Junior Alexandria Murphy spent last fall working in the Washington, D.C., office of Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and attending seminars on topics such as running for office, ethics, and networking as part of a selective internship program.
Murphy was chosen for the Star Fellow program operated by Running Start, a nonprofit and non-partisan organization that offers multiple programs for young women in politics. The program chooses seven college-aged women from around the country each semester to intern for a female member of Congress. The fellows are given housing on Capitol Hill and a $2,000 stipend.
In the office of Ros-Lehtinen, Murphy answered telephone calls from constituents. She said that one of the lessons she learned from the experience was that if someone was calling the congresswoman’s office, it may have been their last chance to get their problem resolved and that if they were reaching out, it was important to pay attention to their concerns. Murphy said hundreds of calls came into the office about the North Dakota access pipeline issue. She said the access through the tribal land was denied (at the time) and she thinks the contact with legislators, like Ros-Lehtinen’s, had an impact on that.
“It was just great to see democracy work in action with that,” Murphy says.
She also gave tours of the Capitol building, showing people the House and Senate galleries, the speaker’s balcony, and the old Supreme Court.
Ros-Lehtinen, whose family fled the oppression of the Fidel Castro communist regime around 1960, represents Florida’s 27th congressional district.
“She’s very respected and she’s in leadership, as well, so we had more responsibility than others,” says Murphy, who is majoring in communications and criminal justice with a minor in pre-law and concentrations in advertising and global studies.
Ros-Lehtinen was the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee from 2011 to 2013. She currently is the chair of the subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa. Murphy said that during the week, a lot of foreign officials would come into the office to talk to the congresswoman.
Murphy says she also met Caitlyn Jenner in Ros-Lehtinen’s office when she came to meet the congresswoman, who has a transgender son. Murphy adds that while Ros-Lehtinen is a Republican, she is socially liberal.
Her other experiences included being given a ticket to a Congressional Hispanic Caucus gala where she met former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walked by her, and meeting the chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts, who she talked with about the Gold Award project she did when she was in a Somerset Girl Scout troop.
As part of the internship, Murphy also campaigned for a political action committee for Congressman Carlos Curbelo for the 26th District of Florida, which includes Key West and Dade County. It was exciting to work on the campaign for the incumbent in what was a battleground state for the presidency, she says. When she would talk to people as she was going door-to-door to campaign for Curbelo, they would assume she also was campaigning for Donald Trump because they were both Republican candidates, but that was not necessarily true of all the workers because they may have been supporting one of the candidates and not the other, she explains.
For doing the internship, Murphy received six credits toward her minor in pre-law and another three credits for the seminars she went to on Fridays. She also took online classes while she was in the nation’s capital.
Participating in the Running Start program has inspired Murphy to think about running for office in the future. As an initial step, she is gearing up to run for Student Government Association president this semester. She currently is a member of the executive board of her class’s committee for Worcester State’s commencement in 2018, when she will graduate.
Murphy doesn’t want to be the only woman running in the upcoming student government elections so she recently organized a Running Start ElectHer one-day training for campus women to run for student government that was held in Sheehan Hall.
Since January, Murphy also has worked as an intern in the Newton office of U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy, who represents her town. Murphy, who is an unenrolled voter, said it will be exciting to see the Democratic side of the House after having just worked in the Republican side.
Murphy also was chosen as Miss Massachusetts International and will be competing in the Miss International Pageant in July in West Virginia.
Written by freelance writer Taryn Plumb ’04
This article also will be featured in the spring issue of the Worcester State magazine.
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