Senior finds passion for politics in D.C. internship
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
When senior Emma Blair started her undergraduate program at Grand Canyon University, she was positive that she was going to graduate and become a high school history teacher.
But through opportunities she learned about in the Honors College, such as a summit and multiple internships, including one in Washington, D.C., the history major with a minor in pre-law discovered another passion she didn’t know she had – government.
In February 2020, Blair met Kara Sassa (formerly Kara Morrow), a GCU graduate who worked in the Arizona Senate office, and had a conversation that put into perspective how attainable a career in government could be. It was the catalyst that convinced her to learn more.
Late last year, Blair participated in the Forge Leadership Summit in Columbus, Ohio, a five-day intensive for young professionals who have an interest in engaging in politics. It was there that the world of politics began to pique her interest.
“Forge really opened my eyes to how many more opportunities there are,” Blair said. “I talked to my Honors College program advisor, and I was telling her about it how I was falling in love with state politics and the intersection between everyday people and local politics.”
The advisor told Dr. Breanna Naegeli, Honors College Associate Dean, who Naegeli helped connect her with a local internship opportunity. Once Blair dipped her toes in the world of state politics with an internship with a local lobbyist last spring, she wanted more.
“I still wanted to go to D.C. That’s the room where it all happens, to barrow the ‘Hamilton’ cliché,” she said.
That brought Blair to her latest venture into the world of politics, a job as a research intern at the nonprofit organization Speech First, which works to protect students’ right to free speech on campus. Since starting in early June, Blair has participated in two big research projects surrounding free speech on multiple university campuses.
The projects gave Blair a renewed appreciation for GCU and the emphasis the University places on civil discourse and the First Amendment.
“I think that’s one of the things that makes GCU’s campus so incredible,” she said. “We really do have a culture of respect, and I do think students on GCU’s campus also do a good job of giving fellow students the benefit of the doubt.
“It’s something I’m much more thankful for, going back.”
During her time in Washington, Blair has networked with several impressive political figures from both sides of the political spectrum, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff, President George H.W. Bush’s former speechwriter, President George W. Bush’s Domestic Policy Advisor and multiple members of Congress.
Blair said the networking is one of the most valuable benefits of her internship, and she credits the Honors College with helping prepare her for it.
“That’s something that I give so much props to the Honors College at GCU for because in P.A.C. (Professional, Academic and Career) boot camp, they didn’t just teach us how to network but they then proceeded to give us so many opportunities to practice networking,” she said. “It’s one of those things where you only get good at it if you practice and practice again.”
Blair’s advice to her fellow students who may have similar interests: Don’t be afraid to network with professionals, utilizing tools such as email and LinkedIn.
With one semester to go until Blair’s December graduation, the Arizona native still is figuring out where her future will take her. She hopes to continue her education in a graduate program and follow a career that will allow her to implement her many interests.
“Education is still something I’m super passionate about, especially more and more civic education because I’m learning how many misconceptions surround government in general,” she said. “Something I can see myself doing is working in more local government but then also bringing the knowledge I have and continuing to grow and learn a lot more as I continue possibly pursuing some form of civic education.
“I think that would be a lot of fun.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].
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