Notes from the Field: Debora Han '20

Debora Han '20 interned with Senator Gillibrand’s Legislative Office in Washington, DC for the Winter 2018 term. The following is an excerpt from her internship report.

I was motivated to seek this internship after I spent two consecutive terms studying abroad in China and Scotland, where, for the first time, I was able to view the U.S. from the outside. It struck me that the biggest difference between American society and other societies is its emphasis on citizen involvement: i.e., the “democratic process.” I found myself wondering about the authenticity of this process and the depth of our citizen involvement and wanted to witness both for myself. 

As a legislative intern, I had four main duties: answering constituent phone calls, sorting through and categorizing constituent mail (which is sent to DC from each of the eight regional offices), electronically assigning response letters to constituent mail, and giving Capitol tours to constituents and VIPs. These duties allowed me to interact directly with the electorate, as well as gave me insight to how politicians interact with their constituency.

Furthermore, through the projects I did for Senator Gillibrand’s staffers, I was able to understand the process of building, mending, and supporting different pieces of legislation. I enjoyed these legislative projects and found them incredibly rewarding because I was able to see results almost immediately. For example, I spent time assisting the Senator’s defense team during Senate Armed Services hearings by sending live email updates to the Senator’s staffer, which informed the Senator’s questions for the witness as she sat on panel. I also wrote memos for staffers about environmental problems, such as PFAS (a human-made, potentially harmful chemical) and their effect on drinking water, which was an issue many environmental and health advocacy groups came to D.C. to speak with the Senator’s staff about. 

It is with these experiences that I return to campus to study the ways we can truly set the American government apart from others. I am thankful to the Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College and the Perkins Bass fund for supporting this opportunity and look forward to working more with Rocky to prepare for a career in public service.