Hannah Winters (LTAP 17) always thought she would be a teacher – until her summer in the Leadership and the American Presidency (LTAP) program, the TFAS summer program offered in conjunction with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute (RRPFI). She discovered a new passion for public policy and she is now combining it with her natural aptitude for leadership. Winters has created a program at her sorority, Kappa Delta, to educate her sisters about what’s behind current events and how legislation affects their lives.
Originally from Indiana, Winters attends Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana and is majoring in English studies with a minor in political science. She is in her third year but is aiming to graduate early, in the spring of 2018, so she can pursue her dream of coming back to Washington, D.C. to work on the Hill, a dream she discovered during her transformative summer as a TFAS student and an intern at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO).
Because of her interest in both the communications field and healthcare policy, TFAS helped Winters land a communications internship at NHPCO, a nonprofit membership organization representing hospice and palliative care professionals and organizations nationwide.
I changed more in two months than ever before in my college career.”
– Hannah Winters (LTAP 17)
During her internship, Winters was exposed to the cross-departmental nature of communications work, and the variety of it appealed to her. She wrote 80 stories for the NHPCO’s website and magazine, collaborating with the philanthropy department and public policy department. It was while working with the public policy department, though, that something clicked.
“That led me to Capitol Hill with our lobbyists a lot,” she said. “I got to see from an association’s perspective how lobbying works. I got to lead a group of Indiana hospice providers on Capitol Hill to talk to their congressional delegation. That was the highlight of the whole summer – getting to share with people from my home state about the legislation that was affecting their industry … going with them to these congressional meetings and giving them pointers on how to talk about the legislation with their senator or representative.” The experience gave her a clearer sense of what she wants to do in her career. She now aims to return to Washington, where she hopes to influence policy.
I remember looking around during the LTAP closing dinner and realizing that the people around me were going to be my lifelong friends.”
– Hannah Winters (LTAP 17)
In the meantime, Winters has created an opportunity to continue learning about policy, honing her leadership skills and fostering the conversations she enjoyed so much during her TFAS experience, all while meeting a need among her friends back at Ball State University.
When she rejoined her Kappa Delta sorority sisters after the summer, she created a leadership position she titled current events chair and took it upon herself to educate her sisters about developments in the news. Now, at each meeting, she will take a few minutes to explain the events behind the events in the news. She has covered topics from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to the difference between Medicare and Medicaid.
Her inspiration for the new chair role came from one of her LTAP classes, when a guest speaker, Professor Nancy Thomas of Tufts University, talked to her class about the importance of civic engagement. Winters realized that many young people have a skewed view of politics. She recognized the need for citizens to be more knowledgeable about issues that affect them – and she realized her sorority was the best place for her to take a leadership role and encourage civic engagement.
“It’s been the more fulfilling side,” she said, “seeing girls bring their interests to me and ask ‘What does this mean?’” Several of her Kappa Delta sisters are active in raising awareness about sexual assault on campus and have asked for her to talk about legislation that affects campus sexual assault policies. She said it feels good that they are trusting her to keep them informed – and that they are joining into the spirit of her current events updates.
Since Winters graduates in May 2018, TFAS asked what will become of the newly-created current events chair position. “I fully plan on training up the next sister to take the position over,” Winters said. “I have several sisters who I know have political interests. I’m sure someone will fill it. I’m hoping it has left a positive effect to where people will want to continue it when I’m gone.”
As a female, it’s exciting to work for a female, and I definitely connect with Congresswoman Brooks’ policies.”
– Hannah Winters (LTAP 17), speaking of U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks
While her classmates rested at home during the winter break, Winters once again showed her passion to succeed by taking up another internship, this time in U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski’s district office in Indiana. She landed the coveted position by using her networking skills and reaching out to a D.C. contact she made during her TFAS summer.
“I don’t do well with vacations,” Winters said. “I like to keep busy.”
During her internship, Winters closely watched local media for news the office needed – important headlines, mentions of the congresswoman, emergencies in the community, grant needs of local organizations – and compiled a morning report to keep the staff informed. She also assisted case workers in the office, who handled issues ranging from veterans’ affairs and immigration, to adoption, taxes, healthcare and more. She appreciated the broad range of issues she encountered in the congressional office, and the veterans’ affairs caseworker took Winters under her wing and enabled her to sit in on constituent meetings.
On the last day of her internship, Winters also had the chance to see the busy Congresswoman Walorski in person, for the first time since meeting her during the summer in TFAS.
“She remembered me, so that was awesome, and remembered what we had talked about when I met her in Washington,” Winters said. “That was great. It was really encouraging.”
Never one to gather moss, Winters is rolling right into the new year at full speed. She attended the Indiana Republican Party’s campaign training and networking conference, “Congress of Counties,” as a volunteer for U.S. Rep. Luke Messer’s Senate campaign, witnessing the first Indiana straw polling of the coming election season. Also, she has begun a new internship in U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks’ office for her final semester of college and is eager to learn even more about congressional office life.
“As a female, it’s exciting to work for a female, and I definitely connect with Congresswoman Brooks’ policies. She’s the chair of the House Committee on Ethics and she has done a lot with judiciary policy, which is my area of want-to-be expertise.”
Winters has aspirations to move back to Washington after college and begin her career as a legislative assistant in a congressional office, hoping to eventually work up to legislative director. She has just accepted a paid position on Representative Messer’s campaign, which has the potential to start her on the path toward her dreams, if his bid for the Senate seat is successful. She also feels the call of law school and potentially running for public office to represent Indiana in the future. Although her goals are ambitious, Winters has the motivation, energy and – thanks to TFAS – the experience to succeed.
“Every part of my professional life is fun for me,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like a job.”