Mentors Guide Students in Transition to Careers in DC
For someone who started college wanting to be a teacher, Kevin Kraushaar’s path has been circuitous. Kraushaar grew up in Ann Arbor and received his BA from U of M 1977. He continued his studies at Detroit Mercy College of Law, receiving a JD in 1983. After completing law school, he served for two years as Assistant Majority Counsel for the Michigan Senate, and went to DC in 1989 to become the Legislative Director and Counsel for Congressman Carl D. Pursell, which he says provided a solid foundation for his career as a lobbyist, speaker and trainer on advocacy strategies. Although his teaching career may not be what he originally envisioned, it is an essential element in his current profession and also in his role as a mentor to students in the Michigan in Washington Program.
Kraushaar agreed to become an MIW mentor as a result of his involvement with the UMDC Alumni Club (he has co-chaired the UM Congressional Breakfast, an annual fundraising event) and his college connection with Edie Goldenberg, the MIW Faculty Director. Once admitted to the program, each MIW student is assigned to a mentor (i.e., a UM alum who lives near DC) who helps the student adjust to the professional demands of internships and life in Washington. Kraushaar was a perfect fit for the role. In turn, he has been impressed by the enthusiasm and knowledge of the students that he’s mentored and considers his role a welcome change of pace.
He replies during a phone interview to questions about his role as an MIW Mentor.
Question: How much time, on average, do you spend with your mentees?
Kevin: Probably about three to four hours a month, depending on the student. After the opening reception, where everyone meets for the first time, we usually start with lunch or coffee and lay out a plan for communication that involves phone calls, meetings and email. I try to make myself available at a time that’s convenient for the student and when my travel schedule permits.
Question: What types of things do you talk about with your mentees?
Kevin: New students in the program often ask about getting more meaningful work. Working on the Hill is difficult and chaotic, and students need to learn how to insert themselves into the process. For example, one student wasn’t being asked to do anything. So we came up with a plan that included attending hearings, offering services, and generally helping build respect.
Question: A number of students who come to the program are interested in becoming professional lobbyists. What advice do you have for those students?
Kevin: Students who are interested in lobbying need campaign experience. They can start on something local, and then move on to something bigger. Experience on the Hill is important, which provides an understanding of the processes that take place there. Issue expertise is critical; more students with engineering and science backgrounds are needed here. An effective lobbyist must be respected on the Hill, have issue expertise, be able to understand and explain both sides, and be forthright and trustworthy.
Question: What advice do you have for someone who might be interested in becoming a mentor?
Kevin: It’s a terrific experience and small time investment that you won’t regret. After working in Washington for twenty five years, one can become cynical. It’s a lot of fun and very rewarding to be part of the experience of these students who want to learn and accomplish so much. I highly recommend it.
The MIW program is always looking for UM alums in the DC area to serve as mentors for students during their Washington Semester. Please contact the MIW Office (MIWDC@umich.edu) if interested.