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Student Spotlight: Christiana Reasor, Legislative Assistant on Capitol Hill

In this interview, we speak with Master’s degree candidate Christiana Reasor. A graduate of Benedictine College, Christiana currently serves as a Legislative Assistant for Congressman Steve Watkins and has recently begun a year-long Public Policy Fellowship with The Fund for American Studies.

Please tell us a little about yourself and your background. 

I am a political science major and economics major, and I attended a private college in Kansas where I grew up. I had fallen in love with politics and the political process after volunteering for a local campaign during the 2012 elections. I hoped to get to D.C. eventually and took an internship at the Heritage Foundation.

There, I learned more about D.C. and visited IWP for the first time. I had heard about it from some friends at school. I loved the school and the people and the passion.

When I graduated from college, I moved to D.C. without a job. I started an unpaid internship on the Hill, and then I got my first job working for Congressman Lynn Jenkins, who represented the district where I went to college. I worked my way up to Legislative Assistant. When Congressman Jenkins retired in December, I started working with the new member from the same district.

Please tell us about your current professional work.

As a Legislative Assistant, I cover quite a variety of topics. My boss is on the Education and Labor Committee. I cover those issues for him, as well as agriculture, financial services, infrastructure, tax, and Indian Affairs.

Why did you know IWP would be the right fit for you?

The thing about IWP that stood out to me was that each of the professors had worked in the government for quite a while. They had studied and done the academic checklist, but they had that hands-on experience, and they had been very successful. I didn’t want to learn from people who learned from books. I could do that myself. I wanted to learn from people who had the experiences and who had been in the room during negotiations and tough decisions, and IWP professors had that background.

How has IWP influenced your way of thinking about your role in government?

I came into my political work wondering whether one person really can make that much of a difference. The answer is yes, but especially when it is a small group of people who work hard.

The IWP community has helped me see that if I am working toward what I believe in, I can find others also working towards the same goal, and those people can make impactful changes in foreign policy. It made me feel less like I was going at this all alone.

Is there an anecdote or moment that you feel encapsulates your IWP experience so far?

I have to say – and this has happened more than once – at 9:30 PM, class is technically over, and it’s a weeknight, and everyone is still talking with the professor. Then it becomes 10:00, 10:15 PM… the students are still engaged and still want to learn, and the professor is there, even though everyone is tired and has work the next day. That encapsulates IWP.

Whatever happens in the future, I know I will have a great grounding in history and philosophy from IWP.

What has been one of the most interesting or helpful things that you have learned at IWP?

I have come to understand more and more – through the stories in class, historical context we study, and readings – that every country and every negotiator is coming to the table with a background and history of themselves and their country. You have to keep that in mind. Americans sometimes can have a very Westernized view of things and forget that others are different.

This awareness has helped me when I was in Israel last summer, and whenever I go into meetings where two groups say different, contradictory things.

What would you tell other students interested in international affairs and policy about your IWP experience?

I have so many answers! I would tell them that they need to put in the work and the effort. If you are willing to go 100%, the school will meet you at 200%, whether it is through financial help, the professors, even the administrators.

For example, I wouldn’t be at this school if it wasn’t for Danielle Shover. She walked through everything with me. I didn’t feel any pressure.

The people at IWP will meet with any student where they are and help them be as successful as they can. That, to me, is more important than having a degree from a fancy school. IWP students are so prepared and so ready for their professional work.

If you are willing to go 100%, [IWP] will meet you at 200%, whether it is through financial help, the professors, even the administrators.

What inspired you to apply to The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) Public Policy Fellowship?

I heard about it through some friends who had done it and loved it.  I was ready to do something academic, specifically related to public policy. I love reading about the American founding. Working on Capitol Hill, it’s important to keep myself grounded by a study of the founding. It is good to have a community of other people who care about this topic too.

For the TFAS application, what book did you write about that inspired you?

I chose Aristotle’s Politics. I read it when I was in college, in my first political philosophy class. It wrapped up everything that I learned in terms of politics, engagement, and being involved in the public sphere, and presented it in a way that I understood. For instance, the idea that people are by nature political animals made a lot of sense. The ideas in the Politics have impacted my time on the Hill, my studies at IWP, and how I view working for the American people.

What are your plans for the future?

I am not yet sure. Perhaps I will end up at the State Department. With my work on the Hill (my boss is on the Foreign Affairs Committee) and my work in school, I see a gap between what is going on in the foreign policy arena and policy on the Hill. I think that policy in Congress should do a better job of supporting our foreign policy. I would love to help bridge this gap somehow.

Whatever happens in the future, I know I will have a great grounding in history and philosophy from IWP.

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