Thomas R. Wolanin Congressional Internship

The paid Thomas R. Wolanin Congressional Internship provides first-generation and low-income college graduates of a TRIO program the opportunity to observe and participate first-hand in the federal policymaking process through an experience on Capitol Hill.

Holly Hexter

What the Wolanin Internship Did for Its First Intern, Brandy Dailey

“When I was in D.C. and learning to research issues on a national scale, I picked up on skills I didn’t even know I was lacking. When the job came up, I instantly applied. [In my current job] They’ve let me take the initiative to establish a legislative review committee working with state legislators in both parties to research policy issues that impact domestic violence in families. [The organization is} very trauma-informed and based on the principle of empowerment. I’m also mentoring students looking for internship opportunities, including a few law students, and giving them a different perspective on their career paths. As a first-gen student, I never expected to graduate from college, let alone have college students knocking on my door.”
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Holly Hexter

How Thomas R. Wolanin Intern Matt Tessema is “Becoming a Voice for the Underrepresented”

The TRIO alumnus is “ready to pay it forward” after receiving support to enter and graduate from college and sees his congressional internship as an important stepping stone. He’s now working on the House Education and Labor Committee. “I wanted an experience on the Hill. What I want to do with my law degree in the future aligns with being a voice for underrepresented people. And I always thought of policy or the legislative process as an avenue for me to do that. Coming here as a low-income, first-generation student — usually, these places on the Hill are not for people who come from backgrounds like mine,” Tessema says. The son of Ethiopian immigrants took part in Student Support Services at VCU. He’s applying to law school but now sees his aspirations differently. The significant role of legislative aides in shaping public policy impressed him.
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COE will invite applications for these additional opportunities soon.

COE has seasonal student opportunities for TRIO students and recent graduates. Get notified when COE seeks future cohorts for the opportunities below.


Each summer, COE hosts more than 150 TRIO high school student delegates from Upward Bound and Talent Search programs across the United States and territories to participate in a rigorous 6-day leadership experience in Washington, D.C. During the Leadership Congress, the delegates sleep, study and dine on the Georgetown University campus. In addition to meeting their Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill, delegates engage in conflict resolution workshops, diversity training, and spend much of the program researching a critical and controversial current policy issue, drafting legislation, and then arguing their position on this question.

Beginning in the 2018-2019 academic year, a paid internship of four to six months will be awarded each year to a graduating senior or recent college graduate who has participated in a federal TRIO program. The program includes an internship in a Congressional office preceded by several weeks in COE’s Washington, DC office. The internship is named for the late Thomas R. Wolanin, former staff director of the Subcommittee on Post-Secondary Education in the U.S. House of Representatives, a champion of access and affordability in postsecondary education, and a committed advocate for first-generation students.

Increasingly, developing global competencies are a critical component of what it means to be a college graduate. Students entering the global workforce must be able to cross borders and cultures with ease. But formative experiences such as study, travel and internships abroad remain largely the province of middle- and upper-income students. The Keith Sherin Global Leaders Program was founded with the notion that all college students should have access to international experiences. The program supports the study of TRIO college students with demonstrated leadership skills in a three-to four-week program. Since 2000, more than 350 low-income, first-generation college students and students with disabilities have participated in COE-sponsored short-term and semester study abroad programs in Great Britain, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Africa and Spain.

Through the Keith Sherin Global Leaders Washington Semester Program, one high-achieving TRIO college student is selected each semester and supported with tuition, housing and a small living stipend. The Washington, D.C. public policy program includes a semester of study at Marquette University’s Les Aspin Center and an internship placement in a Congressional office. The program recruits students with strong academic records who can juggle a full course load on top of a three-day-per-week job. Interns see public policy in the making and gain valuable work skills and connections.

The pitch competition offers students an opportunity to develop a brief competitive presentation to propose their business ideas to an audience and a panel of judges. Contestants will have an opportunity to win up to $2,500 in scholarships and prizes. The virtual pitch competition is exclusively for active TRIO participants.

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