Recent donation to Les Aspin promotes civic understanding

Students+expand+their+civic+understanding+through+the+Les+Aspin+program+in+Washington+D.C.

Photo by Julia

Students expand their civic understanding through the Les Aspin program in Washington D.C.

Marquette University offers students the chance to bloom their careers alongside the cherry blossom trees in Washington D.C. at the Les Aspin Center for Government.

A Marquette alum recently donated $2 million to show support to the Les Aspin Center for Government in Washington, D.C.

Jackie Lewis, a 1960 graduate of the College of Arts & Sciences, made the donation to demonstrate her long-lasting support for the program. In previous years, Lewis and her husband have donated funds for student housing and educational centers in Washington D.C.

Karen Hoffman, the associate director for the Les Aspin Center for Government, said that the donation made by Lewis will help in continuing student interest in the program.

“The Aspin Center wants to ensure that students interested in the program can participate,” Hoffman said. “The incredibly generous gift from Jackie Lewis will allow us to provide more resources to students.”

The center is focused on providing specialized internship opportunities that are tailored to the interests of the student attending the program. Students take classes at the same time as completing their internship during their time in D.C. and are equipped with the tools to pursue their future career goals.

Hoffman said that students are exposed to a great number of different opportunities at the center, and students from any major are allowed to participate. She said that students will typically intern in congressional offices, federal agencies, advocacy groups, nonprofits and private firms.

Hoffman also said that the main goal of the program is to give students confidence in themselves to work in the professional world.

“Students have said after doing the program that they feel professionally confident. The internship is an adult experience, and students learn to feel comfortable in that setting. Students gain communication and writing skills, as well as an understanding of the policy environment and the decision-making process in D.C.,” Hoffman said.

Ana Cardenas Manrique, a sophomore in the College of Art & Sciences, is studying political science on the pre-law track and is currently involved in the Les Aspin Center for Government.

Manrique said that the Les Aspin Center for Government was a huge component of why she chose to attend Marquette. She said that other universities did not have this kind of hands-on opportunity that Marquette was offering, and this was something that she simply could not pass up.

At the center, Manrique said that she hopes to make solid connections and get some real work experience in Washington D.C.

“I am most looking forward to all the connections I am going to make on the Hill as well as in my congressional office,” Manrique said. “Out of this experience, I hope to get solid confirmation that I want to be involved with politics further down the road in my career.”

Teresa Godinez, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, was a participant in the program during the fall 2021 semester.

“I think D.C. gave me a lot of reassurance in the path I want to continue, which is law, and one day run for office,” Godinez said. “I was an intern on the Hill for my congressman, Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia, and he represents my district back home, 4th Congressional District of Illinois.”

Godinez said the biggest takeaway of the program was being acknowledged as a woman of color on the path of law and politics, and that there is space for her to thrive right where she wants to be. While Godinez said that this experience was life-changing, she has some suggestions for adjustments to be made to the program.

Godinez said that she hopes the program will increase its diversity. She said she feels that students of color are not aware of the program, which should be a goal for the future because representation matters in a program that offers so many different opportunities.

“I wished to have seen more students of color in this program because of how many opportunities are provided in D.C.,” Godinez said. “I hope to see Les Aspin as a more enriching place with people who come from different programs, and maybe this donation will help with this.”

This story was written by Phoebe Goebel. She can be reached at phoebe.goebel@marquette.edu