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Internship at U.S. Capitol shows student history in the making

October 22, 2010
Arrow Buff

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Junior Rian Norris chose to major in history because she’s fascinated by the question, “How did we get to this place? This semester, she is following history in the making as an intern with Rep. Betty Sutton (D) from the 13th District of Ohio, Norris’ home state.

Norris, a Cincinnati native, makes the short trip to the U.S. Capitol twice a week to perform a variety of tasks in Sutton’s office. Norris reports on House hearings, responds to constituent letters, gives tours of the Capitol, and researches bills. Some of the more high-profile pieces of legislation she has looked at include the Stop-Loss Bill to extend military tours without pay and the bill to repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy pertaining to gay and lesbian servicemen and women.

Norris is still getting used to the job, but feels it fits. “I’m in the right place,” she said.

The study of history fits Norris well. She grew up with a dad who is a history buff, and she enjoys following changes and connections in the world.  She delighted in noticing how, for example, the red block with the letters “USSR” that she remembered from a childhood jigsaw puzzle had become “Russia” and a series of other countries in her high school classroom. “I understand not only why that piece was red but the reason for the name change,” she said.

Norris moved to D.C. in the summer of 2009 to attend the University, and never regretted the choice. “This has been the most awesome and fulfilling year of my entire life,” Norris said. “I have come in contact with some of the most amazing people this year, people who are at the top of their game.”

In Dr. Frances Marquez, associate professor in the History and Government Department, Norris found both a tough teacher and another reason to appreciate the school. Marquez sets high expectations for her students and gave them a sizeable work load, Norris explained. On top of that, Marquez, who has a background in local, state, and national politics, started to send Norris postings about internships on Capitol Hill.

When Norris applied for the position in Sutton’s office, she actually thought she bombed the phone interview (“I think we all know the sign for an inflated ego,” she said later, explaining how she felt afterward). Nevertheless, the office contacted Norris not long after to say she landed the position.

Now she truly appreciates the Tuesday and Thursday afternoons she spends working for the congresswoman. One of the greatest benefits, Norris said, is seeing history as it happens: “By the time it gets to CSPAN, it’s old news.”

–Rhea Yablon Kennedy

22 October 2010

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