ImpactWinter 2014

The Washington Semester: A capital idea

Lugar-academyAn internationally recognized statesman, U.S. Senator Richard Lugar is a longtime partner of the University of Indianapolis, including hosting the Lugar Symposium for 37 years and serving as a trustee most of that time. Having also taught at UIndy during his first senatorial campaign some four decades ago, he now serves as Distinguished Professor of Political Science and International Relations as part of UIndy’s Richard G. Lugar Academy, announced in December 2012. One of the Academy’s best benefits for students? The chance to spend a whole semester in the nation’s capital, taking coursework and scoring plum internships with the country’s powerbrokers.

Once in a lifetime

“The Lugar Academy Washington Semester is an opportunity for students to be immersed in a once-in-a-lifetime experience by spending the fall or spring with the Lugar Academy in Washington, D.C.,” says Lara Mann, executive director of the Lugar Academy. During their semester in the nation’s capital, students selected to participate in the program have the opportunity to interact with Senator Lugar every Friday. (The program is open to students from any college if they have junior or senior status, a GPA of at least 3.0, an interest in politics and policy-making, and an Intro to American Politics course under their belt.) Two of the 10 students admitted this fall were UIndy seniors who spent their final semesters in Washington: psychology major Rebekah Proctor and political science major Jayveer Gray.

Jayveer Gray: already a veteran

Jayveer—no stranger to the political process himself—is ready with a comprehensive, practical explanation of the Lugar Academy. “It’s a hands-on, day-by-day internship with many elite public figures in our nation’s capital, where interns get to increase their knowledge, networking database, and business professional skills by working in prestigious environments that will give each individual a great and memorable lifetime experience.” Jayveer has an impressive résumé, and he’s taken advantage of every opportunity to further his career in order to be selected for this program—and succeed afterward. He’s worked on several political campaigns in the Indianapolis area and has collaborated with mayoral candidate Melina Kennedy and city-county councilmen Leroy Robinson, Vop Osili, and Jose Evans. During the summer of 2012, Jayveer worked as an intern for the Organizing for America campaign. He’s also an active member of the Marion County Democratic Party, the Pike Township Democratic Party, and several city community engagement organizations. “I’m very aware of the importance of getting involved in the community and how vital it is to market yourself during undergraduate studies,” Jayveer says. “It helps open doors and gets you the opportunities that may only come once in a lifetime.”

While in Washington, Jayveer interned with Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly. “I’m especially glad to get this opportunity because I helped canvass and push campaign materials for his campaign back during the spring and summer of 2012,” Jayveer says. “This was a nice and welcoming experience, to learn the tasks and action plans he is involved with here in Washington, D.C.”

And already giving back

Somehow, Jayveer has also made time to found his own nonprofit organization, Like Father, Like Son Inc. It’s a youth mentoring program designed for kids 10 to 17 who lack a father figure. “All young males need a father figure in their life in order to learn the proper survival skills and values that everyone should have once becoming an adult,” Jayveer says. “Like Father, Like Son hosts a summer enrichment mentoring program for these young teens, where we teach them life skills—how to tie a tie, change a tire, properly operate a lawn mower, dress for an interview, build a résumé, and manage their finances.”

The road ahead

When Jayveer finishes his master’s degree in international relations and his internship at the Lugar Academy, he plans to attend law school and eventually become an international business lawyer. “The Lugar Academy and the Washington Semester provided me with an inside perspective of legislative and judicial operations, and how these branches finalize and make decisions that affect America and my community,” Jayveer says. “I’m a young entrepreneur and this has helped me understand how policies affect businesses. I’m excited to soak up as much knowledge as possible and share and apply this knowledge to my career plan and the opportunities before me.”

Rebekah Proctor: discovering a new passion

Politics weren’t always of interest to Rebekah. She discovered this passion while studying abroad in Ireland where the students were well informed of what was going on in the world and politics. The connections she made in Ireland inspired her to pursue her study in government and politics. Rebekah decided to complete her psychology degree, but also to focus on her newly discovered passion by completing her final semester at UIndy in Washington. “My background in psychology really helped me because it made working and talking with people easier to understand,” says Rebekah. While in Washington, Rebekah served an internship with Representative Todd Young—representing the 9th district of Indiana. “My knowledge has grown exponentially in terms of understanding how Congress works,” says Rebekah. “I’ve had the opportunity to interact with brilliant people and make meaningful connections not only with the Lugar Academy group, but with others in the Washington community.”

A government shutdown

Work did not stop for the students during the government shutdown. Rebekah and other interns spent their time communicating with people who wrote letters and made phone calls to the office about the shutdown. “You went home at the end of the day knowing that people are empowered to make a difference,” says Rebekah. “As college students, we are young and eager, and we have a desire to help make changes that will positively influence the future of our country,” Rebekah adds. During the shutdown, constituents were only able to tour the capital if a congressman or senator escorted the group. Rebekah says Representative Young offered to lead tours to groups who would otherwise not have had the opportunity because of the shutdown. “This was such a humbling experience,” says Rebekah.

Life after college

“UIndy provided me with significant opportunities that I never thought would have been possible,” says Rebekah. “And the semester in Washington experience has exceeded every expectation I had.” Rebekah has accepted an internship position as a legislative assistant for the Indiana General Assembly lasting from January to March, and then hopes to apply for a full-time position. From there she hopes to pursue international travel and foreign affairs—topics that she’s been involved with during her semester in Washington.

—Jen Zentz

Marty
the authorMarty