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Political science internship with Lauren Underwood campaign launches Washington career

Mar 06, 2019

Q & A with Ashley Clayton '18 describes how she turned an unpaid campaign internship into a full-blown Washington political career

A volunteer internship with the local Lauren Underwood campaign evolved into a position as a congressional staffer in Washington, D.C., for political science major Ashley Clayton ’18. In November, Rep. Lauren Underwood was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving Illinois’s 14th district after running against longtime incumbent Randy Hultgren. Here Clayton discusses her experience working as an intern on the campaign, and then moving to Washington, D.C., for her new career as Rep. Underwood's personal scheduler.


North Central College alumna Ashley Clayton standing in front of the U.S. Capitol.

Q: How did you connect with Lauren Underwood and her campaign? Did you know much about her?

A: I was motivated after the 2016 election and an internship in Washington, D.C., to get involved with a campaign and volunteer for a candidate I was passionate about. I reached out to a local family friend who was connected with several campaigns. She said a woman who was running for Congress needed volunteers and interns. I sent a résumé and cover letter, met with Lauren and was brought on as the campaign’s first intern. I initially did not know much about her, but after researching and meeting with Lauren, I knew she was someone who wanted to support her community and serve her constituents. Her values aligned with my own.

Q: What was the atmosphere of the campaign like early on … and later as it became clear Underwood had a chance to win?

A: Campaigns are like no other work environment and like no other experience I have ever had; the atmosphere is electric. Early on, the atmosphere was one of excitement, anticipation and anxiety. We were working incredibly diligently to engage the community and really build the congresswoman’s name recognition. As time progressed and we got closer to the election, the campaign was filled with excitement. We were hopeful, working each and every day to reach voters. A campaigns is an incredible experience—like nothing else I have done.

Rep. Lauren Underwood speaking at North Central College's annual MLK Prayer Breakfast.

Rep. Lauren Underwood speaking at North Central College's annual MLK Prayer Breakfast.

Q: What was your role on the campaign? What is your role now?

A: While working on the campaign I initially started as an intern, was hired full time as call time manager and was then promoted to deputy finance director. After the election, I was hired as the congresswoman’s scheduler.

Q: Your major was political science. Was this what you envisioned for a career?

A: This was certainly not what I envisioned for my career. I was a student of politics. I liked studying political science and writing about it, but never knew for sure if I wanted to work in it. After the 2016 election I was motivated to get involved with a candidate I was passionate about, but still would not have guessed I would be where I am today. Although this career path wasn’t planned, I am so grateful to be working on issues I care about and working for someone I truly believe is doing everything she can to make her community better.

Q: What is it like to live and work in Washington, D.C.?

A: I am absolutely in love with D.C. It has an energy I haven’t experienced in any other place. The city is incredibly diverse and there is always something going on; I can walk to work, restaurants and shopping. It’s a wonderful place to be a young professional.

Q: Where do you see yourself in the future?

A: I hope to remain in Washington doing work I am passionate about and serving my community.