By Tatyana Hopkins
Ty Bofferding, B.A. ’17, had not imagined that he would work at the epicenter of Washington, D.C. politics and government when he entered the George Washington University to pursue undergraduate studies in international affairs. Having minored in journalism and mass communications, he thought he would become a foreign correspondent.
However, after connecting at a party with a GW alumnus working in politics, Mr. Bofferding landed a position as a communications intern with the Republican National Committee. This role helped launch his professional career on Capitol Hill, which began in 2016 as the full-time press assistant for U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R- La.). He was still working on his undergraduate degree at GW.
“I went and tried out [the press role] at the RNC and loved it,” he said. “When I applied for the press internship in Sen. Cassidy’s office, the press secretary there at the time used to work at the RNC and knew some of the people I worked with there as well as the GW alum, that helped me get the internship.”
Mr. Bofferding, who currently works as Dr. Cassidy’s communications director and will soon move to Louisiana to work on the senator’s re-election campaign, was eventually hired full-time in the office.
“The first semester of my senior year, I was taking classes two days a week as a full-time student and in the office Monday, Wednesday and Friday while working remotely the other days,” he said.
He did not know then that he was a part of one of the largest alumni networks on the Hill, but he credits much of his success to connections he made at GW, including through the GW Men’s Rugby Club, which he was the president of in 2015.
The university topped the list of schools whose graduates work on the Hill. About 103 alumni with bachelor’s degrees and 169 alumni with graduate degrees from GW currently work as congressional staffers, according to data compiled by LegBranch, a congressional research hub. The university also ranked third among the top producers of lawyers in Congress.
“GW is a vocational school for politics and government,” Mr. Bofferding said. “If you want to enter into a career on the Hill, in politics or at the State Department, I can't imagine a better place. You’re in the city, a few blocks away from the White House, you can take the Metro to your internship, and you're right next to the State Department. We don’t have a football team… but I couldn’t see myself in a better position than I am now.”
Steven Billet, director of the master’s in legislative affairs program at the Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM), said the university’s long-established network on the Hill makes it easy for students to transition into professional careers as congressional staffers.
“The road to Capitol Hill runs through the GW campus,” Dr. Billet said. “Our faculty includes former members of Congress, senior staffers, lobbyists and a healthy cross-section of Washington’s political literati. Also, our classes accommodate the working schedules of congressional staffers. In my legislative affairs program, for instance, all our classes are taught in the evenings on the Hill at the Hall of States near Union Station.”
He said the best advice to GW students seeking employment on the Hill is to build their networks and to use the university’s resources, especially the career specialists in each school.
Margaret Gottlieb, director of GSPM’s career services office, said that GSPM’s “hidden weapon, or maybe now not so hidden, is our ability to do original research to identify Capitol Hill job openings before they hit the newsstands.”
GW students have free access to job listings on Brad Traverse, a comprehensive government and politics job board, and to Leadership Connect, where they can identify all staffers working on the Hill.
In addition to publishing an e-book about careers in politics, the school also hosts monthly lunches on the Hill with students and alumni working as congressional staffers.
Ms. Gottlieb said all GW students also have access to resources that will help them identify opportunities on the Hill including David Ettinger, a reference and instruction librarian in Gelman Library who assists students in finding congressional jobs and internships.
And she said students should tap into their GW network.
“It is estimated that only 15 percent of jobs in any given field are posted, meaning 85 percent of job openings are not posted,” she said. “Students should not be shy in asking fellow GW students and alumni what they do in their jobs and what advice they may have for them to find openings and opportunities.”
Once students land internships on the Hill, Mr. Bofferding offers some advice.
“Never be the intern that everyone forgets,” he said. “Introduce yourself to everyone in the office and ask for more work so that you can point to it as experience in the future. Work hard to make an impact.”