The Capitol Hill Internship Program (CHIP) was established in 2000 by Nebraska Wesleyan University (NWU) after discussions between then NWU professor Dr. Robert Oberst and his former student and NWU alum, Kris Polly, about the need for a Washington, DC–based internship experience that provided housing and limited classes. Nine U.S. universities now participate in the program, which is run by the United Methodist College Washington Consortium and has been directed by Dr. Doug Steinel since its beginning. Students in the program participate in an internship and take two classes. Program tuition is the same as the tuition students pay at their home schools. Participants live in the CHIP house, which is less than 10 minutes from Union Station and the Capitol building, and have the opportunity to visit museums and historical buildings in DC and to visit New York, Philadelphia, and other cities. The CHIP program allows students to get a head start in their professional lives, gives them strong professional connections, and helps them determine what they want to do in the future.
For several semesters, Water Strategies has taught and hosted the CHIP Washington and Lobbying class. Many members of the National Water Resources Association and other Water Strategies clients have shared their time as guest speakers for the class. When the COVID‑19 pandemic caused the CHIP students to be sent home in March, the class continued online. Many of the students were also able to continue their internships remotely. When asked if they would be interested in working on special COVID‑19 issues of our magazines, all our students were eager to be of assistance. This issue represents many hours of their labor in transcribing interviews and conducting additional limited research projects. Below are the biographies of the Washington and Lobbying class students who worked to create this issue for you. (Editor’s note: Each of these students is a future great employee. Please keep them in mind if you have positions to fill. Water Strategies highly recommends them all for your consideration.)
James “Breck” Bivins
I am a junior at Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer, North Carolina, where I am majoring in history and minoring in art. After graduating from Pfeiffer, I plan to attend graduate school at North Carolina State University and eventually pursue a career in Raleigh with either the state history museum or archives. While in Washington, I worked for the National Park Service as a volunteer at the Lock Keeper’s House and the National World War II Memorial on the National Mall. The effect that COVID‑19 had on Washington was instantly noticeable, as the usually busy National Mall became nearly deserted overnight and the internship program was terminated for the semester. I was unable to continue my internship from home in Asheboro, North Carolina, so my internship program coordinator at Pfeiffer created an online course to allow me to make up the credits. A lot of gratitude is owed to Dr. Steinel, who oversaw our program, coordinated our seminars, and introduced us to the wonders of life in Washington. By transcribing interview recordings with people involved in irrigation from across the country for the COVID‑19 issue of Irrigation Leader, my classmates and I helped to bring greater awareness to the challenges faced by irrigation districts and companies and how those challenges are being dealt with.
I am an environmental studies major from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. I graduated this semester and will be starting a job with Capital 4‑H as an instructor for its natural resources program in the fall. I spent my last semester of undergrad in DC as a media and legislation intern for Water Strategies as part of the CHIP program. Being in DC was amazing, I was able to see the legislative process firsthand and spend my weekends roaming museums and eating new foods. I was also able to learn about the history of DC directly from Dr. Steinel, who made great efforts to make sure our time in DC was spent well. Sadly, I had to go home as the COVID‑19 pandemic became more serious, but I was able to continue my internship at my home in New Braunfels, Texas. While at home, I have spent time preparing for my job in Austin and assisting Water Strategies with the COVID‑19 issue of Irrigation Leader.
I am a rising political science senior at NWU. This past semester, I interned at the Bread for the World Institute, which provides nonpartisan policy analysis on hunger and strategies to end it. During my time at the institute, I had the opportunity to grow as a professional and as a student through different research experiences, writing blogs, events on the Hill and around DC, and the typical office culture of meetings and working with others. As I move forward into my career, I am looking into pursuing a masters of public health or masters of public policy and a PhD. I also know I have the option of going into the field before graduate school.
I just completed my junior year at NWU, where I major in political science and minor in music and German. In fall 2019, I studied abroad at the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom, and I spent this past semester in Washington. Needless to say, I am excited to go back to Lincoln for my last year of college. After graduation, I hope to participate in a justice fellowship at the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.
CHIP was one of the main reasons I chose to attend NWU. I was extremely fortunate to live with an incredible group of fellow CHIP students and have Dr. Steinel as the CHIP director. I also joined a church choir while I was in DC! I spent the semester interning with the National League of Cities’ Center for City Solutions, assisting with the annual State of the Cities report, which will be published soon. I loved the internship so much that I have extended it through the summer! I moved back to my parents’ house in Longmont, Colorado, in mid- March and have been interning from home since then.
In supporting Water Strategies on this special COVID‑19 edition of Irrigation Leader, I had the opportunity to listen to and transcribe several interviews with professionals in the water and irrigation fields about how their organizations were impacted by the virus. It will be interesting to see how organizations recover and restructure in the coming months.
I currently attend Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and am set to graduate in 2021. I am a political science major and a history minor and plan on trying to get another job on Capitol Hill after I graduate. During my brief time in CHIP, I interned for the office of Representative Kevin McCarthy. Working in the office was an amazing experience, as I got to see and participate in the inner workings of our government and meet some interesting people. I really enjoyed the program and working with its director, Dr. Steinel. We were able to do a lot of fun things and see a lot of the major city sights. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, the program ended earlier than expected, and I was forced to leave DC early and go back home to Los Angeles. I thank my class teacher, Kris Polly, for giving me the opportunity to work on Water Strategies’ magazines, which provided me with insight on how different companies and districts have been affected by the COVID‑19 pandemic.
I’m a student at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and a part of the class of 2021. I’m double majoring in political science and creative writing. I plan to attend law school in DC after graduating and aim to practice law one day. While I was a part of CHIP program in DC, I interned as a media and legislative intern for Water Strategies. Before COVID‑19, DC was a city unlike any other I had visited, with opportunities everywhere. The city was active with workers; people were seen exercising around the Capitol; and with all the museums and sights, the city was busy with tourists. When COVID‑19 appeared, all the places and events that made DC so active and accessible were closed. Inevitably, I was sent home, but I was able to continue my internship from home in Wichita, Kansas. To gain insight into how irrigation districts and other companies were affected by COVID‑19, Water Strategies created a special magazine issue. My fellow classmates and I worked through interviews with irrigation industry professionals to help bring awareness to their situation. From locations spanning the United States, we coordinated our work on the interviews and helped publish the COVID‑19 issue of Irrigation Leader.