Although many UAFS students will have internships this summer, Claire Hollenbeck says hers is a true gem. “I think it’s one of the coolest internships out there,” she confided.
Hollenbeck, who expects to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science next May, will spend eight weeks this summer in Washington, D.C., as the John Paul Hammerschmidt Research Fellow for Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers.
“I’m really learning a lot,” Hollenbeck said. “I’ll do typical intern work like answering phones and opening mail, constituent service. But I’ll also have a chance to attend hearings and meetings and do legislative research.”
The fellowship is a joint project between the District 3 congressman’s office and the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith. Hammerschmidt held the Third District seat from 1967 through 1991. He died in Springdale in 2015.
Students who receive the fellowship also receive a scholarship for three credit hours and are required to complete a research report and a record of their experience. They also receive a stipend to help defray the costs of their time in the nation’s capital.
Hollenbeck said she will be staying in Washington Intern Student Housing. Although she doesn’t know anyone else who will be working for Womack, as a member of the UAFS sorority Delta Gamma, she’s been in contact with other young people who will be working in Washington this summer.
She was chosen to have the fellowship in summer 2020, but her service was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though her service this year will be in person, there are still precautions in effect that will impact her time in D.C.
“Usually, fellows conduct tours of the Capitol, but that’s on hold because of the virus,” she said. She keeps up with Washington’s reopening plans, and she hopes she will have a chance to experience more key places as the summer advances.
Though full tours are still closed, she made her way to the Speaker’s Balcony, where she was photographed for her internship and has met several members of congress, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who thanked Hollenbeck and her fellow interns for their service to their country.
“This place is so, so cool,” she beamed.
The application process included submitting an essay and two letters of recommendation, and being interviewed by the chancellor’s office and Womack’s deputy chief of staff and intern coordinator. Dr. Williams Yamkam, assistant professor of Political Science, will direct the academic side of Hollenbeck’s fellowship.
Hollenbeck said several of her activities at UAFS helped prepare her for the fellowship. She had the Chancellor’s Leadership Council scholarship – mostly because associate registrar Megan Bowling-Fudge nagged her into applying for it. She participated in Delta Gamma activities. But what taught her the most about leadership was her time in the Student Government Association.
“I was SGA president last year, and I had to lead most of my meetings online,” she said. “In the spring, we switched to hybrid, and that was another whole thing. We passed nine resolutions, and I led a student forum with more than 100 students, the chancellor, and senior staff. I’m going to miss it next year.”
Hollenbeck’s final year at UAFS will include being the vice president of membership for Delta Gamma, and she’s already planning recruitment activities. She also will participate in Mentor Connections, the UAFS program that provides mentoring experiences for teams consisting of a student, a recent graduate, and an experienced business or political leader.
Somehow she’s also going to find time to research and apply to graduate schools. She has some schools in mind, but she’s waiting to see how the summer goes.
“I love UAFS,” she said. “I think I’d like to work in higher education; I’d love to come back here after I get my master’s degree.”