Political science major interned at the Capitol during Jan. 6 riots


Courtesy of Gladys Heitzman

Gladys Heitzman, senior, interning at the Capitol with Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran.

Senior Gladys Heitzman came to Wichita State pursuing a film certification. Now, she has interned at Washington, D.C., attended congressional meetings and made strides to overcome social anxiety. 

Heitzman knew she wanted to major in political science after hearing of an internship at the Capitol in a general education course called intro to international relations. She is utilizing her interests in both history and politics, with a double major in history as well. 

“I already knew I liked government and policy before,” she said. “I just didn’t think of it as a career.” 

Heitzman had little exposure to government careers and political science in high school. Hearing about the internship helped her realize that her interest in politics is something she could turn into a career.

“It made it seem more realistic for me,” she said.

Dr. Neal Allen, associate professor of political science, travels to colleague’s classrooms to talk about internship programs in Topeka and D.C. He recommends this for students interested in public affairs.

Heitzman had the opportunity to intern with Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran (R) in Washington, D.C. from Jan. to May of 2021. 

“I’m really glad that Gladys put herself forward for an internship,” Allen said. “She did great work and she was able to serve both the people of Kansas and the people of the United States.”

Her third day on the job, citizens who believed the 2020 election was rigged stormed the Capitol. The polarization of politics, in that situation and others, caught her interest. 

“Seeing how people reacted […] has always kept me up thinking about it and wanting to learn more,” she said. 

Allen called Gladys after the Jan. 6 insurrection and asked if she wanted to come home. She chose to stay. 

“The spring of [2021] was a difficult time to be an intern in Washington, D.C.,” Allen said. “Gladys and our other interns that semester did a great job. They all served their offices and the public good in a way that I think is really commendable.” 

The internship with Moran has challenged her to confront the polarization in herself. Not being a Republican, Heitzman was surprised to find her own view on others’ politics changed.

“[It] definitely switched my perspective on a lot of things and decreased polarization within myself,” she said. “I want to see that in the community.”

Working to help Kansans with their stimulus check payments also contributed to her personal growth within politics. Upon hearing that she would be taking calls about missing checks, Heitzman was far from excited. 

“I didn’t want to file paperwork over taxes,” she said. “I wanted to talk about politics.”

However, hearing how she had made a positive difference in someone’s life and was able to help people gave her a new perspective. 

“Realizing that I actually did make a difference in someone’s life […] definitely opened my eyes,” Heitzman said. “No, it’s not a Republican office; it’s a Kansas office. We’re working for the betterment of Kansas lives.”

Currently an intern for the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), an organization that helps young Filipinos interested in government connect with older Filipinos with experience, Heitzman hopes to become a policy specialist, work again in a senator’s office or work in a representative’s office. Her experiences have taught her that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as one learns from them afterward.

“[My internships] definitely helped me come out of my shell,” she said. “Just because you made a mistake doesn’t mean you failed.”