Montana State University

Recent MSU alum completes internship with U.S. Senate Finance Committee

February 16, 2010 -- Anne Pettinger Cantrell, MSU News Service


MSU alumnus Grant Jamieson recently completed an internship with the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.   High-Res Available

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Montana State University alumnus Grant Jamieson's recent internship with the U.S. Senate Finance Committee sometimes reminded him of an old adage: "The more you know, the more you don't know." Nevertheless, the 22-year-old College of Business graduate said his experiences with the committee were invaluable.

Those experiences ranged from answering constituents' phone calls to monitoring a room during the health care debate to researching business incubators and meeting a former presidential candidate.

"I learned a lot, but I have a lot more questions now, too," he said. "I want to find out a lot more. It's pretty exciting."

Jamieson had originally planned to join the Peace Corps soon after graduating from the College of Business last May. But the application process took longer than he had anticipated, so he decided to pursue other options in the meantime. He had heard about the possibility of interning through U.S. Senator Max Baucus' office earlier in the spring. In the past five years, about 20 students from MSU's College of Business have completed an internship with the Senate Finance Committee.

The internship Jamieson won is growing more competitive, particularly because it pays a salary for interns who are college graduates. Jamieson's chances improved because he was from the same state as Baucus, a Democrat from Montana who sits at the helm of the committee. Jamieson ended up serving as an economic development intern. His supervisor, J.J. Adams, is Baucus' economic adviser.

"What I did really varied from day to day," Jamieson said. One of his main projects involved researching business incubators. His goal was to find a sustainable business model for incubators so that they didn't need government support.

"I was trying to find ways that business incubators can generate enough income to be self-sufficient," he said.

Jamieson attended most Finance Committee hearings, and during Finance Committee debates, Jamieson sometimes served as an usher in the room. This responsibility allowed him to be present in the room while the committee was debating the health care bill.

One of his favorite parts of the internship was answering phone calls from senators' constituents. This, he said, allowed him to really communicate with people.

"Even the angry ones," Jamieson added. "I got to diffuse their anger, calm them down a little bit. It was more about the quality than quantity of the conversations."

Jamieson also performed research about unemployment and for the potential job creation bill. He examined how much it costs to create jobs under certain programs.

And, while he was in Washington, he attended a number of hearings and heard several high-profile people testify, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Once, he saw Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, walking down a hallway, and on another occasion, he met a well-known senator from Massachusetts.

"I met John Kerry!" Jamieson said, explaining that he and Kerry, who was the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, both were part of a large group of people involved in a late-night meeting about the health care debate.

Before heading to Washington, Jamieson received a business degree with an emphasis in management and a minor in entrepreneurship from MSU in the spring of 2009.

He had lived in Bozeman since he was 10, when he moved to the community with his family from Chicago. Going to MSU worked out well logistically, Jamieson said, because in-state tuition and living at home saved both him and his parents money. "I didn't have any loans when I graduated," Jamieson said.

He had originally planned to pursue a career in architecture at MSU, but he switched to business because he thought it would be more practical. Both of his parents are small business owners.

And, he said the MSU College of Business was great. He especially liked the business courses because they emphasized hands-on experiences, including learning in groups.

For example, through one class, Jamieson worked on a sustainability project involving tourism and housing with a ranch in Hawaii, and in another consulting course, he worked with the Ellen Theatre in Bozeman on a Web site and marketing plans.

"Projects like those made (school) a lot of fun," he said.

Throughout his undergraduate career, he also spent a semester in Hawaii through an undergraduate exchange program. He said it was fun and a good learning experience, too.

It was characteristic of Jamieson to seek out varied experiences, said Linda Ward, assistant director of MSU's Bracken Center.

"I know Grant as a student that came into the Bracken Center looking for internship and job ideas," she said. "Grant is a student eager to step outside of his comfort zone and try new experiences.

"He is interested in service to others and plans to share his many skills and gifts in that direction," she added. "He is bright, articulate and thoughtful."

Now that he has completed the internship in Washington, Jamieson is returning to his original post-graduation plans. This spring, he'll travel to Bulgaria, where he'll serve for about two years as a Peace Corps volunteer. While there, he'll work in small business development.

He is looking forward to helping people through the Peace Corps and expects that his experience in Bulgaria will influence his career path.

"I'm sure the Peace Corps will change my perspective," he said, just as his internship in Washington did.

"I became a lot more critical of how government processes work throughout my internship," he said, and noted, for example, that the process of getting a health care bill to the Senate floor was "very slow." It also involved a lot of compromises, he said, which was frustrating to see.

However, Jamieson believes, the legislative process does work. "I don't know any other way you can do it," he said. "If you try to go faster, you lose a lot of good ideas in the process. And the process meant that more and better ideas were suggested."

Jamieson calls himself non-partisan. He said he is not registered as a Republican or a Democrat, but rather evaluates each issue on a case-by-case basis. "It's hard to a put a label on my beliefs," he said.

"I just wanted to go experience Washington," Jamieson said of his decision to seek out the internship. "Everyone there is incredibly smart. To be around that kind of intelligence was wonderful.

"I was right in the middle of people who write policy for the United States," Jamieson added. "It was amazing."

Grant Jamieson, grantj87@gmail.com