The Archer Center was established by the UT System in conjunction with former U.S. Rep. Bill Archer as a way to bring highly motivated and accomplished students to Washington D.C. to participate in varied internships and take part in classes focusing on policy, economics and politics. Our EPPS blogger, Alexandra Noll, recently interviewed Hannah Chapman who participated in the Archer Fellowship Program during the fall of 2011, and interned with the Supreme Court Office of the Counselor to the Chief Justice.
ALEX: Why were you interested in this opportunity?
HANNAH: I was encouraged by Dr. Harpham and Dr. Champagne since my freshman year that I should apply for this opportunity. Several UTD alums that I looked up to as an underclassman had completed the Archer Fellowship and shared their inspiring stories with me. I liked the idea of living in D.C. for a semester, as I grew up close to UTD and felt I would benefit from the experience of really living away from home. Lastly, I know that these days, internship and work experience is becoming more and more important for prospective employers and graduate schools, so I wanted to expand my work experience.
ALEX: Could you describe the application and selection process?
HANNAH: The application was fairly intensive. It required a well-tailored resume, a transcript, a writing sample, a short essay on a specific and challenging topic, a well-researched list of potential internship sites, and several letters of recommendation. Putting all of this together took several months. I had my written materials reviewed by several CV professors, and I had my resume reviewed by the Career Center. After submitting the application, I was selected for the second round, the interviews. I prepared for the interview by reviewing my application materials and practicing potential interview questions and responses. The interview was very intimidating, but I felt prepared because of my preparation. I also got tips from friends who had already completed the fellowship.
ALEX: How did you find your internship in D.C?
HANNAH: I knew two UT Dallas students who had worked at the office in the Supreme Court, and that was my number one internship choice. I prepared and turned in my application far before the application deadline. I had professors and friends review my cover letter and written application sections. I made sure to keep informed of current events relating to the Court for the few months before the application and interview process. This helped me in my phone interview. The interview was incredibly intimidating, and I thought I had done a terrible job. The day of the interview, I wrote a very sincere, handwritten thank you note and mailed it to my interviewer. I know that made a difference because when I got to the Court, I found that thank you note included as the first page of my application file.
ALEX: What was it like working there?
HANNAH: The internship at the Supreme Court Office of the Counselor to the Chief Justice was an amazing experience. We were always very busy in the office, and the work led me to pursue research in fields that I had never thought about. It was so inspiring to be working in this amazing, beautiful building, walls lined with portraits of great Supreme Court Justices. The office in which I was placed always hires two interns, so it was nice to have a colleague to share responsibilities with. We became very close, and still keep in touch from time to time. My most amazing memory at the Supreme Court was that one evening, we were invited to stay and help out at a function for the Supreme Court Historical Society. We watched a reenactment of a famous Reconstruction case where Associate Justice Antonin Scalia presided. During the
reception after the event, I had the opportunity to meet and speak with retired Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first female Supreme Court Justice. We spoke briefly about her work and my experience. She was the most wonderful, strong woman. It was a memory that I will never forget.
ALEX: What did you do besides study and work?
HANNAH: All the Archer Fellows had very intense schedules. We were working full-time, five days per week. On several weekday evenings, we had classes at the Archer Center. For one of our classes, we would meet at a different monument or museum each week for class. There is so much to do in D.C., so on the weekends we committed to try to experience as much of the city as possible. We would spend time at the Smithsonian Museums (all of them, and there are many!!). We would explore that different neighborhoods of the city, and we always managed to find great places to eat and go out in the evenings. It was so great to have a group of 30 other people to make plans with. You never had to go anywhere alone if you didn't want to -you just had to let the house know where you were planning to go, and at least a small group of people would want to come along. The whole Archer class gets so close. The Fellowship is basically living in an amazing city with a huge group of your closest friends. Every Sunday, a group of us would walk down to the outdoor market, and select fresh, local foods to make dinner that night. We would all help cook, and we would gather in one kitchen in the evening for a big Sunday "Archer family" dinner. We would eat and catch up on what was going on at work with everyone
ALEX: How has the experience changed you?
HANNAH: First, the experience confirmed my belief that I definitely want to go to law school. It made me more confident in the academic and career choices I am making. It also convinced me that I should take some time off between my undergraduate and law school experiences. I had several mentors and professionals speak with me about how this was helpful to their eventual performance in law school and hiring prospects upon graduation. I have a whole new amazing network of friends that know me well and will be seriously be going places. The Archer Fellowship alumni network is ever expanding and provides great connections based on a common experience. Finally, I know that I grew as a person by leaving Texas and living and working in a new city, living with lots of new people. and experiencing a whole new type of life that was foreign to me before. I feel more confident in formal and work surroundings now that I have had these experiences and learned so much from the professors, mentors, and other Fellows during my time as an Archer.