Carnegie Mellon University

From Carnegie Mellon to Capitol Hill

emmet eldred standing in front of congressman brendan boyle's office.

Emmett Eldred, a junior double majoring in creative writing and professional writing, is currently studying and working in the nation’s capital through Carnegie Mellon University’s Washington Semester Program. Sponsored by CMU’s Institute for Politics and Strategy, the semester-long program gives students who are interested in policy work the opportunity to intern in Washington D.C. while taking classes.

We recently asked Eldred to reflect on his internship at Congressman Brendan Boyle’s office and his coursework.

What do you do as an intern for the Office of Representative Brendan Boyle (PA-13)?
When Congressman Boyle wants to draft new legislation in a policy area, I help research the topic to uncover the legislative history, current problems related to the issue and arguments on both sides of the issue. I also do policy analysis, recommend possible legislative solutions to policy problems and work closely with the communications director on social media.

Most of my workload is writing memos, briefs, talking points, bill summaries, background information, letters and Facebook posts. I feel extremely well prepared for the work I am doing because of the lessons I learned in CMU’s creative writing and professional writing programs.

What courses are you taking?
I have four courses: two with CMU and two with the University of California Washington Center. My CMU classes are ‘Internship Seminar’ with Professor Kenya Dworkin and ‘Policy Forum’ with Thomas Karako and Kiron Skinner.

In ‘Internship Seminar,’ we discuss the weekly progression of our internships and exchange advice on how to get the most out of our internships. We also analyze media sources to broaden and deepen our engagement with current events. 

In ‘Policy Forum,’ we discuss how various institutions and factors impact policy. We met professionals involved in shaping policy, including General Michael Hayden, the former director of the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency.

My University of California Washington Center class, ‘The United States Supreme Court,’ is with Jessica Gresko, an AP reporter who covers judicial issues related to the Supreme Court. Eric Trager, one of the leading experts on Egyptian politics and the Muslim Brotherhood, teaches my other course, ‘US Foreign Policy in the Middle East.’

Congressman Boyle serves on the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, so this class has been a great connection to my professional experiences and it helps prepare me for complicated research and writing about the Middle East that I have to do at my internship. 

What do you enjoy most about your internship and WSP courses?
I’ve had an incredible internship experience and I am grateful for the opportunity. It is thrilling to be affecting policy, even if it's in a small way. I care a lot about public policy, so it’s exciting to actually be involved in that world.

I've also been able to confirm that I want to work in policy professionally. To be so immersed in classes that relate so closely to my professional ambitions, it’s a nice change of pace. I love my writing classes in the English department, but it's nice to have one semester where I focus on policy. 

What have you learned from your internship and coursework?
I’ve honed my researching and writing skills during my internship. In D.C., you'll get laughed out of the room if your memo is longer than two pages. It's been a challenge, but also a great opportunity to refine my writing to be direct and concise.

My internship and coursework have really given me a greater depth of knowledge on several key policy areas.

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By Amanda King

Photo: Emmet Eldred stands in front of Congressman Brendan Boyle's office in Washington D.C. Eldred, a junior double majoring in creative writing and professional writing, is interning there as part of CMU's Washington Semester Program.