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Student Spotlight: Ryan Thompson

Posted by: andrewst | March 3, 2021 | No Comment |

In Fall 2020, political science junior Ryan Thompson participated in the Washington Semester Internship Program (WSIP) through the University of South Carolina’s (USC) Honors College. The WSIP program “gives students in universities and colleges across the state of South Carolina the opportunity to spend a semester working and taking classes in D.C., gaining valuable experience while earning academic credit toward their degrees.”  For Ryan, this experience led to an internship with a congressional office in Washington, D.C. and a very memorable semester.

Ryan was accepted into the WSIP program in February of 2020, just a few short weeks before the pandemic began, and then spent the summer wondering if the program would be able to move forward.   Luckily it did, and after a two-week quarantine when he arrived in D.C., Ryan began his internship in the Office of Representative Joe Cunningham, having been hand-picked by Cunningham’s staff after a series of interviews.  Ryan says he felt like the “pick of the litter,” having been chosen as the one and only intern out of his cohort.

The internship experience itself turned out to be “incredibly formative” and Ryan feels extremely lucky to have been chosen for this assignment.  Rather than doing coffee runs or “busy work,” Ryan was given the opportunity to be involved in projects that made a difference, such as writing policy and decision memos. He even helped write some of the tweets that went out on Representative Cunningham’s official twitter account. Though much of his time in D.C. was spent working virtually, Ryan still had the opportunity to network and experience much of the city – a city with a lot on its plate including the Black Lives Matter protests and the upcoming presidential election.  A particularly memorable moment came on the day that Ruth Bader Ginsburg died.  Ryan was walking home with friends and they were nearing the Supreme Court just as news of her death first broke and  the flag was being lowered to honor her.  As they stood in silence, more and more people came to pay their respects.  Ryan describes it as a “very poignant moment.”

Ryan saw this unique opportunity to gain professional experience as a major step in preparing him for a career in politics. He was grateful for the Washington Semester Internship Program at USC and was quite pleased overall with their political science department but found himself missing his Poli Sci family at CofC more and more.   Ryan is thankful for the nurturing he receives here at “home” and credits the faculty in the department for the overall sense of preparedness he feels already towards life post-graduation.  His advice to fellow majors would be to “engage with your advisors and professors, because they’re there to help you find opportunities to explore your interests.” He also strongly recommends checking your email – a place where many great opportunities were discovered that could easily have been missed.

Ryan wholeheartedly recommends WSIP to others, and especially to students of color, a demographic that was certainly missing from his cohort.  “There are scholarships and financial aid available,” says Ryan, “and CofC and the Political Science Department will do everything they can to help make this experience possible for students.”

“If you want a job in politics, especially in D.C., after college, having an experience like this on your resume just gives you that extra boost.” Ryan hopes that more students will take advantage of this “once in a lifetime opportunity” in the future and benefit from it as much as he has.

under: Internships, Student
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