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Kieran Bethke with Congressman Ruppersberger in D.C.

Congresswoman-in-the-Making Kieran Bethke Gains New Perspectives from D.C. Internship

By SU Integrated Marketing

SALISBURY, MD---Being close to Annapolis and Washington, D.C., Salisbury University students often have opportunities to complete internships with government and political agencies. It looks good on a resume, but these internships also provide experiences for undergraduates that can be truly life-changing.

This summer, Kieran Bethke of Baltimore County, MD, a senior political science and history double major at SU, completed an internship that will propel her into her future career, thanks to the job experience, connections and new perspectives she gained.

“The first day I was there in D.C., we took a tour of the Capitol building, and walking in I was just amazed,” Bethke said. “You don’t realize how meaningful it is until you see it firsthand. It’s just a job, but it’s really cool.”

Bethke spent most of her time this summer working in the district office of U.S. Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger. More than just answering phones, she learned a lot about how the federal government operates and how she can use her future career to help others.

Each day, she assisted constituents with issues related to federal agencies such as housing, immigration, tax refunds, postal services and passports. For those with concerns related to state or local offices, she learned how to refer them to the right place, so no one ever went away empty-handed. In addition to gaining a better understanding of how government operates, she realized how important and fulfilling the work is at any level. There were many times when people sent notes or called in tears to thank the office for assisting them with important issues.

“I like to think of it as government social work,” Bethke said. “There’s a lot that happens behind the scenes that you don’t realize a congressperson may do. Every day, congressional staff contact federal agencies to resolve issues on behalf of their constituents. Whatever their need may be, I’ve really enjoyed helping people.”

The opportunity to work under Congressman Ruppersberger has been inspiring for Bethke as well. She has seen firsthand how he genuinely cares about his constituents and serving the public, while remaining humble and true to his roots. He personally approached Bethke to speak to her the first time he saw her on the job, and she was surprised he remembered her name.

“I was touched that he wanted to know about me, even though I’m not someone who has any power,” Bethke said. “Now he’s not just a politician, but a fellow human being to me. I’ve learned a lot from him.”

After she graduates from SU next May, Bethke plans to go to law school and study family law. Eventually, she would like to run for county government or city council positions and use her platform to improve family life and women’s rights. And after that … she wants to run for Congress someday.

“I want to do the same thing Congressman Ruppensberger did,” Bethke said. “I want to be someone like that, who truly believes in doing what they can for the people who need them.”

This semester, Bethke is completing an internship with the state attorney’s office in Wicomico County. Her faculty at SU have been a great support system for her as she pursues one opportunity after another, including Dr. Belen Vicens, associate professor of history, who reviewed her application materials and wrote her recommendation letter for the D.C. internship.

“Opportunities like this have given me a lot of knowledge and perspective for my future career,” Bethke said. “I’m thankful for the experience and look forward to how I can use my skills to help others someday.”

Learn more about internships and other opportunities to Make Tomorrow Yours at SU.