Five Virginia Tech undergraduate students from Virginia Tech's Blacksburg campus are spending the spring semester in the National Capital Region to work as interns on Capitol Hill.

They are the first to participate in a new internship program that has placed them in offices of U.S. Senators from Virginia Mark Warner and Jim Webb; U.S. Representatives from Virginia Rick Boucher (9th district) and Jim Moran (8th district); and the Clark Group, a firm specializing in public and private sustainability, climate solutions, and renewable energy.

"This program will provide these students with real-world work experience in our nation's capital while at the same time allowing them to form networks that could be immensely helpful when they enter the job market upon graduation," said President Charles W. Steger, who had a strong interest in launching this program from the beginning. "I remain grateful to the Virginia Congressional delegation for their continued, strong support of Virginia Tech and for providing our students an opportunity to serve them on Capitol Hill throughout this semester."

Chris Yianilos, director, federal relations, Virginia Tech National Capital Region, was instrumental in developing the Capitol Hill internship program, working with Professor Richard Rich, political science, in Blacksburg. "It is an incredibly exciting time for these students to be interning for a member of Congress, as legislators continue to deal with very complex issues such as health care reform, cap and trade, and legislation to promote job growth," Yianilos said.

Students participating in the spring semester internship program are:

  • Brittany Brown of Richmond, Va., a senior majoring in international studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences;
  • Josh Deutschmann of Columbia, Md., a sophomore majoring in economics and mathematics in the College of Science;
  • Ashlee Goodwin of Columbus, Ohio, a senior majoring in political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences;
  • Nicholas Jeffress of Midlothian, Va., a senior majoring in English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences; and
  • Olivia Leonard of Appomattox, Va., a senior majoring in political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

The students work a full day, Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., which earns them six credit hours. According to Yianilos, their responsibilities range from simple tasks (like manning the phones) to answering correspondence and working on research projects.

Guest speaker sessions, tours of federal buildings, such as the White House and the Department of Justice, and discussions among the students about legislative issues and their personal internship experiences will be scheduled on Fridays for three additional credit hours. Former Virginia Sen. John Warner recently addressed the group and, according to Yianilos, former Gov. George Allen and U.S. Representative from Virginia Rob Wittman (1st district), who received a Bachelor of Science degree in biological sciences from Virginia Tech in 1981, have also committed as guest speakers.

Students can earn another three credit hours through an online course or an independent study they arrange through their department.

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