Elle Stevens ‘20 knows that history is more than dates and centuries-old events. “History shows past mistakes and successes that I think are very valuable to modern-day life and politics.” Stevens is currently contributing to history herself as a congressional intern at the U.S. House of Representatives.
Her work at Congress fluctuates according to the legislative calendar. “On a non-vote day, work is pretty slow and typical,” says Stevens, who works from home due to the pandemic. “On days when the House is in session, I get to go into the office. Those days are less predictable. I answer phones, run errands, track bills, sit in on hearings and really get the full experience of being on the Hill.”
Building skills from the moment you step onto campus
Stevens feels she was ready to jump into her work in Congress from day one — thanks to the huge variety of experiences she had as a student. In addition to her academics, those experiences included being a member of the swim team, a sorority, and student government, as well as an internship, and a study abroad in Berlin.
“Being in the Student Senate gave me a deeper understanding of the basics of politics, sort of a mock of what the real Senate would be like! The biggest lesson I learned was always to speak up for yourself and what you believe in because no one will do it for you.”
Summers were important building blocks too. Stevens split her junior year summer between D.C. and Berlin. First, she interned for her Congressman.”I fell in love with DC and the Hill and it really solidified what I wanted to do in terms of my career.”
That summer Stevens also studied the Holocaust in Berlin, which deepened her research skills and taught her how to reconnoiter an international capital. Then during her senior year, she dove into career exploration at the Knowlton Career Center. “and that’s how I found Running Start,” the program that organized Steven’s congressional internship.
Finding your major can be a journey, too
Finding your major at a liberal arts college can be an adventure. Stevens began as a PPE (politics, philosophy, and economics) major, then moved into political science. “At the last minute in my sophomore year, I switched to history and I do not regret it one bit,” she says.
A class on the history of women’s movements in America sparked something extraordinary. “The way Dr. Threlkeld taught and honored the different stories that created and pushed women’s movements in America was so inspiring. It impacted me so much. Now I have a deep passion for women’s rights and issues and plan on making that my motivation for my career.”
“One of the most meaningful things I learned from Dr. Threlkeld is how to examine and challenge the history you are looking at. Specifically, do not always take history at face value— really question it and challenge it.”
Leadership through sports
“Coach Gregg and the assistant coaches helped shape me into the strong young woman I am today. They really built my foundation of being a strong leader,” says Stevens, who adds that she learned how to work well on a team, on a strict schedule, and towards a common goal. “I know how to dedicate myself and execute obstacles set before me to reach my purpose.”
RBG as a role model Stevens is inspired by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who said “women need to be in the places where decisions are being made.” This is a call for Stevens to keep pushing for a better America “not just for women, but for everyone.”