Capitol Hill is not typically a draw for graphic design majors, but Southeast Missouri State University senior Michelle Stevens says her U.S. Congressional internship this spring has her poised for success after graduation.
Stevens, who plans to graduate from Southeast May 12 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, has spent the spring semester engaged in a graphic design internship in the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer who represents Missouri’s third Congressional district.
Although Capitol Hill often attracts political science majors, Stevens inquired with the Congressman’s office anyway to explore the possibility of an internship focused on graphic design. Knowing the competitiveness of the graphic design job market, Stevens said she wanted to do something unique to make her marketable after graduation.
“I tried to think about places that are not typical design firms. Then, I remembered, when I was younger, I took a tour of the Capitol under Congressman Luetkemeyer’s office and absolutely loved it,” Stevens said. “I have always thought Congress would be an awesome place to work one day, but I never in a million years thought I would be there, especially with my major.
“They told me that their office could really use the help of a designer, but I would also be required to take on many other duties that aren’t graphic design as well,” Stevens said.
Coming off this experience, she says she’s learned how to work as a designer in the real world.
Stevens, a Warrenton, Missouri, native, said she had the opportunity to shine by designing various pieces for the Congressman. Stevens’ responsibilities included working with the press secretary and committees to design charts and graphs for Congressional hearings. She designed cards, maps, newsletters, templates and mass mailers for the Congressman. While she handled regular intern duties like answering the phone and logging messages, she also participated in research projects, wrote press releases and gave Capitol tours.
“Not only did I learn to work on my own involving projects and design work, but I also learned how to work as part of a team,” Stevens said. “I gained many communication, organizational and creative skills while working there.
“A typical day in the office is usually crazy busy — lots of multi-tasking required — however I loved coming in every day never knowing what to expect,” said Stevens. “The work environment was amazing, and I loved the staff I have been working with.”
She also enjoyed the extra perks that came with the opportunity.
“My office set me up to do some awesome tours like the White House, and they took me in areas throughout the Capitol only staffers get to see,” she said. “I also got to listen in on meetings, hearing and briefings. It was pretty cool getting to do those things.”
Stevens is majoring in art with a graphic design option. She transferred to Southeast after beginning her college career as a biology major with plans to study veterinary medicine. After completing a year of study at Benedictine College, she decided to pursue her lifelong passion for art and participate in a Benedictine study abroad program in Florence, Italy.
“I fell in love with the art and culture,” she said of her time in Europe.
She then took a semester off to decide where she wanted to study art. That’s when she learned about Southeast’s Bachelor of Fine Arts program and knew this was the place for her.
“It’s been a great experience for me,” she said. “I love the Art Department. The amazing professors at Southeast taught me everything I know.”
Stevens credits her advisor, Louise Bodenheimer, for the guidance she has provided.
“She is one of the sweetest professors I know,” she said. “She is amazing. I have learned so much over the past few years and gained valuable skills that will stick with me for a lifetime.”
With her Congressional internship behind her, Stevens says she has no fears about landing a job after graduation.
“Congress may be different than most places, but the experience I gained set me up for a lifetime,” she said.
Stevens flew home from Washington last weekend to participate in commencement ceremonies at Southeast May 12. Next, she intends to return to Washington to again work on Capitol Hill. She has interviewed for several positions, including a digital opportunity with the Republican Conference.
“I am leaving here feeling like finding a job will be a lot less stressful with this experience,” she said.
Stevens, who also studied abroad in the U.K. during her time at Southeast and who relished that experience as well, encourages students to follow their dreams.
“If there is something you are interested in – like studying abroad or an internship – these are honestly the things that can help you find a job after graduation,” and students should absolutely pursue them, she said.
*Top Photo Caption: Michelle Stevens and U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri