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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.