Student Makes Capitol Hill Her Classroom

Jennifer Shaskan
Jennifer Shaskan

For Jennifer Shaskan (Communications, 2017), the past two months have been a whirlwind of excitement, preparation and new experiences. In January, Shaskan started an internship in the office of Senator Mark Warner (D, VA) where she serves as one of the six interns on his constituent services team.

Shaskan explained she was excited to land this competitive internship with Warner, a politician whose career she has followed since she was an elementary school student and her parents were active campaign organizers. “It’s amazing to me. My dad drove [Warner] around the Lynchburg campus as part of his gubernatorial campaign. I’ve always been a supporter of his.”

Originally from Lynchburg, VA, Shaskan was attracted to George Mason University partly because of the university’s proximity to Washington DC. As a freshman Cornerstones student, she quickly learned her way around the city, visiting different museums, cultural and government sites.

Through Cornerstones, Shaskan studied with NCC Dean Lisa Gring-Pemble, who now directs Shaskan as she conducts research related to her internship to receive independent study course credit.

Gring-Pemble said, “I distinctly remember the work Jennifer produced for class. Her writing was characterized by compelling, thoughtful, and well-researched positions. She displayed a remarkable understanding of and sensitivity to a variety of complex and controversial topics. This internship will be a great opportunity for her to apply her passion for politics in meaningful ways.”

On the constituent services team, Shaskan fields phone calls, email and postal mail delivered to Warner’s office. She also attends hearings and meetings for Warner’s office, reporting back important information. She and the other interns also provide tours of the Capitol for all constituents who visit Warner’s office.

Shaskan’s training has occurred on the job, and she has quickly learned the art of politely responding to emotional callers and thinking on her feet when visitors ask a range of questions while touring the Capitol.

“Communication is a huge part of this internship. You can’t be afraid to ask questions or talk to people. With this job, you won’t know all the answers and you have to be willing to ask so you know for the next time someone asks the same question,” Shaskan said.

Shaskan has welcomed the opportunity to learn about her government, elected officials and the staff who make the government work. From the senators she has seen on elevators to the Capitol Hill police who have guided her through the maze of hallways, Shaskan has been surprised by the friendly reception she has received, and the variety each day brings. She said, “I love every day. I am definitely lucky to be doing this.”