Past interns reflect on their time at the Chamber of Commerce
By Grace Hanson
I think very few people know what to expect of their new job when they arrive on the first day. I certainly did not. While I came into the Governmental Affairs internship hoping to learn more about state and local politics, build some connections with the local community, and develop a few new skills to further my resume, I am leaving with far more than I ever could have imagined. As I conclude my time at the Chamber, I consider this internship to be one of the best college experiences I have had in my four years at UW-Eau Claire. Through it, I have witnessed state and local politics in action, gained stronger communication skills, and am beginning to understand what political advocacy truly is. Even in the midst of a pandemic, I have had the privilege of meeting (over Zoom) so many people from the Eau Claire community. Although I wish the Chamber events could have been done in person for the full experience, I have learned so much from the programs that were hosted over a virtual format.
Planning the Chippewa Valley Rally helped me understand the importance and value of political advocacy to the Eau Claire community. The opportunities I have had to write blog posts and contribute of the Business Advocate newsletter have helped me improve my writing skills, and I have learned so much about state and local politics from the monthly Governmental Affairs Committee meetings as well as the Eggs & Issues programs.
Previous intern reflections
While this is a brief overview of my internship experience at the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce, numerous other students have held this role before me. The Chamber began the Governmental Affairs internship with UW-Eau Claire in the 1997-98 school year and has now had a total of 26 interns fill this position. While the internship is structured the same for each of us, every year is different because politics never stay the same. And although we all may have participated in similar Eggs & Issues programs or the Chippewa Valley Rally, each of us have taken the experiences we have gained from this position and used them in various careers after graduation.
Last year’s interns, Amy Oldenburg and Clayton Cavanaugh have each moved to Madison, where Amy just accepted a Marketing specialist position at the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. She credits her time at the Chamber as one of the primary reasons she was offered this position. Clayton is a rising second-year law student at the University of Wisconsin Law School. He has also accepted an internship with a local law firm for the summer. Clayton believes his work at the Chamber has prepared him to interact with legal professionals in his career path.
Emma Koehn (2018-19) is now the Assistant Account Executive at JT Mega, a food advertising agency in Minneapolis. Although she no longer works in government relations, she recognizes that the Chamber has taught her a lot about how local government and government policies impact the community. The internship also taught her about networking, which she uses everyday.
Savannah Sepic (2017-18) is the Government Relations Manager at Minnesota Retailers Associations in St. Paul. She says the Chamber taught her how to interact with public officials and legislators, and it pushed her out of her comfort zone, helping her become familiar with public speaking and stepping into leadership roles. Savannah's co-intern, Kaylee Tracy (2017-18), is now a communication consultant working with refugees through EFCA ReachGlobal in Berlin, Germany. Kaylee says, "my job, although not specifically related to the political or business worlds, is ultimately to resource local organizations and churches that serve Berlin in various capacities. The Chamber's approach to advocating for local businesses shaped my posture towards my job role and becoming an engaged citizen in a European city.”
Peter Hienz (2016-17) is Senator Howard Marklein's lead staff person for the Joint Finance Committee, which the Senator Co-Chairs. According to Peter, “this internship helped me learn about some of the key issues in Wisconsin politics and gave me the chance to interact with elected officials and legislative staff. It also helped me get connected to the Capitol in Madison and solidify a job in the building when I graduated.”
Other interns such as Tyrel Zich (2012-13) and James Hanke (2000-01) have chosen to stay in the Eau Claire Area. Tyrel is a Senior Rate Analyst with Xcel Energy and recognizes that his internship with the Chamber led him towards additional internships and a career path in politics. Most of his work was focused on energy and economic development policy which ultimately led him to his position at Excel Energy. James works in Business Development at Market & Johnson. He says “my Chamber internship was directly responsible for my first job out of college. The opportunity to meet and work with Business and government leaders throughout the Chippewa Valley is the primary reason I decided to stay in the area.”
Next year's interns
The Chamber's 2021-22 Governmental Affairs Interns have now been selected. "Come this fall, the Chamber will be looking forward to working with Brianna Franke and Danya Morman," said Scott Rogers, the Chamber's Vice President Governmental Affairs. Both are Political Science majors at UW-Eau Claire.
"In fulfilling the internship this year, Grace played a critical role in helping the Chamber be effective in its advocacy efforts despite the challenges thrown at us by the pandemic ," he noted. "We look forward to following her next adventure."
Posted by Grace Hanson, Governmental Affairs Intern
Eau Claire Chamber
The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has more than 1,200 members.