Wayland junior to serve as intern for congressman during fall

T.J. Messer admits a long-time love for politics and possibly an interest in running for office in the future. His latest opportunity, then, is definitely a step in the right direction. Messer, a junior political science major at Wayland Baptist University, will be spending his fall semester in Washington, D.C. as an intern for U.S. Representative Mac Thornberry (R, TX-13).

"This has really been a dream of mine since coming to college," Messer said. "I thought if I could work in Washington for just three months, it'd be a dream come true."

Messer, a native of Amarillo, said he is excited about the networking possibilities that come with being a congressional intern. Following his undergraduate education, he hopes to either work in a political office or attend law school, pursuing a career in politics.

Thornberry represents the 13th district, which stretches from the Oklahoma border north of Amarillo, winds down through the Panhandle into the South Plains below Lubbock, then runs east across the Red River Valley and into Wichita Falls, before continuing on to Denton and the outskirts of Dallas. As an intern, Messer will learn firsthand how a congressional office operates. He will assist with administrative duties such as copying and delivering documents, giving Capitol tours, meeting constituents and other clerical tasks as needed. He will also learn about the legislative process by attending seminars, assisting staff members with research and attending committee hearings or briefings. Messer might also be called on to help with press releases and attend press conferences.

Messer said he learned of the internship opportunity through Dr. Geoff Wells, professor of political science at Wayland. Fellow student Sonia Munguia served in the same internship last fall. Two other Wayland students have interned for Thornberry in the past. Messer was chosen from a field of applicants from various schools.

"I think this is a good thing for us when you consider that there are several other universities in the district," Wells said. "(Thornberry's office) has been happy with our students. This is great experience, and I hope we can keep this up on a regular basis."

Wells said Messer and others who have served as interns can enroll in six hours of a practicum course titled "Studies in Congress," for which he will do research on some aspect of the legislative body and write a paper when he returns. He said the experience students receive from such an internship is invaluable.

"They bring back so much, but mainly just the experience of being in Washington, D.C. They are around all these power brokers, basically, that make important public policy. They may even meet other congresspersons," Wells said. "They bring back a sense of the reality of politics that makes the academic discussions more meaningful. They also get a chance to travel and see historical sites. They get a different taste of the nation and a small taste of the world."

While in Washington, Messer will live in intern apartments and have the opportunity to visit many of the capitol city's monuments, galleries and other historical sites. Though Messer will receive a monthly stipend, the allowance will only cover his housing. He is responsible for securing funds for travel expenses to and from Washington and any other living expenses while in the capitol.

Anyone wishing to make contributions to the Internship Program through Wayland Baptist University may send checks made out to Wayland, in care of the Mac Thornberry Internship Program, to the university at 1900 West Seventh St., CMB 621, Plainview, Texas 79072-6998.