DC Alumni share internship advice with Scholars

(Aug. 11, 2020) By GlyptusAnn Grider Jones
DC Alumni share internship advice with Scholars

Many internships and summer jobs were put on hold due to COVID-19, but five alumni recently met with McConnell Scholars to discuss how to stand out in the job market.

The alumni, who all reside in the Washington, DC-Maryland-Virginia area, joined a virtual panel to share lessons learned from their college internship experiences.

While McConnell Scholar Jasmyne Post ('21) of Philpot, Ky., has already completed four internships—including serving as a junior fellow at the Library of Congress in DC, she said the panel was just what students needed to hear amidst uncertain career prospects.

"The McAlums have such an expansive range of life and career experiences. It is very valuable to get advice from such a passionate, driven community of folks who know what you are going through and are living the lives you aspire to," said Post, who served as moderator of the event.

Lauren Reuss ('22), of Mt. Washington, Ky., has completed two Frankfort-based internships but said she was disheartened when her dream summer internship in Washington, DC, dissolved due to COVID-19. Another blow came as she struggled to land another internship opportunity. The panel's advice helped change her perspective.

"After speaking with the alumni, I realized that I was doing several things subconsciously that were hurting my prospects: I was focusing too narrowly on the situation and second-guessing my abilities," Reuss said.

She said she was particularly drawn to advice from Justin Tooley ('08), the deputy chief of staff at the District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education. He told the group to always present themselves with confidence, remember that they are their own best advocate and to lean on their strong University of Louisville qualifications and mentors.

"His advice made me realize how often I pass up the room I want to be in for the room where I think I belong," Reuss said.

To date, there are more than 270 graduates of the McConnell Scholar Program.

"Our strong, supportive alumni network is one of the advantages of our McConnell Scholars Program," said McConnell Center Director Gary Gregg. "It is wonderful that our alumni are always willing to share advice with younger generations, particularly as student job and internship opportunities are even less certain today."

The five alumni featured on the panel included:

  • Andrew Carroll ('11), the account executive on Google's Elections & Advocacy team, where he leads the company's advertising relationships with federal political campaigns and issue advocacy groups. He previously worked in similar roles at Facebook and Twitter, managing partnerships at both companies with candidates for president and other elected offices, government organizations, military branches and leading non-profit organizations. He volunteers on the national board of directors for the MATHCOUNTS Foundation.
  • Nicole Fielder ('19), a legislative correspondent for U.S. Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-03) in Washington, DC. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in public policy in the next few years. In college, Fielder worked both on- and off-campus to promote civic engagement and socially conscious business practices. 
  • Kevin Grout ('16), a speechwriter for U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Senate Majority Leader. In that role, he focuses on issues relating to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. His writings have been featured on the senate floor, in The Wall Street Journal and in dozens of Kentucky publications.
  • Kyle Riggs ('08), a program examiner for the Office of Management and Budget in the Executive Office of President. He is OMB's principal policy analyst for drug control agencies, including the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force Program at the Department of Justice. He earned his JD from Arizona State University in 2013 and began his career in federal civil service through the Presidential Management Fellows Program.
  • Justin Tooley ('08), the deputy chief of staff at the District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education. In this role, he leads legislative affairs and focuses on agency-wide work impacting teachers and school leaders, accountability and data operations. He began his career as a high school economics teacher in Memphis with Teach For America. After earning his master’s in public policy at the University of Michigan, he worked as Chief of Staff for Data and Research for the Tennessee Department of Education. He was also a legislative assistant for education, judiciary and labor for U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN).