Sociology Student Interns for Sen. Webb
Ben Wescott gains political skills working for U.S. senator
Ben Wescott '09 is learning more about the political system each day with his internship for Senator Jim Webb, D-Va., in Webb's downtown Roanoke office. As a sociology major with a concentration in communications, Wescott is trained to analyze groups of people and develop the best way to get a message across.
"I work in a constituent office that serves people in Roanoke, Charlottesville, Lynchburg and Harrisonburg," Wescott said. "I enjoy it a lot. Since it's a new office, I'm the first intern, so I have a lot of immediate authority and responsibility to respond to people."
Webb's Roanoke office opened in 2007 and functions as a liaison between citizens of the greater Roanoke area and the senator's other offices in Richmond and Washington, D.C. Constituent concerns and recommendations regarding various issues are communicated to Webb's main offices, and Wescott plays a significant role in recording concerns to ensure that the peoples' voices are heard.
"A lot of the common things are illegal alien concerns and veterans affairs concerns," Wescott said. Often, Wescott finds himself in challenging situations when dealing with citizens, and he realizes that there are many difficult choices that need to be made in helping others. But the challenges are part of what being in politics is about, and after attending the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia in the summer of 2007, Wescott feels prepared to face them.
Being the only Roanoke student ever accepted to the institute, Wescott was proud to represent the College. "Because I was the only person from Roanoke College going into it, and since it was such an esteemed program, I felt that I had to represent us in a positive way. I wanted to make sure that I represented us well and give other Roanoke College students the same opportunity."
In a suite with five Ivy League students, Wescott said that he used this to his advantage by arriving with an open mind and an eagerness to learn.
"The program fed my passion," he said. "It's something that's very exciting - I'm very passionate with politics and it's very energizing and empowering to help your state."