MSU Texas senior enjoyed opportunity as legislative intern in D.C.

Caroline Gomez eyes career in D.C. after successful internship with congressional office

MSU Texas senior enjoyed opportunity as legislative intern in D.C.

Caroline Gomez spent the summer of 2023 in Washington D.C. as a legislative intern for Texas District 3 Congressman Keith Self. It was the summer of a lifetime for the MSU Texas senior.

While there, she saw a place and a system where, despite constant negative news, much good does get done. And in a city rich with American history, she was surprised by the youthful energy. “It was such an incredible place to be,” Gomez said. “I was inspired by seeing so many young people who care about our country.”

Gomez immersed herself in the D.C. lifestyle. She rode scooters and the Washington Metro rail system. Gomez walked Pennsylvania Avenue. At her job, she helped constituents with matters such as passport delays or arranging tours of the Capitol. “Helping the constituents was great,” she said. “The Capitol is an unbelievable place. Seeing them see it for the first time was amazing. They leave with a more positive feeling about Washington and the system.”

Gomez said that Self gave her the opportunity to learn about Washington and how lawmaking happens. She researched pending legislation and briefed Self, who represents Collin and Hunt counties in North Texas. Self encouraged her to attend staff meetings, making her feel a part of the team, which she admired. “He would have us read articles and then discuss them with us,” she said. Self’s wife, Tracy, also helped her feel at home. “They both care about the constituents and their country,” she said. Her parents visited her while she was there. Her dad lives in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and her mom in Bowie, Texas.

She bonded with other interns and fellow Texans. They became a family during their time in D.C., and she learned the art of networking. Other skills she honed were time management and learning to complete projects despite interruptions.

"Caroline seems to get along with everyone, and while I think some of that is her personality, a large part is that she’s hard-working and dependable," said Jeremy Duff, associate professor of political science at MSU Texas. "Her supervisors and co-workers can depend on her to get her work done on time and without complaining. And she seems to just love life and exudes this joy that many people don’t have, especially for someone who spent a summer in D.C. LOL!"

At MSU Texas, Gomez is active in student government and the honors programs. She is a member of and has held offices in Alpha Phi and has been Panhellenic social media chair. The experience of being on Model United Nations teams may have been the most helpful for her internship. “Being on Model UN teams was a major factor in my success in D.C.,” Gomez said. “I learned a lot through that experience. It was a lot of research but one of my best experiences at MSU Texas.” Model UN is a learning simulation in which students role-play the delegation of a country in the United Nations. It requires them to conduct independent research, critically examine a real-world problem, develop a solution to this problem, and then convince their competitors that their solution is the most effective.

Gomez believes her work at MSU Texas prepared her for the internship. But in spite of having the skills and confidence, she said that obtaining and accepting the internship was the hardest thing she had ever done, and earning it was an accomplishment. Gomez interviewed with another congressman but was turned down, which made her even more determined to prove herself. She turned the ‘no’ into a motivation. 

Caroline Gomez outside a building in D.C.

Caroline Gomez in D.C. with a congressman
Caroline Gomez with Texas Congressman Keith Self in D.C. outside of the U.S. Capitol.

Even after being accepted by Self’s office, living in D.C. was still going to be a challenge. What really opened the door was the Thornberry Scholarship for Public Service, funds from former Congressman Mac Thornberry, which paid living expenses while in D.C. “That was a door I didn’t expect to open,” Gomez said. “It paid room and board and groceries. Without that, it would have been tough. It wouldn’t have been doable.”

Gomez’s May 2024 graduation will be bittersweet. After she graduates with her Bachelor of Science in Political Science, Gomez has decided to move to D.C., where she’ll look for a job in the House of Representatives. And she’s hoping all the networking will pay off. “I feel confident that’s where I want to be, making a difference for the country. I loved seeing the good people that were there. It’s not always a madhouse.”

One positive influence was the Chief of Staff for Self’s offices, Hillary Parkinson, who has been in the position for 10 years but started at the bottom, as Gomez will have to do. “I hope to work my way up as she did. Her story was inspiring,” Gomez said.

“Since coming to Congress, Rep. Self’s office has prioritized a robust internship program,” Parkinson said. “We are proud to have interns from Congressional District 3 and all over the great state of Texas! Caroline was polite, professional, hardworking, and a delight to have in our office. We look forward to seeing the amazing things Caroline and all of our interns will go on to accomplish in the future!”

Gomez is not sure about her own future political aspirations as her focus now is working her way up as did Parkinson. But she won’t say no. Getting more education is in the future – law school was her original plan – but she received a crucial piece of advice. “Make the law or practice the law.” She wants to make it.

Duff added that D.C. can often beat people down, not fire them up. "But, Caroline is fired-up. After talking with her, I can tell she’s incredibly excited about moving to D.C. and playing a role in our government. I strongly believe that Caroline will do well, quickly move up the ranks in Congressman Self’s office (if some other office doesn’t snatch her away), and she will be a phenomenal ambassador/representative for Midwestern State University in D.C." he said.

Along with being thankful for the Thornberry funding, Gomez can’t say enough good things about her professors and the personnel at MSU Texas and Texas Tech University System who guided her. Associate Professors of Political Science Jeremy Duff and Linda Veazey, Dean of the College of Humanities & Social Sciences Samuel Watson, and Associate Professor of History Whitney Snow steered her in the right direction while Assistant to the President for System, Governmental, and University Relations Debbie Barrow and the internship coordinator at TTUS helped her keep her summer organized.

“I wasn’t left on my own. Everyone here has been great,” she said. “They’ve been excited for me and so supportive.”

Gomez can’t wait for the next student to receive an internship and to see more students take advantage of all the resources MSU Texas has to offer. “I’d love to see other students benefit from an internship,” she said. “There are so many awesome resources here and many ways to get involved. Professors can help you with cover letters and recommendations. Just ask how you can get there. They are more than willing to see you succeed. They share your goals. They’re not here to see you fail.”