Economics student gets up-close view of Washington interning in Sen. Claire McCaskill’s office

by | Sep 16, 2017

Graduate student Jordan Lucas gained a better understanding of government and an affinity for Washington's vibrance through his experience over the summer.
Jordan Lucas

Graduate student Jordan Lucas gained a better understanding of government and an affinity for Washington’s vibrance during a summer working as an intern in Senator Claire McCaskill’s office.

Jordan Lucas is only beginning work on his master’s degree in economics at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

But he’s already pondering where that degree might take him – and hoping that journey includes at least a stop back in Washington.

Lucas was taken with the energy and wealth of events in the capital city over the summer while getting an up-close look at its primary business: politics.

He spent two months working as an intern in the office of Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, his experience in many ways framed by the health-care debate going on throughout.

“It was very dramatic,” Lucas said. “Each week there was some new news. From one day to the next, we didn’t really know what the vote on health care was going to be.”

By now, most people have seen the video of the moment when Arizona Senator John McCain cast what proved to be the deciding vote against his own party’s proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He signaled his opposition by dropping his thumb down during a roll call in the wee hours of July 28.

As compelling as that was in Lucas’ final week in Washington, he was just as moved seeing the seemingly more mundane moments of work and debate senators had, both on health care and other issues.

“I think I’m a little less jaded about politics and about government,” Lucas said of his big takeaway from the experience. “Getting to see intimately how everything worked, you just kind of understand why things move so slowly, especially in the Senate.”

Lucas was just in the nick of time applying for his internship last fall amidst the busyness of his final year as an undergraduate pursuing a BS in economics. Actually, he submitted an application for a position in Congressman William Lacy Clay’s office just ahead of the deadline.

He got a call the very next morning about scheduling an interview with Karen Pierre, UMSL’s manager of community relations, and met with her later the same week.

Lucas’ background made an impression. He served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps – most of them as part of a unit providing base support in California – in between graduating from Festus High School and enrolling first at Jefferson College and later UMSL.

Those credentials, plus his success as a student at UMSL, got him an offer to work in Clay’s office, but before that position was finalized, his name also got passed along to University of Missouri System administrators. One of them thought his military background would make him a good fit to work for McCaskill, the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Lucas went through another round of interviews with members of McCaskill’s staff and was ultimately hired.

The position was unpaid, but the university covered Lucas’ housing costs. He joined 11 others in a house he said was “a stone’s throw from the capitol” and only about a 10-minute walk from the Philip A. Hart Senate Office Building on Constitution Avenue.

Lucas was one of six general interns working for McCaskill, whose office also has a communications intern and works with interns from the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

His work included “basically any little thing that anybody in the office needed us to do,” and that included doing research, guiding tours, answering phones and sorting other messages.

He marveled at how much effort was put into responding to every correspondence from constituents – from calls to emails, physical mail and faxes.

“They really don’t miss a call,” Lucas said.

When Lucas wasn’t inside McCaskill’s office, he did his best to explore all that lay around it.

“I enjoyed the city more than I thought I would,” he said. “A very vibrant city, always something going on. We were so close to everything. On the weekends, I spent a lot of time just walking down the Mall. You would run into four or five different events that you could choose from. There was always something to do.”

He feels a pull toward that.

“I definitely, definitely will be back,” he said. “In what capacity, I don’t know.”

Lucas said he chose to pursue his master’s degree in no small part because he isn’t ready to decide. He imagines himself doing something public service oriented but needs more time to envision the details.

“That’s one of the things that I was drawn to about economics,” he said. “There is a really wide range of fields that you can go into with it. I wanted to keep my options open.”

For now, he’s content staying busy on campus, currently serving as the chair of the dean’s council for the College of Arts & Sciences. He’s also keeping involved politically as the president the UMSL Chapter of the Associated Students of the University of Missouri.

The UMSL Experience

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik