LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 23, 2023) — This Pride Month, the Martin School of Public Policy and Administration has something extra to celebrate — Zach Owen (’24) is interning in Sen. Jon Ossoff’s (Georgia) Washington D.C. office as part of the LGBTQ+ Victory Institute’s Congressional Internship program. Founded in 1993, the LGBTQ+ Victory Institute’s mission is to promote equitable representation of LGBTQ+ leaders in all levels of government through trainings, research, professional development and more. Students selected for the Victory Congressional Internship program undergo an extensive application and interview process to be chosen for the opportunity to live and work in Washington D.C. for a member of the Congressional Equality Caucus or LGBTQ+-friendly member of Congress. In addition, Victory interns also participate in an intensive leadership development program during their time in D.C.
When Owen originally applied for the program in spring of 2022, he unfortunately wasn’t selected. Rather than give up, in the subsequent year he doubled down on his public service activities. In summer of 2022, Owen moved to Atlanta to intern in the Mayor’s Office for LGBTQ Affairs, a position which allowed him to apply his public policy skills, network and learn about how large local governments function. In the 2022-23 school year, Owen continued his public service by working as Alpha Phi Omega's vice president of service, coordinating with nonprofits to create volunteer opportunities. He also volunteered to serve as the undergraduate student liaison to the Martin School’s DEI committee and assisted with recruiting as a student ambassador. When Owen applied to the internship again in January 2023, no one was surprised when he was selected to be one of just 16 undergraduate students for the summer 2023 cohort.
“Zach is one of the most ambitious students I have ever worked with,” commented Brooke Kuerzi, Owen’s academic advisor. “He doesn’t let setbacks deter him from seeking out opportunities, and because of his intelligence, work ethic and determination, he’s getting to participate in this life-changing program.”
So far in the program, it’s been access to the halls of Congress that have been most exciting for Owen to experience. “The Victory Institute has given me such a unique opportunity and I could not be more grateful! The incredible feeling of walking the same hallways with members of Congress is surreal, and I will never forget it. It reminds me that each member is also an ordinary person, and should be accessible to the public.”
It has also been particularly rewarding for Owen to be surrounded by members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially during Pride Month. “To be surrounded by so many young LGBTQ+ leaders from across the country has given me new perspectives and allowed me to explore parts of my identity that I did not know I had,” Owen said.
“It has been a truly amazing experience to be an LGBTQ+ person in our nation’s capital during this month of celebration. So often, as LGBTQ+ people in Kentucky, we walk into spaces that weren’t created with us in mind. The simple acknowledgment that Pride Month exists allows for conversations to be had and people to learn more about our experiences in this state and country.”
The Martin School of Public Policy and Administration is committed to maintaining an inclusive and supportive community for all our students, faculty and staff. The mission of the undergraduate public policy program is to prepare future leaders who are themselves committed to integrity, equity and excellence in public service. This Pride Month, it’s an honor to recognize Owen for his embodiment of the Martin School’s mission here at UK and beyond.
As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.
In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.