As an aspiring public servant, Natalia Hernandez ’21 wanted an internship that would allow her to see how national higher education policies can affect students locally. Through a summer experience grant, Hernandez ‘21 is spending the summer working in Washington D.C. as a government relations and communications intern at the National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER).
NCHER is a higher education finance trade association that helps its member organizations, which include lenders and colleges that help families pay for higher education.
“I decided to focus on higher education policy this summer because during my first year at Cornell I became heavily involved in student affairs and campus life,” Hernandez said. “I wanted to learn how it works at the federal level.”
Hernandez served on the Student Assembly as the minority students liaison at-large for the 2017-2018 academic year and was the vice president of alumni affairs of the Cornell Lending Library, a student-run organization that helps alleviate the burden of the high cost of supplies such as textbooks and test prep materials by providing these resources. Hernandez says these campus experiences have helped her in her internship.
“Being part of the Student Assembly helped me understand the complexities of certain policy that affects students, both at the university and federal level,” Hernandez said. “Being a part of the Cornell Lending Library has also given me a more personal understanding of policy, and how it affects underrepresented groups across campus.”
As an intern, Hernandez attends research symposiums, assists the director of communications in managing NCHER’S social media accounts and writes the Daily Briefing, a newsletter sent out to NCHER’s member organizations, that covers relevant bills introduced on the Hill and news from the Department of Education and Congressional hearings.
“Facilitating the writing of the Daily Briefing is one of the most fulfilling tasks because I get to learn about higher education policy that affects me as it unfolds,” Hernandez said. “I look at higher education policy with a magnifying glass because I know how policy can affect people’s everyday lives, and that has helped me understand many of the reports and briefings.”
Hernandez is also assisting in making a legislative tracker for NCHER which will be a document that contains current legislation related to higher education that Congress is working on. Hernandez says this internship has allowed her to view education policy from a variety of perspectives.
“Less than two weeks into my internship, I realized that if we as students don’t voice our opinions to the people writing the legislation, our needs will not be adequately represented.”
Yvette Lisa Ndlovu is a communications assistant for the College of Arts & Sciences.