Students explore opportunities in Washington through WilDCats at the Capitol

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 24, 2024) — Since its inception in 2016, the WilDCats at the Capitol internship program at the University of Kentucky has been paving the way for students to embark on transformative experiences in Washington, D.C.

Developed through a partnership between the Office of Federal Relations, the Department of Political Science in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Student Government Association, the program has become a cornerstone of experiential learning for UK students.

Gavin Cooper is currently a junior at UK studying community and leadership development. During the Spring 2024 semester, he’s been part of WilDCats in the Capitol interning in the office of Senator Joe Manchin (WV).

“My favorite part of this program is having the opportunity to get hands-on experience at a high level,” said Cooper. “Every piece of work here in D.C. affects our lives in intricate ways and this is an opportunity to see how everything happens.”

At its core, the program offers students a semester-long immersive experience in the nation’s capital. Participants live together, take classes and intern full-time, all while staying on track to complete their degrees. This unique blend of academic and professional development enables students to apply classroom knowledge in real-world settings, preparing them for successful careers upon graduation.

“This program is really special because it has allowed me to gain impressive internship experience without interfering with my graduation timeline,” said Cooper.

Over the years, WilDCats at the Capitol has expanded its reach thanks to collaborations with various departments and offices within the university. Last year, the Office of Federal Relations joined forces with the Office for Student Success to promote the program across all academic colleges and departments, ensuring that students from every discipline have the opportunity to participate.

Amelia Iliohan is a UK graduate who participated in WilDCats at the Capitol in 2018. She grew up in a small town in Western Kentucky and says this program was the only feasible way for her to experience career opportunities in Washington. She now works as the associate director of events and member engagement at the National Association of States Departments of Agriculture (NASDA).

“This program created a gateway for me to find my passion for international agriculture,” said Iliohan. “WilDCats at the Capital is a comprehensive program that educationally, financially, socially and personally supports UK students from all colleges and all socioeconomic backgrounds. I would not be in Washington, D.C., today in a career I love without my experience in the program.”

Executive Director of Federal Relations Eric King expressed the university’s commitment to prioritizing students’ needs by announcing Matthew Jackson as assistant director of federal relations, who will manage and promote the WilDCats at the Capitol program. This strategic move underscores the university’s dedication to expanding its reach in Washington, ensuring that students have unparalleled opportunities for growth and success.

The WilDCats at the Capitol internship program isn’t just about gaining professional experience and making a difference. From working with Members of Congress to collaborating with top-tier organizations like NASA and UPS, students can explore diverse career pathways and make meaningful contributions to society.

The program invites all students to join them in Washington and become part of the WilDCats at the Capitol community. Their goal is to continue empowering the next generation of leaders while continuing education.

For more information on the program, including how to apply, visit www.uky.edu/wildcatsatthecapitol.

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