The average citizen never gets a behind-the-scenes look at the United States Senate. But Brian Peoples certainly isn’t average. The senior international relations and history major had the opportunity to work in the former Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse’s Lincoln office.
Although Peoples was originally hired as a summer intern, he was asked to stay on the senator’s team into the school year. “In this internship, I’ve gotten a more complete idea of how the senate works,” he said. “Not only do I better understand what the senator’s job is, but also I’ve gotten to be part of the team behind the senator making sure he has what he needs to get to the right vote on time.” Peoples plans to keep working at the senator’s office until the end of 2022, when Sasse is expected to resign his seat.
Peoples watches committee hearings to write reports for the senator’s team. He also assists at community service outreach programs around the state and writes congratulatory letters to Sasse’s constituents. “Working on the senator’s team has definitely strengthened my patience and my ability to work with people who believe differently than I do,” he said. “It’s a really well-rounding experience.”
Peoples added that a major part of his internship consisted of answering phone calls and emails from constituents. “It sounds like a boring task, but it’s not when you’re dealing with people calling in about political issues. It’s my responsibility to communicate what the senator believes effectively, even if my personal beliefs are different.”
Applying for political internships can be competitive, but Peoples had an advantage. “Union has a really great reputation,” he said. “Sasse’s office has hired a lot of our students as interns, so they know we do good work. We already have a background understanding of the national and global political situation, so what we’re doing isn’t brand new to us.”
“One day, my boss came up to me and said, ‘You Union kids all write exceptionally well. Why is that?’ I told him we have some pretty awesome teachers.” Peoples credits his confidence in writing to his general education English classes from Dr. Tanya Cochran. “I already knew how to write effectively and concisely when I came into the office. That was really critical to my success.”
Peoples appreciates Union’s practical approach to the study of international relations. While other international relations programs tend only to focus on cultures around the globe, Union places emphasis on connections between countries and how they interact. “Union’s program prepares you for real-world jobs,” said Peoples. “You leave the program with a much more holistic understanding of the world’s history and how we got to where we are today.”
Peoples is focusing his studies on Eastern Europe and supplementing his education with Russian language classes at the nearby University of Nebraska. “I actually took the first year of classes for credit toward my degree here at Union,” he said. “Union has an equivalency program that allows you to study more languages than the college itself offers.”
After he completes his undergraduate degrees, Peoples is planning to apply to law school. “My goal is to become an international lawyer, with the hope of one day working in the State Department in a policy advisory position on Eastern European-American relations.”
Although he’s looking forward to the future, the thought of graduating and leaving Union is bittersweet for Peoples. “There’s a community here who cares about you and your success. The international relations program feels like family.”
Annika Cambigue is a junior English and communication major at Union College. She is from Ohio.