The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Notes from the Field: Maclean Calihan '17

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Rockefeller Center-funded interns reflect on their experiences as part of our Notes from the Field series. The Rockefeller Center helps students find, fund, and prepare for a leave-term internship experience in public policy research, public policy analysis, issue evaluation, or activities which help shape and determine public policy.

Student Intern: Maclean Calihan '17

Internship Organization:
American Enterprise Institute (AEI) – Washington, DC  

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch?
AEI is a private, nonpartisan, not-for-profit institution dedicated to research and education on issues of government, politics, economics and social welfare. AEI is home to some of America's most accomplished public policy experts and leans to the right politically. It is often hard to measure the influence of a think tank because when policy happens, everyone claims to have influenced it. But AEI testifies and publishes high profile articles more than any other think tank. A good example of a policy that can be directly traced to AEI is "the surge" in Iraq, which was designed by AEI scholars in a conference room that I use every week for meetings.

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization?
I do a lot of different things while working for the Executive Vice President. One of the main projects happening at AEI right now is the renovation of a historic building that will be the new home of AEI in a couple of years. I help with projects and sit in on meetings surrounding this building, from the construction to the architects to the board that has to approve it, and everything else.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
I was so nervous on my first day that my hands were shaking. I’ve never had an internship before. But I kept my hands in my lap under the table during orientation with the other new interns. Fortunately, my boss was at a meeting that morning, so I was able to sit at my desk and look through some information that he had emailed me while I calmed down. Throughout my first week, I met many other interns at lunch, and I will miss them when I return to Hanover in the fall.

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
My favorite part of the internship has been meeting and befriending other interns. We come from relatively diverse backgrounds, but everyone I meet is really interesting and awesome. I also enjoy going to the conferences AEI holds a few times a week on policy issues. I have seen some high profile speakers like John McCain speaking on Iraq and Paul Ryan speaking on social mobility. I work ten feet from the door to former UN Ambassador John Bolton’s office. Next to his office is the office of Paul Wolfowitz, the former president of the World Bank and former Deputy Secretary of Defense. I am sent links of them talking on Fox and CNN every week, but I see them as real people. Simply due to the intangible environment of AEI, I feel much more politically aware than I do in Hanover, and I like it that way.

What challenges have you faced so far?
I suppose my biggest challenge is being alone where I work. Many of the other interns sit with each other, but I am in a cubicle next to John Bolton's secretary. It has been harder for me to befriend the other interns because I simply don't see them. I also fear that I am not taking full advantage of the scholars at AEI because I often don't know what to say to them.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
I hope to get a better sense of Washington, DC. I have been doing that thus far, and I hope to get a better sense of how a business is run. Since I work for the Executive VP, my internship is both a policy internship and a business internship.

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship?
Cute and appropriate dresses are not as easy to find as they should be. Also, connecting on the DC metro in off-peak hours is a bad idea.

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