David E. Hardin, Danville, Ind., and Chad G. Frahm, Rockford, Ohio, spent the summer before their senior years working as unpaid staff members of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee.
Hardin, an animal science major, heard in the fall of 1994 about a new program being organized by Mark Russell, professor of animal science. Frahm, an agricultural economics major, was familiar with the ag school's various internship and exchange programs.
Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, was able to get jobs for Hardin and Frahm in the Senate during the summer of 1995.
Unpaid college interns on Capitol Hill generally have little responsibility, Frahm says. "We were the same as other interns when we started. We were doing grunt work for a couple days, but it didn't take long for the senior staff members to recognize that our Purdue experiences gave us an understanding of ag issues that a lot of interns didn't have."
Hardin echoes that observation: "We weren't the standard political science interns. We quickly got more responsibility -- researching and writing lay descriptions to go with the legislation."
Hardin and Frahm helped write initial report drafts and historical reports and participated in all areas of committee work. "Watching the process was amazing," Frahm says. "The part that surprised me was how quickly committee members found out information. I've been reading the Wall Street Journal for years and have been impressed the way that paper gets stories first. But last summer, I was finding out things on the Hill three or four days before I would see them in the Journal."
The experience also changed attitudes for Hardin and Frahm. "I was pretty cynical about politics when I got to Washington," Hardin says. "But after a while you start to understand why confrontations happen."
Frahm also started the summer cynical about Congress and its members. "I thought a lot of congressmen were just looking out for themselves," Frahm says. "But that's not the case. Most of the people do what they think will help the country and the people. Most are not working for selfish reasons."
Both young men say they might like to return to Washington -- some day. Right now, they are going to work in the private sector. Frahm has accepted a position with Consolidated Grain and Barge, a Japanese-owned company based in New Orleans. Hardin is weighing job offers from several firms.
"I'm not interested in going back to Washington right away," Hardin says. "But I am interested in the policy areas of agriculture, and Washington is where a lot of policy is being established."
Frahm says he is glad he'll get some on-the-job experience with the real issues of agriculture after graduation. "But living in D.C. was great experience," he says. "I will be back some day."
CONTACTS: Hardin, (765) 743-5500, ext. 306
Frahm, (765) 743-9558
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
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