Barry McNamara  |   Published August 25, 2022

Their D.C. Summer

Classmates Clay, Hafner were in nation’s capital through a program sponsored by The Fund for American Studies.

 

WASHINGTON, BUT NOT D.C.: Ally Clay was still in the Washington area when she travele... WASHINGTON, BUT NOT D.C.: Ally Clay was still in "the Washington area" when she traveled to the first president's home, Mount Vernon, which is 13 miles south of the nation's capital.MONMOUTH, Ill. – Shay Hafner ’23 has spent the three summers between his Monmouth College school years in three different locations.

The first two – his hometown of Sterling, Illinois, and Monmouth, where he was a Richard “Doc” Kieft science research program participant last year – have a combined population of 25,000.

This summer, though, Hafner lived among the 700,000 residents of Washington, D.C., where he and Ally Clay ’23 were the latest Monmouth participants in a program sponsored by The Fund for American Studies.

“My internship was great and I learned a lot in the class, but being in Washington itself was the most valuable part of it to me,” said Hafner. “Living in a city was a completely new experience for me. It was really cool living someplace that big and that important.”

Through the public policy and economics track of the June 4-July 28 program, Clay and Hafner took an economics class through George Mason University and were able to attend lectures, briefings and other events at the White House and the Capitol.

Hafner’s internship was through Character.org, a worldwide network that “empowers people of all ages to practice and model core values that shape our hearts, minds and choices” – in Hafner’s words, “character development.”

“My internship was great and I learned a lot in the class, but being in Washington itself was the most valuable part of it to me. Living in a city was a completely new experience for me. It was really cool living someplace that big and that important.” Shay Hafner

The opportunity allowed the political science and data science double major to do work in both disciplines.

Clay worked for Corazón Latino Inc., a national non-profit organization that seeks to generate social, environmental and conservation initiatives that foster natural resource stewardship.

Making connections

“Visiting the U.S. State Department was by far the highlight,” said Clay. “We listened to Charles Balaha, director of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor within the Office of Security and Human Rights. He’s been to multiple embassies and is a contributor to the State Department’s human rights reports.”

A public relations major from Jacksonville, Illinois, Clay plans to attend law school next year.

“The connections I made this summer have been unmatched,” she said. “I got advice from a wide range of people from my internship supervisor all the way to a recruiter for the Institute of Justice. Being in D.C., I was able to tour George Mason’s Antonin Scalia Law School and attend a law fair with over 80 law schools.”

Despite Washington’s size, the two Monmouth students even crossed paths from time to time.

“Every now and then, yeah,” said Hafner. “The TFAS program put on a lot of cool events, and we had some overlap there. We were on the same program track, so we’d also see each other at the guest lectures they had every Tuesday.”

“The connections I made this summer have been unmatched. I got advice from a wide range of people from my internship supervisor all the way to a recruiter for the Institute of Justice.” Ally Clay 

Hafner enjoyed learning to navigate big-city living, but there was one occasion when the organizers of The Fund for American Studies program told the participants to exercise caution.

“We were there when (the overturn of) Roe v. Wade happened,” said Hafner of one of the biggest news stories of the year, which occurred on June 24. “I had an event planned, but the people from the program told us there were probably going to be a lot of protesters and it wasn’t a good idea to be in the city.”

Financial assistance

Between being accepted for the selective program during the past academic year and arriving in Washington, both Clay and Hafner expressed uncertainty over how they would fund their experience. A College donor stepped up to help, and Hafner later received an additional scholarship after hearing about it from one of his political science professors, Andre Audette.

He was selected as a recipient of the McManus Washington Internship Scholarship, awarded annually to approximately half a dozen students by the national office of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society. Hafner was selected from applicants nationwide.

MORE SITES TO SEE: Shay Hafner enjoyed visiting the tourist-y places in the nation&#3... MORE SITES TO SEE: Shay Hafner enjoyed visiting the "tourist-y" places in the nation's capital, including the Lincoln Memorial.“The school gave me and Ally extra funding, too,” said Hafner, who’ll serve as chapter president of Pi Sigma Alpha this fall. “Talking with my (D.C.) roommates, that kind of stuff doesn’t happen everywhere.”

Before Audette helped steer him in the direction of the scholarship, he helped Hafner realize that pursuing a major in political science was a good idea.

“I took ‘American Politics’ with Andre, and I realized this is something I want to do as a major,” said Hafner, who had been considering physics or engineering. “I thought, ‘There’s a future for me if I want to do this.’”


“Apply, and if you can go, go. This experience was so much more than what I originally expected. … Being in D.C., you are exposed to a wide variety of political opinions, and each of them helped me to be more open and be a better communicator.” Ally Clay

His summer in D.C. provided direction or, rather, reinforced to Hafner that he’s headed down the right path.

“After working for a non-profit, it made me even more sure that I want to get my Ph.D. and be a college professor,” said Hafner, who said his experience gave him “a better background in economics and policy.”

Now a strong advocate for the TFAS program, Clay offered advice to Monmouth students.

“Apply, and if you can go, go,” she said. “This experience was so much more than what I originally expected, and that is with my internship being mostly virtual. Being in D.C., you are exposed to a wide variety of political opinions, and each of them helped me to be more open and be a better communicator.”

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