“I think it is a testament to Wittenberg’s caliber of education that I have been recognized for my ability to write well. Many of the letters to constituents focus on contentious issues, and they require a diplomatic touch in conveying the Senator’s positions.”
Like many students graduating from college each year, Jeff Hannah found it difficult to land a job right after receiving his diploma from Wittenberg University’s in May 2009. However, one thing separated Hannah from the job-searching pack – persistence.
It paid off. Hannah is currently working as an unpaid intern for United States Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR).
While studying at Wittenberg, Hannah envisioned using his communication degree after graduation in such fields as marketing or public relations rather than politics. He never imagined he would use the skills he learned at Wittenberg to make a difference on Capitol Hill just months after crossing the stage in picturesque Commencement Hollow.
“While the thought of being on Capitol Hill was a pretty remote idea upon graduation, based on my situation and need for something to do, I decided that I wanted to get on the Hill,” Hannah said.
In 2007, Hannah interned with the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), working with the organization’s marketing and membership development office. He received his first real taste of the nation’s capital by assisting members of the association’s government affairs office. Upon his departure, Hannah had lunch with the association’s president, seeking advice about what it takes to be successful in Washington, D.C.
“He said that government experience is a must, as many individuals hit a glass ceiling in their careers if they do not have prior experience working with the government,” Hannah said.
He will remember the conversation forever, as it sparked his interest in seeking employment in Washington, D.C., which is close to his hometown in Maryland. After speaking with some professionals around the D.C area, Hannah’s plan of attack consisted of cold-knocking on the doors of congressional offices of districts to which he could draw a connection. Hannah researched what each office asked of its internship applicants and personally submitted them to each office, asking to speak with the intern coordinator during his visit.
“As both of my parents, as well as my brother and sister now live in Oregon, Ron Wyden’s office was an office I approached,” Hannah said. “Within a few days, Wyden’s office responded with an offer to intern and that’s how I got into the Hill.”
His position entailed everything from sorting mail to attending committee hearing meetings and producing memos for staff members. Quickly, Hannah found that many of the skills he learned at Wittenberg were crucial to his work as an intern.
“Of the skills I gained at Wittenberg, strong writing and research skills have been a tremendous asset,” Hannah said. “I think it is a testament to Wittenberg’s caliber of education that I have been recognized for my ability to write well. Many of the letters to constituents focus on contentious issues, and they require a diplomatic touch in conveying the Senator’s positions.”
Hannah credits courses taught by Associate Professor of History Scott Rosenberg and Professor of Communication Catherine Waggoner for honing his abilities as a writer.
“When you work in a congressional office, writing is of utmost importance,” said Hannah, who is now working for TIA. “Even as an intern, you are charged with writing responses to constituents’ questions or memorandums that may be used by office staff or even the senator.”
Written by: Haley Gerken ‘10