Hillsdale stu­dents and alumni gather at the Allan P. Kirby Jr. Center for Con­sti­tu­tional Studies and Cit­i­zenship in Wash­ington, D.C., for a social event this summer. Chloe Kookogey | Courtesy

For a dense city of political activity, Wash­ington, D.C., is a small world for Hillsdale stu­dents.

During the humid summer months, the nation’s capital teems with interns, who crowd together in town­houses for once-in-a-lifetime expe­ri­ences that could launch their careers.

Hillsdale stu­dents proved no exception this summer. Sev­enteen stu­dents filled the Hillsdale House to maximum capacity, and between 35 and 45 stu­dents flocked to Capitol Hill, said Bert Hasler ’15, who manages under­graduate pro­grams at the Kirby Center. More than 100 Hillsdale stu­dents and local alumni attended two bar­becues hosted by the college’s Allan P. Kirby Jr. Center for Con­sti­tu­tional Studies and Cit­i­zenship.

“I’d come back to my apartment at night and say, ‘I ran into another Hillsdale student, I ran into another Hillsdale student!’ and my Her­itage intern roommate would just laugh at me,” said junior Chloe Kookogey, who interned in external rela­tions for the Her­itage Foun­dation. “She was like, ‘They’re every­where. You lit­erally can’t walk out the door without running into someone from Hillsdale.’”

Hillsdale inter­ac­tions range from  organic bump-ins at Union Station to formal events such as those at the Kirby Center.

The Kirby Center has become a ral­lying point for stu­dents, alumni, staff and anyone else con­nected with the college — a unique asset for a college the size of Hillsdale, said

More amor­phous than a physical structure, D.C. also has an extended web of con­nec­tions the college’s career ser­vices uses to match stu­dents and grad­uates with future internship and job oppor­tu­nities in the nation’s capital.

In fact, stu­dents are an integral part of building employer rela­tions, said Ken Koopman, exec­utive director of career ser­vices office, noting that interns connect his team with their super­visors so career ser­vices  can follow up with super­visors and post job descrip­tions on Hand­shake, a job-searching database.

“We ask the stu­dents if this is an oppor­tunity they think future stu­dents would benefit from,” Koopman said. “Last year, we were able to get more con­nec­tions with top com­panies based on student con­nec­tions, which was great.”

Hasler con­firmed even Capitol Hill workers outside the Hillsdale bubble have noticed the college’s presence in the city.

Hasler quoted a running joke from an acquain­tance on the Hill: “How do you know if someone went to Hillsdale? Because they’ll tell you.”  

“But they say that in jest because they rec­ognize how good our stu­dents are at doing what they do,” he said.

Though Hillsdale stu­dents enter D.C. in force, their presence during the summer is spread across just a few orga­ni­za­tions, such as the Her­itage Foun­dation, the National Jour­nalism Center, and the Charles Koch Institute.

“Depending on who you are, you might say this could be con­cerning,” Hasler said. “We seem to send more stu­dents to the same orga­ni­za­tions instead of branching out and finding new offices to do that.”

Hasler said he would like to see more stu­dents opting to work at lesser-known com­mittees as well, which happens more fre­quently during Wash­ington-Hillsdale Internship Program semesters, because it stip­u­lates who can work in what office.

Besides offering stu­dents career oppor­tu­nities, the summer swell creates a “home away from home” com­munity that inspires con­fi­dence in stu­dents, espe­cially those unused to the city, Kookogey said.

The homey atmos­phere wel­comed junior Rachel Fredrick, a gov­ernment affairs intern with the Family Research Council,  who con­ducted bill analysis at the state and local levels with a focus on reli­gious liberty.

“I ran into people at Union Station or on the metro,” Fredrick said. “It was funny because it was such a big city, but you’re running into all these Hillsdale people.”

Both women said the presence of Hillsdale stu­dents in D.C. was refreshing, but each cited dis­tinct reasons.

Kookogey noticed that the influx of summer interns brings stu­dents with intense but imbal­anced career-driven focuses. Her Hillsdale peers, she said, seemed more grounded.

“Hillsdale stu­dents are driven, but at the same time, they have a per­ception of the fullness of life and they under­stand that the good life is not just how much money you’re making, how famous or popular you are in whatever field you want to go into,” she said.

Fredrick said she knew people from other col­leges who felt alone for lack of friends who wouldn’t enter the college scene interns bring with them during the summer.

“I was nervous going in,” Fredrick said. “It’s a lot of young people, a lot of par­tying, and the con­no­ta­tions with that. In D.C. in general, (but) interns specif­i­cally.”

For her, having a “good network of grounded friends” from Hillsdale was “a huge plus.”

When a member of Hillsdale’s tight knit com­munity moves to D.C., the city shrinks a little, reminding tem­porary interns of the small town they now call home.