MIDDVantage | Exploring Careers on Capitol Hill
MIDDVantage is a virtual career exploration program that offers Middlebury students and alumni — through the perspective of Middlebury alumni and guests — exposure to fields of interest during a time in which in-person career programming, internship, and job experiences have been curtailed.
The US Congress is responsible for enacting laws that protect and improve our country. This series will highlight alumni working in various roles in and around Capitol Hill offering their perspective on their jobs and how legislation and policy is developed and implemented.
Episode 1: An Overview of How Congress Works: History, Mechanics, and the State of Affairs (37 minutes)
Guest Speaker: Matthew Dickinson, Professor of Political Science at Middlebury College
Interviewer: Abbott LaPrade ‘21
Matthew Dickinson previously taught at Harvard University, where he also received his Ph.D., working under the supervision of presidential scholar Richard Neustadt, and was a Fellow in the Governmental Studies Program at the Brookings Institution.
Matthew Dickinson is the author of Bitter Harvest: FDR, Presidential Power, and the Growth of the Presidential Branch (Cambridge University Press) and co-editor of Guardian of the Presidency: The Legacy of Richard E. Neustadt (The Brookings Institution).
He has also published numerous articles on the presidency, Congress, presidential decision making, and presidential advisers. His current book project, titled The President and the White House Staff: People, Positions and Processes, 1945–2016, examines the growth of presidential staff in the post-World War II era.
Episode 2: The President’s Budget and Appropriations: How Funding Drives Policy (37 minutes)
Guest Speaker: Anna Esten ’13, Mission Government and Community Affairs Specialist at Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals
Interviewer: Van Barth ‘21
Anna Esten ’13 worked on Capitol Hill for six years, most recently as the Senior Health Policy Advisor to U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), where she served as the Senator’s primary advisor on a wide range of health care issues.
She joined the Senator’s office in 2014 as a Legislative Correspondent before later becoming a Legislative Assistant. During her time with Senator Whitehouse, Anna supported the Senator’s health care work as a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and later as a member of the Senate Committee on Finance.
Prior to joining the Senate, Anna was the Legislative Correspondent and Scheduler for former U.S. Representative Allyson Y. Schwartz (D-PA).
Anna left Washington, DC in 2019 and now works in government and community affairs for a coalition of hospitals in the Greater Boston area. She received her BA in political science from Middlebury.
Episode 3: Lobbying: Advocating for People, Businesses, and Causes (39 minutes)
Guest Speaker: Suzy Chambers Sterner ’90, Senior Vice President, Government Relations at BWX Technologies
Interviewer: Akhil Koppisetti ‘21
Suzy C. Sterner ’90 is the senior vice president of government relations for BWX Technologies, Inc. (BWXT). In this role, she is responsible for the development and execution of Congressional and Administration activities in support of BWXT’s strategic plan and business initiatives as well as promoting the company’s brand and reputation in Washington.
Ms. Sterner has more than 25 years of executive leadership experience in various industries including public affairs, space, defense and aviation. Prior to joining BWXT, she served as the senior director of congressional relations for Orbital ATK, Inc., (now Northrup Grumman). During her professional career, she was also vice president of government affairs for SAIC, a premier technology provider.
Ms. Sterner was also the senior director of congressional relations for Exelis (now part of L3Harris Corporation) where she established a broad congressional network and implemented policy initiatives ranging from civil and military space to warfighter equipment. She also served more than six years with Aerojet Rocketdyne as director of congressional relations representing the company in civil, commercial and defense matters.
Episode 4: How a Bill Becomes a Law: Authorizations, Bill Development, and the Floor (29 minutes)
Guest Speaker: Charlie Arnowitz ’13, Senior Legislative Assitant, U.S. Congress
Interviewer: Sabrina Roberts ‘21
Charlie Arnowitz ’13 has worked on Capitol Hill since 2014, including in legislative staff roles for Representatives Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) and André Carson (D-IN) and Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA).
Currently, he is the Senior Legislative Assistant for Congressman Gomez, serving as his primary advisor on a wide range of domestic policy issues and handling his work on the House Ways and Means Subcommittees on Health, Social Security, and Worker and Family Support.
He is simultaneously pursuing a Masters in Public Policy degree from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. Prior to his time on Capitol Hill, he worked at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Arnowitz graduated from Middlebury College in 2013, where he studied political science and Chinese and was president of the student government. He is a native of Highland Park, Illinois.
Episode 5: Committees: Gatekeepers in the Legislative Process (35 minutes)
Guest Speaker: Leila Schochet ’16, Policy Advisor, U.S. Senate
Interviewer: Isla Bowery ‘21
Leila Schochet ’16 is a Policy Advisor on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee minority staff. In this role, Leila leads the Committee’s work on child care and early education, child welfare, child and family homelessness, and other children and families issues.
Prior to joining the HELP Committee, Leila was a Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress, where her research and advocacy focused on child care access and affordability, child care deserts, and the relationship between child care access and maternal labor force participation.
At Middlebury, Leila was a Psychology major with minors in Spanish and Education Studies. She is originally from Princeton, NJ.
Episode 6: How Committees Hold Presidents Accountable: Oversight, Investigations, and Impeachment (28 minutes)
Guest Speaker: Kelly Hennessy ‘15.5, Director of Member Services and Policy Advisor, US Senate
Interviewer: Joshua Mohling ‘21
Kelly Hennessy ‘15.5 briefly moved to New Zealand after graduation to work for a newspaper, before heading back to the states to work as an organizer with the Virginia Democratic Party during the 2016 election.
She has worked on Capitol Hill since 2017 for Congresswoman Maloney (NY-12). She is currently a Policy Advisor and Director of Member Services for the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
Episode 7: Concluding Interview with Representative Sean Casten (26 minutes)
Guest Speaker: Sean Casten ’93, Congressman
Interviewer: Fariha Haque, Director, Middlebury in DC
Sean Casten ’93 represents Illinois’ 6th Congressional District, located in Chicago’s western suburbs. He is serving as a freshman in the 116th Congress, and is the first Democrat to represent the 6th District in nearly 50 years.Sean currently serves on the House Financial Services Committee, the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, the Select Climate Crisis Committee, and is a Co-Chair on the New Dems Climate Change Task Force.
Sean earned a B.A. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry in 1993. He then worked for two years as a scientist at the Tufts School of Medicine in a laboratory investigating dietary impacts on colon and breast cancer.
In 1998, he earned a Masters of Engineering Management and a M.S. in Biochemical Engineering from the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth.
His M.S. thesis was focused on the development of technologies to produce fuel-grade ethanol from cellulosic feedstocks and the techno-economic evaluation of various alternative ethanol, heat, and power generation technologies.
From 1997 to 2000, Sean worked as a consultant in the energy practice of Arthur D. Little, where he worked for a broad range of public and private sector companies doing work to evaluate, design, and optimize a broad range of clean heat, power, and fuel technologies.