Internships Set Ali Swee ’16 on a Career Path in Washington, DC

a young white woman with long brown hair smiling
Ali Swee (Class of 2016)

Major: Political Science
Hometown: Kansas City, MO

Extracurriculars: Rho Lambda, Order of Omega, Delta Epsilon Iota, Kappa Delta, Rhodes College Republicans, Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature, RSAP in the Communications Office, Intern in Senator Lamar Alexander’s Memphis office

When Ali Swee ’16 was introduced to the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature (TISL) by her RA her first year at Rhodes, she immediately signed up for the media team. As the secretary of the media team, she played the role of a reporter during the TISL mock legislature sessions, which are held in the legislative chambers of the state capitol in Nashville. These trips helped her learn about the workings of non-federal government. “A lot of what is really important in politics happens at the state and local level,” notes Ali. As a political science major, TISL applied to her studies and started her quest to learn more about government. 

She quickly found an advisor and mentor in Dr. Amy Jasperson of the political science department. Jasperson’s research focus on media and politics fell perfectly in line with Ali’s interest in political communications. Says Ali, “From the beginning, Professor Jasperson was a constant source of inspiration and support. Whether it was internship advice or study abroad guidance, she played an integral part in my Rhodes experience.”

Professor Jasperson encouraged Ali to apply for a summer internship with Accuracy in Media, a watchdog group based in Washington, DC. The small communications firm gave Ali assignments and let her write her own articles and make her own videos. “We even made a few ‘man-on-the-street’ videos that got picked up by a few larger news organizations. It took me out of my comfort zone, but it was an amazing experience.” She was even featured on foxnews.com and theblaze.com. Ali was sent to interview people at rallies and speeches throughout the city, and it was at an event at the Heritage Foundation on defense policy where Ali realized what she wanted to do as a career.

Ali spent the summer before her junior year working as a field director in the re-election effort of Senator Pat Roberts in her home state of Kansas. For the fall semester of her junior year, she returned to DC, this time as a member of The Fund for American Studies Capitol Semester program. She worked with a member of Congress during the day, and then studied at George Mason University at night. Political Science Professor Stephen Wirls helped her apply to the program, and she was initially torn between that and study abroad. “But as I thought about it, I realized that maybe this was my version of study abroad, even if it wasn’t everyone’s normal idea of it.” Working in DC she not only met people from all over the world, she was able to spend time with her favorite congresswoman, Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rogers. “I picked her because I had seen her speak at a conference about women’s education in Afghanistan. I looked her up and found out that not only was she the first woman to have three kids while in the House, she was a strong advocate for those with disabilities.” She describes it as one of the best possible experiences for her.

Returning to Rhodes, Ali found a way to weave her experiences into her studies. In DC she developed an interest in healthcare policy, which led her to take a course with Professor Renee Johnson of the political science department. For her final research project in the course, Ali chose to analyze the ABLE Act and the reasons behind its rare bipartisan support. “On one of my last days in DC, I had the opportunity to watch the ABLE Act pass. This was incredibly special to the congresswoman because her oldest son, Cole, was diagnosed with Down syndrome at a young age. Writing my research paper on the ABLE Act after this experience really brought this all full circle.”

This past fall, Ali shifted her focus from Washington to Memphis and worked as an intern for the Office of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander. For Ali, it was a different experience than her past internships. “It’s really cool to be on the ground, talking to actual constituents, making up part of the front line. You actually get to hear the issues and then see them get resolved, which is great.” As one of only three employees in the Memphis office, she knew she was doing real work and really helping the senator.

Since graduating in December, Ali has gotten a jump start on her career path. She has moved to DC, where she has accepted a job as coordinator of fundraising at Targeted Victory, a political consulting firm. This fall, she will attend law school part time, while continuing at Targeted Victory to gain valuable working experience. Looking longterm, Ali says she ultimately wants to be in the JAG Corps (Judge Advocate General's Corps) as a military lawyer.

By Sam Clark ’17