Auburn junior applies campus experiences to D.C. internships

Published: October 13, 2021
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To be able to work among Washington, D.C., insiders while still in college is a dream for most political science majors. For Auburn University junior Coleman Turnipseed, it became a reality.

Turnipseed spent her summer break from Auburn interning in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, working alongside two of the state’s elected leaders. Armed with experience from serving in Auburn’s Student Government Association, or SGA, Turnipseed landed a lucrative dual summer internship that took her to the nation’s capital.

“I did two internships over the summer,” Turnipseed added. “In May, I interned with Congressman Robert Aderholt, who represents Alabama’s 4th District in the House of Representatives. In June and July, I moved over to the Senate and interned with Senator Tommy Tuberville.”

While in D.C., Turnipseed took advantage of every opportunity she could to get involved with and learn about the innerworkings of the government.

“I really enjoyed being able to be a part of the legislative process,” Turnipseed said. “I watched hearings, wrote memos, took notes, researched bills and did other smaller tasks that I was assigned. I was lucky to do both internships back-to-back, and it was crazy being able to see the difference between working in the House and in the Senate.”

Her interest in government goes back to when she was in high school at St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Mobile.

“I was a part of the Alabama Youth in Government program,” Turnipseed said. “I was able to serve as a judge during the mock trial competition and also was on the governor’s cabinet for the Alabama Youth Legislature.”

Selecting political science as her major was a simple choice, but deciding where to go to college was even easier. Turnipseed’s family has a tradition of attending Auburn that goes back to her grandparents.

“My family has always gone to Auburn,” said the Mobile native. “Auburn kind of runs in the family for us.”

When she arrived on Auburn’s campus as a freshman, Turnipseed wanted to continue her passion for public service and civics. The opportunity arose when she learned about Lobby Board, an external affairs unit of the SGA.

“In my freshman year, I went and did a program called Lobby Board,” Turnipseed said. “Our focus is on working with state and local representatives to fight for higher education funding from the state.”

During her sophomore year, Turnipseed ran for and won a position as an at-large senator, meaning that she would serve as an SGA representative for the whole university student body. This experience has been one of her favorites so far at Auburn.

“I’ve really enjoyed serving as an at-large senator,” Turnipseed said. “It’s been great to give back to Auburn and get involved in the students’ lives, as well as have an impact on the Auburn community, even if in just a small way.”

During her time in D.C., Turnipseed discovered that being an intern had some pretty special perks.

“The Capitol was closed this summer, but as an intern you had these badges that allowed you in, so we were able to go and walk around the Capitol with it being practically empty,” she said.

It wasn’t all work for Turnipseed in the nation’s capital. She was able to spend some time enjoying the sights, relaxing on the West Terrace and even meeting up with other Auburn students.

“It was really cool to be able to be in D.C. and actually live there,” Turnipseed said. “There were a ton of Auburn people doing stuff in different offices around D.C., and it was so fun to run into them. We had a GroupMe called ‘Auburn in D.C.’ full of all the random Auburn people working in D.C.”

Turnipseed credits her Auburn classes in helping prepare her for the internship.

“Through my classes at Auburn, I’ve been able to better understand the legislative process, understand all of the different agencies and truly understand the government structure,” she said. “It was really interesting to get to see it all firsthand.”

Reflecting on her time interning over the summer, Turnipseed believes she took away an understanding of just how important interpersonal connections can be when working in politics.

“I think my biggest takeaway from the internship would be appreciating how important the relationships you develop can be,” she said. “They really honed in on the importance of building good relationships and the importance of meeting the people around you.”

Now back at Auburn, Turnipseed is looking forward to football season and working toward finishing her degree. She doesn’t yet know exactly what she wants to do after school, but she has an idea of where she’d like to be.

“I loved living in D.C. this summer, so I would love to go back,” she said. “I’m not necessarily sure in what capacity yet, but I would love the chance to live and work there again.”

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.