Intern Spotlight: Jana Kelnhofer, Clark University

January 17, 2018 The Washington Center

Jana Kelnhofer, Clark University, interned at EMILY's List

Jana shares her story about how she turned her internship at EMILY's List, into a full-time job. 

What is your name?

Jana Kelnhofer.

What school are you currently attending?

I currently go to Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, and I’m a senior.

What is your major?

I’m a political science major with a concentration in law and society.

Where are you interning?

So, I intern at EMILY’s List. EMILY’s List is an organization/PAC that helps elect pro-choice Democratic women to office.

What are some of the responsibilities you have there?

I originally was an executive and administration intern, which meant I basically helped out the president [Stephanie Schriock]. After that, I helped the finance team out a lot, and I also do a lot of compliance, which is a big part of the job. People send us checks that don’t have dates on them, or they haven’t signed them, or -- my personal favorite -- people will send checks with Angie’s List written on them by mistake! Occasionally I’ll sit at the front desk and do other administrative tasks like answering the phone.

Tell us about a project you worked on during your internship that was your favorite, the most challenging, or the most exciting.

There are these things at the end of the day called deposit logs, and what they do is combine the money we get from so many different sources, by putting it all in one document and then sending it to different teams. For example, there’s a candidate deposit log for all of our candidates. We have an EMILY’s List online store. People donate online if they go to our website. You can send in a check directly to our office, or you can send in a check directly to our P.O. box, which are two different sources I need to take into account each day. Finally, there is thing called earmarks, which comes into play if somebody writes a check for, say, 500 dollars and says, “I want 250 dollars of this to go to Elizabeth Warren and the other 250 dollars to go to Debbie Stabenow.” It’s such a satisfying experience to make all of these working parts come together. I really like the political side of my job: getting to see where the money is going; where it’s coming from; which mailing got the money for the candidate.

Have you been able to apply some of the learning from school to your internship thus far?

I took a campaign finance course my sophomore year at Clark and at the time I took it, I thought to myself, “I’ll take it. It’s political science after all.” That campaign finance course at Clark did come into play here. I was offered a job at EMILY’s List doing what I did as an intern because my supervisor was leaving and she told me, “I basically taught you seventy-five percent of my job. Why don’t you interview for it?” In my interview, they asked me, “What is the difference between a PAC and a super PAC?” Had I not taken that campaign finance course, I would not have known the answer. But in addition, I think Clark has a very unique learning style and a classroom environment that makes you feel like you should always question and challenge things. Just because a professor says something doesn’t necessarily make it true. Just because your classmate says something doesn’t necessarily make it true.

What is the most interesting or unexpected thing you’ve experienced since you’ve arrived in D.C.?

I’m going to go with my gut instinct on this -- the Metro is incredible! First of all, I’m from Georgia, and we don’t have any form of public transportation down there. Second of all, the Boston T is trash! It is so nice that every morning I can just walk to the NoMa stop, get on the Metro, and be at work in fifteen minutes with only five stops along the way. If I want to go all the way up to Friendship Heights because they have a lot of stores and I need new clothes for work, it only takes thirty minutes to get up to Maryland, and that’s not bad at all!

How have you expanded your professional network for future career opportunities?

I’m not one of those people who likes to sit down and think, “Whom can I use to get to my goal?” I genuinely believe in interacting with people because you’re interested in the same subject; from there, it will naturally lead to other things. Since I’ve come to D.C., it’s crazy because people are so social. You can ask a random person you’ve never met before if he or she wants to get coffee. For me, it’s always about cultivating the relationships with the people I work with the most, first. But then, expand your professional network outward. So in D.C., everybody is for the most part doing something that interests me, even if I don’t agree with it. I’ve met a lot of great people by never saying "no" to opportunities.

How has this experience shaped or impacted your career goals if you already know what you want to do?

I took the job at EMILY’s List because I love EMILY’s List and I want to work in feminist politics for the rest of my life. But I want to run for office one day -- I know that for sure, and every single internship experience I’ve had has honestly solidified that for me. All of them have been so valuable and I enjoyed all of them, but at the end of the day, I will never be happy until I’m the one standing at the podium dictating what my policies are. At the same time, knowing finance and how money works would allow me to be a better candidate when the time comes. Knowing how to put together fifteen different moving parts at once -- even just sitting at my desk today, with things just popping up and having to adjust my plans accordingly -- would also make me a better candidate. I’ve found my niche.

Finally, what advice do you have for other students considering an internship with TWC?

Absolutely have an idea of what you want to do; of where you want to intern before you come. If you’re going to be an unpaid intern, you need to make sure beforehand it’s worth your while. You need to make sure that you’re interning at a place you feel confident about and doing work that you appreciate. After all, if I’m going to D.C. to be an unpaid intern for four months, then I’m going to get something on my resume that I’m proud of. Also, something I realized very recently: an environment where you take classes during the day, do your homework at night, and maybe have a part-time job on campus is so incredibly different from sitting in an office from 9 until 6, Monday through Thursday. So I wouldn’t apply to TWC if you’re just looking to go to D.C. to enjoy yourself. One more reason why I’m happy I picked TWC is that it's a very pre-professional program. They don’t treat us like we’re kids; they don’t treat us like we’re college students making mistakes. They treat us like we’re genuine adults who have jobs! This is as close to a work experience as you’re going to get short of a full-time job.

About the Author

The Washington Center

The Washington Center is the largest and most established student internship program in Washington, D.C. Since our founding, we've helped more than 60,000 individuals from across the U.S. and around the globe expand their academic pursuits into rewarding jobs and careers. We use our scale and expertise to deliver solutions that open career pathways for learners, solve recruitment challenges for employers, while helping create greater access, equity, advancement and representation.

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