Shatera Davis, a senior majoring in communication, was the first UMSL student to take part in a new congressional internship program. (Photo by August Jennewein)

As University of Missouri–St. Louis students return to class and catch up on their summer vacations, Shatera Davis has a unique experience to share.

She was UMSL’s first participant in a new program that places students in congressional offices for internships. Her days were long, but worth it.

The Congressional Internship Program places students in the University of Missouri System in the office of a member of Missouri’s Congressional delegation.  Davis spent eight weeks in the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, of the 1st Congressional District, where she answered phones, gave tours of the U.S. Capitol and helped with research, report writing and other tasks.

“When I got there, I realized how much the policies that are set there affect our lives,” said Davis, a senior majoring in communication with a minor in management. “I went to a lot of briefings about scholarships that I have, like the Gear Up scholarship. If they didn’t pass those bills I probably wouldn’t have a scholarship to college.”

The University of Missouri System started a pilot version of the program in summer 2013, but this year it was expanded to students at all four campuses.

In addition to the professional experience, there was also significant hobnobbing. Davis met leaders from across the political spectrum, ranging from Sens. Paul Ryan to Claire McCaskill and civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis. She also met some politically active celebrities such as Jerry Greenfield, founder of Ben and Jerry’s, and actress Susan Sarandon, who was participating in a panel on homelessness.

Davis spotted the internship opportunity when she was looking for jobs on the UMSL Career Services website. The Congressional Scholars Program immediately caught her eye, and she’s glad it did. As an intern, Davis was expected to work hard and get work done accurately and on time, while working with others.

“Every assignment they gave us was important,” Davis said. “They never gave us busy work. It needed to be done and it had to be accurate the first time so that Rep. Clay could get stuff done.”

After applying, Davis went through an interview process and highlighted her accomplishments and volunteer experience, such as being secretary of the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity and working as a peer adviser for the College of Education. She was told that her internship with the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life gave her the biggest edge, though, due to the institute’s focus on public policy.

“We had some excellent candidates apply, but Shatera Davis was selected because she was well prepared, poised and going through the Institute’s Leadership Academy helped prepare her for work with the public sector,” said Karen Pierre, manager of community relations for the Office of Alumni Engagement & Community Relations, and UMSL’s liaison for government relations.

During the interview, Davis also explained how she would finance her Washington experience. The program offers a stipend to cover housing, but basic personal costs like food are not included. Davis paid for the trip with the Triton Summer Scholarship, careful savings during the school year and help from her family.

More important, though, the internship offered amazing networking opportunities. She shared the experience with interns from all over the world, providing her with a strong network of friends and acquaintances for her future career.

“There are over 2,000 interns every summer, so you meet people from all over the world, and you network all the time,” Davis said. “You never know who you’re going to meet and how you might be able to help each other later.”

Applications for the summer 2015 internship are not yet available.

Media Coverage:
The St. Louis American 

The UMSL Experience

Rachel Webb

Rachel Webb