Michigan in Washington Student of the Week: Kaila McCormack

Name: Kaila McCormack

Hometown: Clarkston, MI

Major: International Studies (Subplan in International Security, Norms, and Cooperation)

Internship placement: Office of Representative Debbie Dingell


Why did you decide to do Michigan in Washington?

The Michigan in Washington program was one of the factors in my decision to go to the University of Michigan. I love politics, but I still was not certain whether I wanted to incorporate it into my career. I knew this program would be a great opportunity to learn more about working on Capitol Hill and whether I truly wanted to take my career path toward politics. The opportunity to spend a semester in Washington D.C., take classes, and intern in a Congressional office was not one I could pass up.   

What do you do during a typical day at your internship?

As a legislative intern for Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, my tasks vary from day to day and from in-session weeks to recess. My favorite task is attending briefings or hearings and writing memos for the staffers on the topics discussed. I get to hear about so many different issues and I have the opportunity to ask questions to experts on the topics. I also spend time talking to constituents on the phone, answering mail, and greeting those coming in for meetings. All of these tasks allow me to research different policies, learn what issues are important to the people of the district, and improve my ability to speak knowledgeably on issues, to people that sometimes do not hold the same opinion as me.    

Which elective are you taking and what’s the most interesting part of the class?

I am taking Nations and Nationalism with Professor Suny, a Professor of History at the University of Michigan. This class delves into how and why nations form from a historical, sociological, and political point of view. We examine multiple areas of the world and their conflicts that were born out of nationalism. In my internship, I can connect how many historical conflicts are impacting United States policy today. Without the background of the relationships between countries, it is difficult to fully grasp the full effect of many policies. This class has helped me step back and view policies from a historical perspective before I add my political opinion.   

What do you like to do in D.C. during your free time?

I have loved visiting all the museums! I’ve been trying to visit one or two museums every weekend, and luckily, I can usually squeeze one in on Friday, after class. My favorite museum thus far has been the National Museum of Women in the Arts. It was inspiring to see so many women from so many different backgrounds get featured in a beautiful building. Both the Newseum and the Holocaust museum were very well done as well. I’ve also been able to check out the Dupont Circle farmer’s market, Rock Creek Park, and some of the delicious restaurants near the UCDC building. 

What’s something on your D.C. bucket list?

I still haven’t been able to see a hearing in the Supreme Court! It would be amazing if I could see Ruth Bader Ginsberg at work and I’m hoping to visit the court before I leave. I was able to cross most of the monuments off my list already, but I return often. The first weekend after we moved in, UCDC offered a Monuments by Moonlight tour that my roommates and I went on. I’ve seen a few of the monuments in the daylight since, and I would suggest going after it gets dark, especially the Korean War Memorial. 

What advice would you give to a student interested in Michigan in Washington? 

I would say, don’t be afraid to apply! I was initially going to wait until my senior year to apply because I felt like I probably wasn’t as qualified as a junior. This is a great opportunity to get your foot in the door and do a lot of networking before you have to think about applying for jobs. This program has allowed me to learn so much and have experiences that I would never have had otherwise. Washington D.C. is a great city filled with so many things to do and don’t worry if what you want to do isn’t political; there are opportunities for everyone here!