I have spent the past two months in Washington, D.C., feeling like something was missing from the city. I only realized what was missing when I told one of my co-workers about an energy bar my friends and I use for hiking, which is so effective that we call it “Lembas bread.” She stared back at me, blankly, not getting the reference.
D.C. suffers from an acute lack of nerds. That’s not to say that we don’t exist in Washington. I virtually rounded up as many people from Tech as I could find to figure out why we had collectively come here.
Some of us came to pursue an interest in politics, while others found straight engineering jobs. All of us, engineers and engineers-at-heart, wanted to get right to the center of organizations which weigh in on the policies that affect us all.
“I was able to not only see members of Congress in action, but I was able to talk to them and question them on issues like the debt ceiling, legislative strategy, the political party system and more,” said Hunter Hammond, a Hill intern and third-year MGT major.
Ronnie Foreman, a second-year AE major, wanted an experience with the media industry.
“I’m interning with CNN, largely studying the intersection between science and journalism and the extent to which news coverage impacts what people care about and ultimately how they vote,” Foreman said.
It’s time for Washington and other centers of government to get more people like Foreman, Hammond and the rest of the students from Tech spending the summer in D.C. who want to jump into the thick of the policy arena. Our world is defined by science and technology—thus it only makes sense that our leaders have solid backgrounds in those fields and be able to think in the ways that only Tech can make them think.
Amira Choueiki, a fifth-year EIA major, shares the sentiment.
“Working in D.C. at a think tank, my boss told me that he was sick of people that came to D.C. and didn’t know how to problem solve—with today’s problems we need people that aren’t afraid of the technical world and working with those people collaboratively,” Choueiki said.
Thankfully, the Institute has begun enacting programs that will give Tech students the tools and inspiration necessary for them to begin entering this crazy world of politics and policy. The Office of Government and Community Relations’ new scholarship funding otherwise unpaid internships is the perfect first step.
Now it’s up to other offices and schools at Tech to follow their lead. The Ivan Allen College should actively encourage both its students and students from the other colleges to spend a summer in D.C. and provide them with the connections and resources to succeed. The administration should make sure its vision of being the definitive technological research university of the 21st century includes a diverse stable of alumni in governments across the nation who understand the work that the Institute does.
Most importantly, it’s time for more of the student body to passionately strive to become leaders in government. Those who are interested in that path need to take the excitement stoked during our summers abroad and translate them into the beginnings of real political action. They need to make sure the efforts they begin this Aug. last throughout the year and beyond by building robust organizations and initiatives.
“Tech makes us unafraid,” Choueiki said about Tech students’ place in D.C. “We’re excited by the complex issues we face today, we’re used to working with different types of people, we know how to get our hands dirty and we know how to work hard.”
As we return to Atlanta for the fall, those of us interested in policy and politics have a chance to help awesome people do awesome things through sound policy and passionate advocacy. Immediately and confidently, we have no choice but to seize that chance and begin changing the world.