Savannah Hostetter sat in Lynay last spring listening as U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway talked about working at the Capitol and staying true to his faith at the same time. Hostetter, a senior political science major from Brownsville, longed to live out her own faith on Capitol Hill.
Fast forward a few months to June, and that’s exactly where Hostetter found herself.
Hostetter interned in Conaway’s office in the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill as a part of the Fund for American Studies Summer Internship Program. She worked as a part of the Engalitcheff Institute, which focuses on Comparative Political and Economic Systems.
“I learned a lot,” Hostetter said. “If anything, I would summarize this as an eventful learning experience.”
Conaway is the representative for Texas’s 11th District – the Midland, Odessa and Brownwood area – so she said he was pretty busy with legislation the whole summer.
“The whole time I was there, Congress was in session which is their busiest time,” Hostetter said.
Dr. Neal Coates, department chair of political science, suggested Hostetter look at the internship in D.C. He said students had to be nominated for the position by the department of political science.
“As we’ve gotten to know Savannah in her time here at ACU, she had some of those qualities that would make her a good fit,” Coates said.
He said she had many qualities that made her a great fit for the program.
“In particular, she has a very good GPA, she has an interest in how the world works and has an interest in world politics,” Coates said.
One of Hostetter’s responsibilities was to give tours of the Capitol, which she said was tricky but rewarding.
“I think I took too many left turns the first couple of tours,” Hostetter said. “But it was a really awesome opportunity to get to show constituent West Texans the Capitol Building where the Senate and Supreme Court used to work.”
One of the places she took them was to the current House Gallery.
“Sometimes I’d be giving tours and Congress was actually in session,” Hostetter said.
Hostetter said she loved being able to meet different Congress members each day when she made runs around the Capitol.
“I would run into Congress members in elevators quite frequently because everyone takes the elevator,” she said. “They were so friendly and so personable.”
One Congressman that Hostetter said she connected well with was U.S. Rep Ted Poe, an ACU alumnus.
“He told us all these stories of when he was Galaxy president,” Hostetter said. “He was just a hoot.”
Hostetter said Poe invited her and two other ACU students interning in different programs in Washington to a brunch.
While exploring Capitol Hill, Hostetter said she became well versed in the many underground tunnels that connect the Capitol building to surrounding office buildings.
“A lot of people don’t realize that there is practically a city underneath the Capitol building,” Hostetter said.
In the tunnels there are Verizon Wireless stores, cafeterias, and even barbershops, Hostetter said.
When she wasn’t running from end to end of Capitol Hill, Hostetter said she was most likely dealing with constituent correspondents, or responding to letters and emails from people in Conaway’s district.
She said this was how most interns started off their internship.
“We started with status letters which is just updates on bills and things like that,” Hostetter said.
After seeing her dedication to her job, her supervisor let her write letters on more substantial topics. Hostetter wrote letters about issues such as the crisis in Ukraine, the Malaysian airline crash and even the Bushmeat trade.
“People were writing in about chimpanzee meat being sold and so I got to research and write about that,” Hostetter said.
Hostetter said writing the letters in Conaway’s perspective could be difficult.
“I would write things like ‘Rest assured, I am handling this issue,'” Hostetter said.
By the time the letters were sent to constituents, though, they were much different than what was sent out.
“I would write these letters and submit them to someone else, who would submit them to someone else,” Hostetter said. “When they were sent out, they weren’t under my name, they were under the Congressman’s name.”
While there, Hostetter attended several donor dinners, and gave the invocation at the Fund for American Studies Annual Conference Dinner.
On top of that, she received another big honor while on her internship. Out of the 70 interns in the Engalitcheff Institute, which was the biggest of the Fund for American Studies program, Hostetter was the sole winner of the Outstanding Student Award.
She attributes her success to her determination to be a part of the program.
“I attended everything and just kind of went above and beyond,” Hostetter said. “I made sure that I had a positive attitude.”
Hostetter said she learned a surprising lesson about politics throughout the summer.
“Conaway always said, ‘You have to uphold the law, but you also have to show compassion. So how do you balance those things?'” she said.
Hostetter said she realized the easiest solution to a problem is not always the best one.
“I was able to see the hard decisions that people have to make in dealing with these issues,” Hostetter said.
As Hostetter’s internship came to an end in August, she was offered a staff assistant position with the House Ethics Committee which is chaired by Conaway.
“The House Ethics Committee deals with setting up rules for the Congress members,” Hostetter said.
Hostetter said she isn’t sure if she’ll take the job after she graduates, but is trusting God at the moment.
“I’m just praying that God will lead me where I can best serve,” she said. “He’s already done that just looking back at this whole opportunity.”