Behind the scenes

Millions of Americans watched the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on television, but two U students actually know what the room smelled like.

Junior Mike Lundgren and senior Sean O’Brien, both majoring in political science and international relations, attended the hearings as interns for Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

Both agree their Hinckley Institute of Politics internship in Washington, D.C., is providing them a unique experience.

“The places we are permitted to enter and the caucuses we are invited to rarely offer themselves otherwise,” O’Brien said.

While in Washington, Lundgren and O’Brien have been introduced to senators, watched the Judiciary Committee question Attorney General Alberto Gonzales about wiretapping and sat in on Supreme Court decisions.

“We may be at the bottom of the totem pole, but the access we are given and the opportunities provided give us a bird’s eye view of government,” O’Brien said.

Lundgren has been a student at the U since 1999 and spent two years in Hong Kong. He said he has always been interested in politics but after living overseas his awareness of the political system has dramatically increased.

O’Brien interned for Del Sol in the Caribbean, volunteered with the International Refugee Committee and lived in Senora, Mexico for two years providing humanitarian aid.

O’Brien said that working as an intern has provided him the opportunity to build relationships with fellow interns as well as Capitol Hill lawmakers, which give him a foothold in politics.

“The relationships I build will help me learn more and become more integrated with those who are involved in the things that I aspire to be,” he said.

After his time living in Washington, D.C., Lundgren said he plans to attend graduate school to study politics further and would like to return to the capital for that.

“If I had my choice, I would definitely attend George Washington University here in D.C.,” he said. “It’s big-city life mixed with the fire of politics.”

O’Brien will graduate this August and said he, too, would like to attend graduate school in Washington. In the next few years he plans to pursue a JD/MBA in law and international human rights.

Lundgren said working in Washington has given him a better understanding of the government and how he is impacted as a citizen.

“This is a rare chance to see how things not only operate in front of the cameras,” said Lundgren, “but more important, what happens behind them.”

Each semester, the Hinckley Institute selects several students to work in Washington. Lundgren and O’Brien are among 28 students who were selected from 40 to 50 applicants as interns in Washington, D.C., said Courtney McBeth, intern manager for the Hinckley Institute.

Both Lundgren and O’Brien passed their initial interview and were selected from six candidates by Sen. Hatch’s office, McBeth said.

Interning for Sen. Hatch is one of the Hinckley Institute’s most prestigious and competitive programs, she said, and both of these students were “dynamic and charismatic-a perfect fit for Hatch’s office.”

“I would recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat,” Lundgren said. “You can get as much out of it as you want. Some might not realize the incredible things we get to do.”

The Hinckley Institute is currently accepting applications for Fall Semester internships in Washington, D.C., as well as internships with local, state and international agencies.

Interested students should contact the Hinckley Institute of Politics or visit www.hinckley.utah.edu.