Stephens ’18 Stands Out in D.C.

For Donnie Stephens ’18, landing an internship at a prominent think-tank wasn’t his original plan when applying to the Washington Semester program. As a Governance Studies research intern at the Brookings Institute, however, Stephens made a big difference.

“I enjoyed it as it was really different compared to what I was considering,” said Stephens. “I was originally thinking working on a (Congressional) committee such as the Financial Services Committee or at the Treasury. I was looking for something which would blend D.C. with my interest in finance. I thought to myself, ‘(Brookings) is a great opportunity to explore something completely different than what I had expected for myself.’ I went with it.”

Stephens worked for two prominent fellows at Brookings, E.J. Dionne and Bill Galston. Dionne, a well-respected journalist, writes a regular op-ed column in the Washington Post. Galston’s work frequently appears in the Wall Street Journal. Stephens’ work not only included reviewing article drafts for fact accuracy and grammar, but also engaging with the authors’ arguments. His Holy Cross education would prove quite useful in these cases, notably in his Economics major.

“(Economics Professor Olena Staveley-O’Carroll) has been a huge influence on me here at Holy Cross,” said Stephens. “What she taught us was how to take numbers and create a narrative out of it, not just to present them, but to string an argument out of it. Data-driven arguments were very important at Brookings. Certainly Bill Galston is a big numbers guy when he writes. Having those exercises to reflect on was very helpful.”

Professor Gary DeAngelis, Director of the Washington Semester Program, said that Stephens had a big impact during his semester in the nation’s capital.

“(Donnie’s) superb research and writing skills made him an invaluable research assistant,” said DeAngelis. “He took full advantage of an extraordinary opportunity to research and analyze public policy at the Brookings Institute, one of America’s premier think-tanks.”

Clara Hendrickson, Research Assistant at the Brookings Institute and Stephen’s supervisor, noted his enthusiasm and ability to analyze complex issues.

“Donnie put his keen analytical skills to work during his time at Brookings,” wrote Hendrickson in an email, “gathering evidence for why voters across the democratic west have been extending their support to populist nativist political parties. Donnie brought a contagious energy and enthusiasm to his work.”

Stephens was able to explore his primary interest with various financial issues, including a proposed border adjustment tax included in tax reform. After graduation, Stephens has looked for positions in both policy and finance. He said that the Washington Semester program gave him invaluable insight that’ll stand out in job interviews, whether at a bank or think-tank.

“When you interview at a bank,” said Stephens, “they expect you to have internships at other banks. They ask, ‘Why finance, why not D.C. or politics?’ I say, ‘I use these policy experiences to broaden my depth of knowledge about the financial industry. I understand broadly how policy impacts the work that you do in this bank.’ I wouldn’t have that breadth of knowledge if it wasn’t for D.C. It’s helping me in very real ways in an industry where you wouldn’t readily think it would.’”

For more information about the Washington Semester program, please visit the program homepage. The next info session for the Washington Semester program will be on January 30th at 4PM in Hogan 401, and applications open on January 31st.


Welcome to the blog for the J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World at the College of the Holy Cross! The Center helps students identify and pursue opportunities outside of the classroom, and to better articulate the value of these opportunities as part of a Holy Cross education. Some of the programs that J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World offers include the Academic Internship Program, the Washington and New York Semester Programs, the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning, the Mock Trial and Moot Court teams, and the Ignite Fund.  On this blog, you’ll find student stories from their program experiences, tips on how to make the most of experiential learning opportunities, and other updates from the J.D. Power Center. Stay tuned!