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

Notes from the Field: Sean Fuller '15

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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: Sean Fuller '15

Internship Organization:
U.S. Senate Budget Committee – Washington, DC

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch?
At its core, the Senate Budget Committee, in coordination with the House Budget Committee, is responsible for determining the total levels of revenue and spending for the federal government in a given fiscal year. The biggest piece of news from this fiscal year regarding the Senate Budget Committee is the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. This bipartisan agreement, reached by Senator Patty Murray, chair of the Senate Budget Committee, and Congressman Paul Ryan, chair of the House Budget Committee, raised sequestration caps for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 and is projected to lower the deficit by $23 billion in the coming years. While the Senate Budget Committee does not deal with specific appropriations, it plays a key role in the formation of the United States federal budget.

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization?
My specific responsibilities change from day to day. During my first two weeks, I assisted a research team focused on analyzing demographic representation by witnesses who have appeared in front of the committee. To aid with this project, I created a data set that included all witnesses that have appeared in front of the committee over the past ten years. Since finishing this project, I have worked on a variety of ongoing tasks including developing responses to constituent mail and assisting with fact-checking of committee memos.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
The first day of my internship went smoothly, but it was a bit overwhelming. After finishing my orientation procedures such getting a Senate ID badge, watching orientation videos, and learning my computer log-in info, I arrived at the office just in time for the weekly staff meeting. During the meeting, I had very little understanding of what was being discussed. After it was adjourned, I was introduced to about thirty people in the span of a minute and a half. While it was a bit of a whirlwind introduction to the office, I have gotten to know a good portion of the staff since then and have followed the discussion in subsequent staff meetings much better.

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
The most rewarding part of the internship experience so far has been the knowledge I've gained regarding the federal budget and the policy surrounding it. A lot of the tasks I've been assigned involve hands-on learning. For example, one of the projects I was assigned involved helping a STEM advocacy group track all the different streams of federal funding for STEM education awarded to the state in which it was based. Figuring out how to track federal funding of specific programs to a given state was an interesting and rewarding exercise that I have since repeated while reading the news. Additionally, I have gained a huge amount of knowledge about policy pertaining to the budget by simply talking to staffers and analysts for the committee.

What challenges have you faced so far?
The main challenge I faced was a self-inflicted one. At the beginning of my internship, I was hesitant to ask staffers and analysts if they needed help on anything because I didn't want to be a pest. I soon came to realize, however, that everyone I worked with was very friendly and welcoming, so it hasn't been an issue since my first week.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
I hope to gain a sense of whether or not I would enjoy working on Capitol Hill after graduation from Dartmouth.

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship?
Washington, DC metros run very infrequently at night. Also, wear an undershirt under your work shirt during the summer in DC because profuse sweating is a given.

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