UK Students Learn From 'Experience of a Lifetime' in Washington, DC

Video produced by UK Public Relations and Marketing. To view captions for this video, push play and click on the CC icon in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. If using a mobile device, click on the "thought bubble" in the same area.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 28, 2019) — “To actually be in Washington, D.C. is unlike anything that you can experience in a classroom or here in Kentucky,” says Hayley Leach. “The hands-on experience is unlike anything you can get.”

That is the primary goal of the University of Kentucky’s WilDCats at the Capitol program — to provide students with unique opportunities in the nation’s capital; support them through organized housing, academic credit and financial aid; and provide a rewarding and professional experience that will serve them beyond graduation.

Over the last year, more than 40 UK students from multiple disciplines have walked the halls of Congress alongside elected officials and policymakers, gaining a dynamic academic and professional experience through an internship program facilitated by UK's Department of Political Science, Office of Federal Relations, Student Government Association and Office of the President.

Program organizers began collaborating in Fall 2017 to develop an internship where students spend 40 hours per week interning in a selected government office or agency and take classes at night. The critical priority was to build a program that provided the infrastructure and support for student success. As Timothy Melton, an intern in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office said, “It can be intimidating to cold call an office, send in a resume and not know anything about the process. WilDCats at the Capitol helps build connections that otherwise wouldn’t be there.”

The internship and coursework yield 12 hours — or full-time status — for students in the spring and fall. Because students are full time, they can continue to use their financial aid and scholarships to defray program costs while also staying on track to earn their degree. Students take classes taught by instructors from the Department of Political Science who are located in Washington, D.C. The immersive experience aligns academic coursework with hands-on experiential learning for students, a key outcome of the university’s Strategic Plan.

The University has placed interns with: Representative Thomas Massie, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Representative Andy Barr, Senator Rand Paul, Representative Hal Rogers, UPS Global Affairs, Representative Brett Guthrie, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, Representative James Comer, House Budget Committee staff, Representative Sanford Bishop, Governor Matt Bevin, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Department of Homeland Security, Representative Cedric Richmond, the Wilson Center and Representative Gwen Moore.

WilDCats at the Capitol also provides organized program housing. UK contracts with the Washington Intern Student Housing (WISH) program to locate students in close proximity to their internship experience. UK students live together in a furnished townhome conveniently located in the Capitol Hill area and Metro accessible. 

“One of the best parts of this internship was living with the other UK students,” says Ansley McLellan who interned in Senator Paul’s office in Spring 2018. “For the most part, none of us knew each other, and we became really good friends.”

In addition, the program includes a robust professional development series that exposes students to Washington and connects them with UK alumni and professionals in the area.

“You have to make the most of the city because you’re given so many opportunities, and you can either run with them or sit,” says Claire Tauer, who interned with Congressman Andy Barr during the summer 2018. “The best way you can figure out if you like something is to do it.”

“Internships are incredibly important for connecting classroom curriculum with hands-on, professional experiences. Extensive research shows that internships are an important predictor of career success beyond graduation,” says Jesse Johnson, associate professor of political science and internship director. “Our goal is to maximize opportunity for our students working toward their degree.”

In addition to scholarships and financial aid that you have already earned, applicants are encouraged to apply for additional support offered by the Office of the President, Department of Political Science, and the UK Student Government Association. Last year, the WilDCats at the Capitol program awarded more than $20,000 in scholarships to participants. “If it wasn’t for the scholarship support, I couldn’t be able to go alone,” says a previous student intern.

“I learned that policy can positively impact our communities. I feel like the internship pushed me to take on more leadership roles,” says Tynesea Watts, who interned with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee’s office. “I would describe my internship as transformational.”

For students interested in applying to the WilDCats at the Capitol program, the application deadline for summer internships has been extended until Feb. 1, 2019, and the deadline for Fall 2019 is April 12, 2019. Please submit your application, resume, transcript and letter of recommendation to More information can be found at:


photo of WilDCats at the Capitol intern Jorden Jones with Congressman Hal Rogers.
WilDCats at the Capitol intern Jorden Jones with Congressman Hal Rogers.