Name: Michelle Liu
Home state: Illinois
Majors: International Studies & Political Science
Minors: Sustainability & Energy Science and Policy
Internship placement: Office of U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (IL)
Why did you decide to do Michigan in Washington?
I fell in love with Washington, D.C. as a policy intern with the EPA Office of Air and Radiation two summers ago and returned last summer for a research internship with the Department of State, where I covered a portfolio including multilateral relations, international development, trade, and trans-boundary pollution. Every time I have left D.C., I have searched for a way back, so I was ecstatic to be admitted to the Michigan in Washington Program, which provides perfect opportunity to take classes and intern in our nation’s capital for the third time.
I decided to do MIW to diversify my policy experience by exploring the legislative side of the policymaking process - a goal that is complemented well by my current position as a scheduling intern for Senator Duckworth. By the time I graduate this May, I aim to attain a job offer at the intersection of international affairs and sustainability by leveraging my internships, academics, and the skillsets that MIW and the University of Michigan have helped me refine.
What do you do during a typical day at your internship?
As Senator Duckworth’s only scheduling intern, I assist the Senator’s scheduling and legislative team in several capacities. I attend hearings on behalf of the legislative staff and produce memos on topics ranging from military and security affairs to environmental issues to developments in infrastructure. Unlike legislative interns, however, I do not directly communicate with constituents over phone or email. Instead, I compose meeting briefs and biographies for the Senator’s personal daily briefing binder, I review all scheduling requests, and I coordinate with the entire legislative team for their input on meetings prior to the Chief of Staff and the Senator’s consideration.
My internship is unique from the experience of the other nine interns in our office, as it gives me insight into the Senator’s day-to-day schedule and provides the most face time and daily interaction with the Senator. There is no typical day, as every minute is dependent on the Senator’s schedule and needs; for more administrative days I am typing away at the computer from 9:00am to 5:00pm. On the other hand, I am sometimes running all over Capitol Hill delivering important documents to the Senator, escorting Generals or CEOs around the Capital, or even sitting in on meetings with the Senator and her staff. It is definitely surreal to be working in buildings steeped with so much history - even after a month, I am still surprised when I run into Senators and Representatives in the halls of the Capitol!
Which elective are you taking and what’s the most interesting part of the class?
My academic background is in international relations, so my ignorance regarding the lobbying process was precisely what drew me Dr. Steven Billet’s course on Lobbying, Money, and Influence in Washington. Dr. Billet is both an academic and a career expert on this subject, and his commentary and anecdotes during class are often quite insightful. I have come to understand that more money does not always equate to more influence, because the relationships between interest groups, Congress, and the executive branch is far more nuanced and mercurial. Overall, this course pairs well with my internship by providing varied perspectives regarding what influences domestic policy formation outside of government institutions.
What do you like to do in D.C. during your free time?
Washington D.C. is so vibrant and diverse, so there’s always something to new to do, see, or watch! I love exploring D.C. and its suburbs by going on food adventures with my MIW friends and UCDC roommates! I also enjoy roaming through the multitude of museums around the city, and reading on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at anytime of the day (or night).
D.C. is a very intellectually stimulating city to be in, as well. Every day, there is an amazing array of panels and experts to learn from about topics ranging from artificial intelligence to intersectionality to climate change. I really appreciate all I have been able to learn and observe about topics I never thought I would be interested in!
What’s something on your D.C. bucket list?
I intend on working in D.C. after I graduate, so getting a job is at the top of my list right now! As for long-term goals, I dream of working for a future president in the White House or helping negotiate international environmental policy in the State Department. Serious objectives aside, it would bring me great joy to eat at all the Michelin Starred restaurants in D.C.!
What advice would you give to a student interested in Michigan in Washington?
MIW is an amazing opportunity, and its added value isn’t solely limited to the academic and internship experiences of the program. Through MIW, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting my two amazing mentors and making so many close friendships with people from the MIW cohort and other universities in the UCDC consortium.
If you are considering the program and have doubts, do not hesitate to apply! Each cohort has members at all levels of their college career and professional experience, and the MIW staff are all so very helpful in ensuring that MIW is a fulfilling experience for everyone. If you ever have any questions about the program, do feel free to reach out to me, MIW alumni, or any of the MIW staff! Go Blue!