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NIU students earn recognition on Capitol Hill for work as summer interns in Washington, D.C.

August 22, 2012
NIU D.C. intern Gary Timmins with U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley.

NIU D.C. intern Gary Timmins with U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley.

NIU students recognized for their work as summer interns in Washington, D.C.

The Illinois State Society of Washington, D.C., has awarded scholarships to each of the four NIU students who interned this summer in the nation’s capital, with one student taking home top honors among all interns from Illinois.

Gary Timmins, a graduating senior with a double major in psychology and political science, was the recipient of the society’s highest honor, the Paul Simon Award, which was accompanied by a stipend of $1,500.

The Paul Simon Award is given to the top intern from Illinois, selected from a pool of at least 50 Illinois college students who worked in D.C. this summer. It’s the second time in four years an NIU student intern has won the Simon Award, with Matthew Venaas having received the honor in 2009.

Timmins, of west suburban West Chicago, interned in the office of U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-05).

“I’ve never lived in a big city. So just being out there, right down the street from the Lincoln Memorial and State Department and within walking distance of the White House, it was an incredible experience,” Timmins said.

NIU’s summer congressional internship program was established in 2009. From late May to mid-August, the interns work in the heart of the nation’s capital while living in housing provided by George Washington University, located just a distance from the Capitol.

The interns’ work ranges from answering calls and writing letters to constituents to conducting research on legislation. They also get a chance to rub shoulders with some of the nation’s elite political leaders. The NIU interns this summer attended events ranging from President Obama’s Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery to the contempt of Congress proceedings against the U.S. attorney general.

“Right now I’m applying for jobs at government agencies on the Hill,” Timmins said. “I never would have thought of applying for these jobs before this internship.”

NIU D.C. intern Jesse Ruter had an opportunity to meet U.S. Rep. Ron Paul.

NIU D.C. intern Jesse Ruter had an opportunity to meet U.S. Rep. Ron Paul.

The three other D.C. interns from NIU this summer were Tyler Carolan, who interned with U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (IL-14); C.J. Compher, who interned with U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-3rd); and Jesse Ruter, who interned with U.S. Rep. Donald Manzullo (IL-16th).

Each of the students received Illinois State Society scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $1,250. The scholarships help defray the students’ expenses.

“We’re excited that our students were recognized for their contributions while interning in Washington, D.C.,” said Matthew Streb, chair of the Department of Political Science. “They all certainly represented our university well.”

Ruter, a senior from Spooner, Wis., who will begin Air Force pilot training after graduation and would someday like to be involved in politics, said the internship provided an invaluable learning experience.

“I’ve really gotten a deep understanding of government and what legislation is all about,” he said.

More information on the Washington, D.C., Summer Congressional Internship program is available online.