these careers leaves me with a much greater understanding of ways that I can enter this sphere after graduation. The confidence in making connections and working hard in this role has left me with, is so valuable to me. I was much more unsure when I entered this role, but I found amazing mentors and was incredibly lucky to listen and learn from their experiences. This internship has given me a better sense of what using one’s voice in government can look like. The Campaign School was also such an informative experience regarding the ways that campaigns operate. Throughout my summer experience, I was able to come into contact with people from a broad array of backgrounds and identities who work in and influence government. The experience of being in government can be drastically changed by one’s lived experiences and multiple parts of our identities. Policy-making spaces should and must be filled by individuals whose identities can speak to the issues that people face in their day-to-day lives. This is particularly relevant to issues of systemic violence facing people of marginalized identities. I am grateful to those who have taken the time to work with and teach me about these issues.

Elaina Foley, Political Science, SY ‘23