Helena Bottemiller Evich ’09 knew she wanted to participate in the Washington Program before she ever got to CMC. “I'd long been interested in politics and policy and figured doing a semester in D.C. would be a good way to dive in and learn a lot more about how the system works (and doesn't!), says Evich who majored in Government with a Leadership sequence.
In the spring of 2008, Evich traveled to D.C. for an internship with an eye toward “sharpening” her research skills. “The firm I worked for had us do pretty substantive work, whether it was helping write a pitch for a new client or preparing briefing materials for a hearing witness,” she says. “You learn things pretty quickly when you know your work is actually being applied in the real world.”
Evich was a self-styled “policy nerd/government major” who accidentally fell into journalism.
“When I was writing my senior thesis on FDA policy in 2009,” she says, “I interviewed some of the top experts in food safety, which ended up leading to a job offer to cover food policy at Food Safety News, a new site that was being launched by a Seattle-based law firm. We had a small team and I was the only one based in Washington, D.C., but we ended up growing to have a pretty substantial audience.”
For Evich, the timing was propitious for jumping into the food policy arena. “There were a lot of really big food-borne illness outbreaks in 2009 and 2010 and Congress began debating the biggest update to food safety law in a century,” she says. When Michelle Obama as First Lady launched a campaign aimed at tackling the childhood obesity epidemic. Evich was asked to help launch Politico's food and agriculture policy team in 2013. She is now a senior reporter there.
Acquiring real-world work experience in Washington when in college gave Evich an advantage when she moved to D.C. right after graduation. “I knew more about how Congress and this town worked than my peers -- not just from the internship, but also from my academic work. I was able to hit the ground running,” she says.
After working full time and going to school full time in D.C, Evich remembers that returning to CMC felt like summer camp. “I felt like I had so much free time, even though I was working part time on campus, taking a full class load and was co-captain of the volleyball team,” she says. “My poor friends who had studied abroad in Europe and didn't have such rigorous schedules had the opposite experience, if that makes sense.”
According to Evich who feels that the Program helped her perfect her time management skills, there is no better way to combine your education with real world experience. “It's one thing to learn about how policymaking works, it's another thing to watch the process unfold before you,” she says. “Even if you don't want to work in Washington after graduation, I think there's a lot of value in having some understanding of how this town works (and doesn't!).”