Matthew Zank, a senior studying political science at the University of New Mexico, is spending this semester — his final one — in Washington, D.C. thanks to the Fred Harris Congressional Internship program. Zank is interning with Melanie Stansbury, the current U.S. representative of New Mexico's 1st Congressional District.
Zank has been interested in politics his entire life and has tried to maximize his engagement in the political sphere of students throughout his time at UNM, serving for two years as a senator for the Associated Students of UNM.
“I was an ASUNM senator from fall 2019 to spring 2020,” Zank said. “Student government gave me a precursor to government and working with legislation.”
Ellen Grigsby, director of the Fred Harris Congressional Internship committee, takes pride and confidence in all of the selected interns.
“The Fred Harris Internship Program has confidence in all the students we select as interns and that certainly includes Matt. We are proud of all our interns serving in Washington, D.C.”
The Fred Harris Congressional Internship was founded by Harris, a UNM faculty emeritus and former U.S. senator, in 2006. According to the UNM political science department website, it is a program through which up to five UNM students majoring in political science may work within the offices of New Mexico delegates for a semester in order to learn about the goings-on of congressional offices, taught also by Harris all the while.
Zank’s experience with ASUNM was pleasant and continued to foster his interests in politics, but also reinforced issues that he expects to face for as long as he works in politics, mainly pertaining to navigating dishonesty and discrimination.
“The hardest thing in politics is about people and everyone’s different. (I’m) finding out who I believe in and who I am as a student and a person in America and a person in the LGBT community,” Zank said.
Zank has, so far, enjoyed his time in Washington, D.C. Working in the district has been a long-time goal of Zank’s so the move east was more than welcome.
“I have wanted to work in politics and government for a while now. I wanted to go to school here (in Washington, D.C.) originally for undergrad,” Zank said. “It’s been good, very very different than New Mexico, but I’ve wanted to move here for a while now so it feels good to be here, somewhere new.”
Zank is fond of the program’s close eye on interns and well-guided teaching process and enjoys the work that he does.
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“The goal is to get you exposed to a lot of parts of the political process,” Zank said. “We do various odd jobs.”
With his graduation in May just around the corner, Zank has begun planning for the future and hopes to work the upcoming senate elections in some capacity.
“Right now, politics is the end game. After Graduation, I’m keeping my options open but I’d love to work for elections in fall,” Zank said.
Natalie Jude is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @natalaroni