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Political Science

Written by Grant Johnson, ('24)

For many students, it can feel like they’re always playing catch-up with the day to get everything done. For junior political science major Amy Beladia, though, it’s the day that can’t catch up to her student and extracurricular involvement. 

Beladia, who’s currently taking part in the Washington Semester and interning on Capitol Hill in the office of Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) as a legislative intern on the Senate Finance Committee, speaks four languages, is a student and honors college ambassador, at-large SGA senator and an investigator on the honors council, just to name a few — all of which she said she’s actively involved in and “truly wants to make a difference” in each. 

These experiences led her to being accepted to partake in the Washington Semester this fall among a “very competitive” applicant pool, Beladia said. After being accepted, Beladia’s internship in Cortez Masto’s office is unique to other Washington-bound students; she said accepted Washington Semester applicants must secure an internship with the help of an advisor. What led Beladia to Cortez Masto, she said, was the alignment with her and Cortez Masto’s values on issues like immigration and the environment. 

“I'm definitely enjoying it and learning a lot about not only what I want to do in the future but also just what I really want to do as well — how I want to improve my skills as an undergraduate,” Beladia said. “Everyone in the office is very, very nice and welcoming; it's a really great place to be an intern.”

The internship operates in the typical 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. time frame. Beladia said she has to be signed into her government-issued laptop right at 9 a.m. She’ll look at Nevada and national news as well as revisions sent by a legislative aide — the main colleague Beladia said she helps out — who she works with on tax and trade issues. No matter what the work is, Beladia said it’s very secure.

“You can't even log into your [Microsoft] Outlook email, your Microsoft Teams on any other device,” Beladia said. “It's just impossible.” 

Additionally, Beladia said much of her time is spent writing hearing and meeting memos, letter approval requests and co-sponsorship approval requests following a strict, consistent template. She said titles and subtitles are always underlined and bolded, and the meeting’s topic is in red. Voting recommendations are red if the vote’s “No,” and green if it’s “Yes.” 

Written messages also come in the reverse direction — Beladia said constituents are constantly asking about legislation and where Cortez Masto stands on different issues, and it’s her office’s job to reply in a timely manner. Messages arrive depending on “what’s going on,” she said, as there was an exponential increase in messages with questions about President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better Act,” which Beladia said saw 357 messages in one day. 

“We're constantly responding to those messages,” Beladia said. “We get, like, over 300 a day sometimes; some days, we'll get about 50, 60, 70.”

While Beladia said her research and writing skills have improved immensely in Washington, D.C. — which will help her on the Capstone Project, she said — she also said that she doesn’t think she wants to work in a senator’s office in the future. Rather, she said she might want to go into consulting and apply to government agencies and contracting companies. 

But without the background, she said, she won’t be able to apply her lessons into the classroom at JMU. 

“I think getting the hands-on experience itself is so important, especially in today's era, just because that is what future employers are looking for,” Beladia said. “It's very different from just listening to lectures and writing papers and reading and all those different things.”

Above all, Beladia said her internship opportunity taught her to be accepting of all experiences, regardless of whether it’s the ideal fit. This was especially true in Washington, D.C., she said, since she dealt with issues and policies that impact so many people. 

“Being open-minded is the most important thing that you could ever do in any job in any career,” Beladia said. “That is what is ultimately going to help you succeed and learn and grow as a person.” 

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