Although a government shutdown is not generally a desirable event, the silver lining is that it provided special opportunities for two MIW interns who filled in for furloughed staff on the Hill.
Madison McClain and Michael Spaeth were two of the sixteen MIW student interns who continued to work during the shutdown.
Michael Spaeth (shown below) worked for Congressman Sander Levin (D-Mi) and was there when Congress debated a U.S. military strike on Syria, for the launch of the Affordable Care Act’s online exchanges as well as for the shutdown. He noticed a few differences in the office during the shutdown: more delays in hearings and briefings and an increase in phone calls from constituents.
Madison McClain worked for House Speaker John Boehner. She said that interns typically didn’t spend time with the higher-ups. However, during the shutdown, she had an opportunity to develop better relationships with the senior staff, including the Speaker. According to Madison, "Without myself and the other intern who continued to work during this time, senior staffers would not have been able to devote themselves entirely to the task at hand, that is, reopening the government." She felt that she was part of a bigger picture during the shutdown. Her supervisor sent a glowing note of thanks to the MIW Program Manager regarding Madison’s dedication and hard work during the furlough.
On the last day of her internship, Madison was asked if she’d like to attend a press conference at which the Speaker was commenting on the Affordable Care Act. She didn’t realize that this meant she would be joining Speaker Boehner and his entourage on the way to the meeting! They discussed her plans after leaving DC and his press secretary took a photo of the group as they made way to the press room.
Out of 23 students in the Fall 2013 MIW cohort, 11 worked in government offices affected by the shutdown. Of these 11 students, 7 were furloughed and 4 were not. Students who were furloughed had opportunities to participate in other events around the city. The UCDC Residential Life Director created a calendar of lectures and events taking place which was shared with all of the interns in residence (UM shares a residence hall with students from California, Pennsylvania, Notre Dame, and Washington University). Activities were intellectual as well as entertaining, and most were free. Fortunately, everyone was called back to work and all of the students developed firsthand insights and ideas about the impact of a government shutdown.