Zev Stampfer '16 Interns on Capitol Hill
Zev Stampfer '16 and Danny O'Brien '86
Zev Stampfer ’16 has been interning at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for several weeks now, and still gets a thrill every time he enters the U.S. Capitol.
“I think, ‘I’m doing this. I’m working at the Capitol building,’” he said. “It doesn’t get old. It’s a truly extraordinary and humbling experience to be able to contribute to the process. Making a difference, even if it’s a really small one like working on the first draft of a memo that might eventually go to the chairman, has been fantastic.”
The Portland, Oregon native received his first taste of Washington during May Term, when he enrolled in the course taught by Prof. Greg Thorson and Prof. Graeme Auton. He recently transferred into Johnston and is studying international relations with components of economics and philosophy, focused on the Middle East.
Stampfer wasn’t familiar with the class, which introduces students to the extensive Redlands alumni base and gives them a taste of careers that are available, but signed up because “Washington, D.C. was obviously on my radar as a place I was interested in looking into and exploring what it’s like to live and work here.”
Not long after, Stampfer was offered the internship with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and applied for and received a Tinker Scholar Support award through Redlands that helped with expenses.
"This is a really extraordinary opportunity for anyone,” he said. “It’s fantastic. Generally, Hill internships, while amazing and eye-opening to the way Washington works, typically aren’t full of sensitive work. There’s a lot of answering phones and making copies. The nice thing about interning for a committee, especially on the Senate side, is we do a lot of sensitive work, and I’ve been working with a senior staffer on the committee for energy and the environment.”
He has been researching everything from developing lighting off the grid for developing countries to the United States’ potential for exporting liquefied natural gas.
“It’s all new to me, but an extraordinary learning experience,” he said.
He has also enjoyed getting to experience events and activities that only Washington can offer.
“One of the cool things about D.C. is there’s always things to do,” he said. “One afternoon, my staffer told me with a wink to pay attention to the World Cup, since it is in our jurisdiction. I went to the House office building to an event put on by the Dutch embassy, and had Dutch food and drinks. It was quite an experience. There are lots of fun opportunities while working on the Hill, too.”
Stampfer is in the same office as Danny O’Brien ’86, the chief of staff to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) and staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. O’Brien invited the interns to a lunch meeting early in the session, and Stampfer met him during May Term as well.
“It is really fantastic having another Bulldog in the office,” he said. “I know that he’s there and he’s got my back. There’s definitely a sense of camaraderie between Redlands alums in D.C., coming from a small school on the west coast to a city full of Ivy Leaguers. A message that was passed on during May Term is that Redlands is not only adequate, but it does surpass a lot of what people are able to get out of their college experience. We should never feel intimidated if we’re in a room full of guys from Harvard, because Redlands is just as good if not better.”
Stampfer feels that both his studies and extracurricular activities at Redlands helped him prepare for Washington.
“A big factor has been my involvement in Greek Life and Johnston,” he said. “There is a lot of interaction with other people, being able to not just charm them but also work with people through disputes and compromises. You have to be a part of a team. I definitely found those experiences within my fraternity.”
Stampfer's internship is over July 3, and he will return to Redlands later this summer to start his junior year. He is already looking forward to what’s ahead.
“Once I graduate, I would love to get a paying job in D.C., a fellowship at the state department, or some sort of work at the state department or something in the private sector dealing with international relations,” he said.
He would also like to go to Israel, a country he has already visited and where his family has roots, and study Hebrew and Arabic while receiving private sector experience.
“I’m a bit of an idealist, and love my country and the democratic process dearly,” he said. “The reality is in America, we take a lot of that for granted. In the Middle East people are passionate about it, because the political stakes are so high and conflicts are so intense and complex. There’s a combination of hope and dreams for a better life and really serious hard problems and challenges. There’s a lot of misunderstanding of that region, and it is my duty as an American citizen and as a human being to do my best to understand it and help people no matter where they are.”
Posted: July 1, 2014
Written by: Catherine Garcia