Answering phones, fielding emails, filing forms, redirecting inquires — the tasks of the congressional intern seem humdrum.
But as an intern in U.S. Representative Jeff Van Drew’s office in Mays Landing, New Jersey, Morgan Spinner is often the first point of contact for people turning to their government for help.
“You get calls every day from people asking about unemployment or stimulus checks, or labor issues, or people trying to expedite their passports,” she says. “And you get a lot of people talking to you about their personal problems — stuff that I didn’t think that I would have much control over or involvement in.”
“I’m 20 years old,” the junior political science major laughs, “but I have a lot of connections to the people who are trying to get these issues solved.”
“I looked at UofSC, and the campus and the opportunities really drew me to it.”
— Morgan Spinner
Rep. Van Drew’s office is about an hour from Spinner’s hometown of Mullica Hill, New Jersey, where Spinner’s father fostered her interest in politics. They’d watch the news together — and occasionally debate the issues of the day. And when her dad took an interest in local politics, Spinner did, too.
Still, when it came time to go to college, Spinner knew that she had to leave New Jersey. She wanted good weather, hospitable people and big-time sports. She only toured schools in the South — and the University of South Carolina checked off every box on her list.
“I wanted to explore,” she says. “I needed to get away and have a whole new experience. I looked at UofSC, and the campus and the opportunities really drew me to it. I definitely made the right decision.”
Since she’s been at UofSC, Spinner’s immersed herself in opportunities catered to her political passions. As a member of the student senate, she’s helped draft legislation that’s been passed on to the faculty senate for universitywide consideration. Her student senate service helped her get into the Honors College’s South Carolina Semester Internship Program. The two-semester program starts with a seminar taught by former South Carolina Senator Vincent Sheheen that introduces students to state government operations and policymaking processes. It culminates in an internship in a state agency.
“Every decision I’ve made as a student has led me to where I’ve been.”
— Morgan Spinner
Spinner interned in the South Carolina Senate, and her time in the State House pushed her to apply for the congressional internship. Without the South Carolina Semester program, Spinner says, she probably wouldn’t have landed in Rep. Van Drew’s office. Having Sheheen as a reference on her application probably didn’t hurt, either.
When Spinner returns to campus this fall, she’ll turn her attention toward getting into law school — she’s interested in studying family law, and she says she’d love to stay in Columbia to do it. Once she’s out of law school, she’ll pursue politics again — though “definitely not state or federal” politics, she laughs.
For Spinner, the opportunity to make a local impact is paramount. One of the most rewarding parts of her internship in Rep. Van Drew’s office, she says, is when people track her down and thank her for her help — even if, she demurs, she played just a small role in the process.
“I just forwarded a form to my deputy chief of staff,” Spinner laughs. “But something as little as that, just making someone’s day, that really inspires me.”