Spencer Stokes, former chief of staff for Sen. Mike Lee and current lobbyist, gave advice to students about getting internships and talked about his time working in the Senate on Thursday. His lecture was part of the Walker Talks, a series of talks sponsored by the Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service.
One piece of advice Stokes gave students about internships was to show up early and stay late at the office. He also said to make sure the people are happy with Weber State University for sending interns.
“Sometimes, the reputation of the school is represented by the intern they have,” Stokes said. “When there is an intern who is from a university and doesn’t perform well, doesn’t get along well with the rest of the interns, doesn’t do well, isn’t helpful in the office, we mentally say, ‘Do I want another intern from Weber State, UVU, BYU?’”
He also said interns should make sure to proofread everything before turning things in. He gave the example of when a senator wants to give a tribute to the family of a fallen soldier, they will often have the interns write it and do the research. He said there is nothing more embarrassing than sending a framed congressional records statement with the soldier’s name misspelled.
Stokes also gave students time to ask him questions about internships and his time working in politics. Someone asked him what the best and worst part was when working as the chief of staff for Lee.
He said the worst was the hours. He would start the day at 7 a.m., and at the end of the day, his job would be to show visiting senators or county commissioners the city.
“The best thing was watching history,” he said, “seeing all of it from a front-row seat of history. Every day, all the people that you see on television . . . seeing the newsmakers and being on the same shuttle that’s going to the capitol is a fun experience.”
Another question was about how to network and make connections. Stokes said it is important to talk to people.
“People in politics want others to join them in politics,” Stokes said. “You’ll find that most people want to be helpful to young people. They want them to be involved in their same career, and this applies to everything. They will give you time where they may not give a 45-year-old time.”
Stuart Call, who helped organize the event and is an intern at the Walker Institute, said organizers picked Stokes because he works with interns and knows what employers are looking for.
“It’s important to the Walker Institute to have speakers come in and talk to the students, because it helps students understand what it’s really like to be involved in politics as well as politically related subjects,” Call said.
According to Carol McNamara, the director of the Walker Institute, this is one of the first events where students have the opportunity to eat lunch with someone in politics. She said the institute hopes to bring Lee to campus next year.
The Walker Institute also organizes internships for students in Washington D.C. or internships in state legislature. Stokes said senators hire interns from all majors, and he has even worked with art majors in the past.