Poli sci student snags job with congressman

Mercyhurst senior Mike Walter has used the experience of his time at Mercyhurst to gain a political career in Washington, D.C.

After completing two internships for U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) Walter, a political science major, has earned a job in Washington D.C. at Kelly’s congressional office.

Walter graduated from Mercyhurst North East campus in spring 2013 with a Liberal Arts degree with a concentration in Communication. He transferred over to Main campus as a Communicationsmajor, but halfway through the first term, figured out Communication was not for him.

“I would say it wasn’t my thing. I like it, but I always had a catch for politics,” Walter said

During that term, he took American Congress and State and Local Politics. The combination of those courses and the influence of his professors aided his decision to change his major to Political Science.

“He was a student who was very interested in politics, especially applied politics. So he already came to us with a fairly good understanding of how elections work, especially how local politics works and he wasn’t shy about getting in local elections,” said Michael Federici, Ph.D., Chair of the Political Science department.

In the summer of 2013, Walter started his first internship with Kelly in his Erie office. That fall, he talked to the district director about how his desire to work in the campaign. He got a call back and became part of the staff as a grassroots coordinator for the Erie, Crawford and Northern Mercer County.

“It was a great experience, but I was also taking four classes along with working in the campaign. So that was pretty difficult,” said Walter. “I really worked hard. In the summer time, when I first interned, I worked there five days a week. I was an unpaid intern all summer. I went back there and did another internship and didn’t get paid anything.”

Working in the campaign and being a student was not an easy job for Walters. His typical day would consist of taking classes in the morning and working on the campaign until late at night.

“On a Monday, I would have class early in the morning and then I would have an hour and a half break between my morning class and my afternoon class. So I would go back to the campaign and work for that hour and go back to school until like 3:30. After that I would go back to my campaign office. Sometimes, I would just sleep on the futon and I wouldn’t go home. It was quite the experience, but it paid off,” Walter said.

The experience paid off with a full-time job on Capitol Hill. At the end of the campaign, the day before Election Day, he was offered a job in Washington D.C. as a staff assistant.

The work he will do in Washington is going to give him experience in a wide variety of areas. “You do everything as a staff assistant,” said Walter. “It’s not a specialized job. You do whatever needs to be done.”

“I wouldn’t have gotten this if it wasn’t for the unpaid internship and the hard work that I did,” he said. “You really have to work hard and expect not to get paid. Especially if you’re in politics.”

According to Federici, it is not every day that student receives this type of job.

“They are very highly sought after by people from all over the country. [Congressmen] often hire people anywhere, because hard working talented people want to be in Washington. The fact that Mike was able to reign in that competition is a testament to the kind of person he is,” he said.

Walter plans to attend George Washington University and get his Masters in political management. and expects to keep working on campaigns in the future.

Walter credits a lot of his success to his teachers who he claims made his achievements possible.

“I learned a lot in all of their classes,” he said. “Without Dr. Federici, Dr. Peterson and Dr. Morris, I wouldn’t be here.”