From briefings on the newly-announced space force to a meeting with members of the proposed Iranian Congress, it was an exciting and eye-opening summer for Luke Barber to spend in the nation’s capital.
The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith student and Lavaca native served in U.S. Rep. Steve Womack’s office as the John Paul Hammerschmidt Fellow, a prestigious seven-week fellowship established in 2013 by Womack in conjunction with UAFS.
During his time there, Barber attended hearings and conducted research on a variety of policy initiatives, including trade tariffs and immigration legislation. The experience taught him valuable lessons on the inner workings of a congressional office in an experience that differed from a traditional internship.
“Being the JPH Fellow allowed me to shift focus from administrative tasks of normal internships to assisting legislative staff on key projects,” Barber said. “I was able to focus on issues that were important to me and the Congressman. There are high expectations for the JPH Fellow, and you must work hard to live up to that high bar.”
In addition to meeting prominent political figures such as Paul Ryan, Mike Pence and Bernie Sanders, Barber also got in his fair share of sightseeing. He visited every Smithsonian museum and the Newseum. He also watched fireworks from the steps of the Capitol building on the Fourth of July.
With aspirations to enter politics, Barber found the experience enlightening.
“Living so far from D.C., you only really hear about what’s going on through what you see in the media. You don’t hear about the day-to-day activities and the staffers behind the job,” Barber said. “I had no idea what a big role each of the staffers played in the success of Congressman Womack, and seeing how hard they work and everything they do was eye-opening.”
Barber also had high praise for Womack.
“He is extremely personable and truly cares about his constituents. He made it a priority to go on tours with them and talk with them,” he said. “Arkansas’ third district is lucky to have such a great congressman representing them in the nation’s capital.”