Alison Chiaramonte '08 Interning on Capitol Hill This Summer
Supported by Joseph F. Anderson Internship Fund
By Lisbeth Redfield
August 15, 2006
Alison Chiaramonte '08 (Sherman, Conn.) spent her summer on the Hill, but not the one you're probably thinking of. The public policy major was nowhere near Hamilton this summer; instead, she was on Capitol Hill as an intern in the offices of Congressman Sherwood Boehlert and Congressman John Larson.
While many of her peers opted for research, Chiaramonte was one of 13 Hamiltonians who received college funding to conduct a summer internship. The downside of internships is that many of them are unpaid, requiring students to pay their own housing and living expenses as well as working for free, all in pursuit of the elusive resume-booster "work experience."
Thanks to alumni and parent donations, Hamilton students can apply for funding to support them while they work in a field of interest with an organization that cannot pay them. Though Chiaramonte worked in what is known as an "unpaid internship," she received money from Hamilton's Joseph F. Anderson Internship Fund, given in honor of a 1944 Hamilton graduate who served the college for 18 years as vice president for communications and development. The fund in his name provides individual stipends to support full-time internships for students wishing to expand their educational horizons in preparation for potential careers after graduation.
"Being an intern gives [you] responsibilities and privileges," Chiaramonte said. Her duties in the Congressmen's offices were certainly many and varied: she helped the correspondent deal with constituent mail, gave tours to visiting constituents, and went to briefings and hearings for other staff members. She also attended lectures prepared specifically for interns. "I've heard Barak Obama and Colin Powell," Chiaramonte said. "I'm 10 feet away from these people and I get to ask questions!"
Her co-workers were mostly young people: seniors in college or graduate students. "I think it's great," she said. "They are teachers to us." The best and worst thing about the position was that it was in a city. Chiaramonte admitted that it was "tough" to adjust – she is from a small town and had never lived in a city before – but that she enjoyed exploring. "I think I want to live here after I graduate."
In search of an internship, Chiaramonte did extensive research online. She had applied unsuccessfully for internships the year before and very much wanted to explore possible work options. At some point her brother mentioned to her that there were intern positions with Representatives available and Chiaramonte turned her attention to the Capitol. Boehlert and Larson, she said, were her first choices. "I'm very happy to work them…I really respect what they do," she said.
Chiaramonte feels that "Hamilton's on the right track" in offering awards for the internships which are "becoming second nature" for students entering the job market.
She explained that she had gained a great deal from her work. "This is a taste of something I might want to do later." She also described the independence that comes with having an internship. "I know this sounds cheesy," she said, "but you learn a little bit about yourself."
Chiaramonte recommended strongly that future applicants should contact Hamilton's Maurice Horowitch Career Center but that they should expect to do hard work in finding their position themselves; "it's a lot of work, and lot of responsibility" finding and applying for an internship. She also recommended applying to positions in an area of interest; "things you'll be able to commit to." Overall, "I think every student…should look into doing an internship over the summer."
-- Lisbeth Redfield