By Ava Dunwoody | Arts & Life Editor
10-year-old Maggi McClanahan stood in front of the White House, looking at what would symbolize her newfound dreams to one day work professionally in the capital. She took her mother by the hand as she was led through Washington, D.C., for the first time.
The bustle of people around a beautiful city filled McClanahan’s young eyes as she watched and felt the importance and power held behind government walls. Most children aspire to be firemen or teachers, but as she stood in the middle of the sidewalk, McClanahan looked up to her mother with confidence.
“Mom,” McClanahan said, “I love this place and want to live here. I want to work for Congress.”
Many years and a college degree later, McClanahan stepped off the plane in Washington D.C. after graduating from Baylor University in May of 2020. She began an internship for Congressman Chip Roy of the 21st District of Texas.
“I had always thought being in D.C. was something that wasn’t tangible for me,” McClanahan said. “I didn’t think I could really do it.”
It was because of her friend Chloe Wick, Class of ‘18, that she was able to see someone else take the leap and find a job in Washington D.C. That showed her she could do it too, McClanahan said. When Wick called McClanahan and told her about an internship opportunity at her office, McClanahan said she was so excited.
“I felt like God was putting me in the right time and the right place,” McClanahan said. “It was just something I had always wanted to do.”
After working her internship for about six weeks, McClanahan was then able to find her first paying job in the capital. She was hired by The Livingston Group government relations firm founded by former House Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert L. “Bob” Livingston.
In this position, McClanahan works as a staff assistant to help lobby paperwork between the House and the Senate. She also contributes to research in varying policy categories including healthcare, international practice, law and defense.
McClanahan said she loves her job and hopes in the future to continue working with different aspects of Congress and gain more experience by branching out into other opportunities within the capital.
During her time at Baylor, McClanahan was a psychology major involved in Kappa Kappa Gamma, Baylor Ambassadors and Baylor Interdisciplinary Core (BIC). She was also in student government all four years of college and served as its Academic Affairs Chair.
McClanahan said Baylor helped her grow into a more well-rounded person through the holistic focus of the BIC education program.
“Freshman year, you delve into the five different realms of college [education]: intellectually, physically, spiritually, emotionally and socially,” McClanahan said. “It has helped me divide my own life out like that too. They are five elements that aren’t going to be perfect all the time, but when they are all good, your life is good in symbiosis.”
The biggest thing, however, that drew McClanahan to Baylor was the Baylor in Washington program, which she was a part of during the summer as a Mayborn Scholar.
“The summer program is a little more lax than the fall or the spring, but I was a Mayborn Scholar, which is when the Mayborn family pays for your class and gives you a living stipend,” McClanahan said.
As a Mayborn Scholar, McClanahan was responsible for finding her own internship and housing during the summer. She also was able to attend a Baylor networking event where she met Baylor alumni working in Washington D.C., and was required to submit weekly updates along with a paper recounting her time there.
McClanahan said she loved the summer program and appreciated that she was able to take it at her own pace. The program also included meeting with a cohort of other students, which enables students to make more connections and share their experiences with others going through similar paths.
“I learned how congress works and how policy works, even on the administrative side, which you don’t really get to know about,” McClanahan said. “Working with constituents back home and really [understanding] more about how our government functions and operates was really cool.”
Now able to take what she learned from the Baylor in Washington program and apply it to a real job in Washington D.C., McClanahan said she felt prepared by her experience as a student and felt ready to take on the new chapter in her life.
What she didn’t expect to be a part of working in D.C., however, is living there during a time of political unrest and change. She said in comparison to her summer in Washington, working there now has been overwhelming at times, but she appreciates the National Guard and other forces that work to ensure her safety.
“I have been learning to be thankful to live in a country that can provide us this security and thankful that there are so many people who desire a peaceful transition no matter what side of the aisle you are on,” McClanahan said. “Regardless of the situation we are in, there are a lot of people working as a team to make peace and to make this happen.”
As she looks forward to continuing making her dream of working in Washington D.C., a reality, McClanahan said she is grateful for the Baylor in Washington program and how it helped her get to where she is today. If it hadn’t been for the program, she said she wouldn’t have been able to live there in college and get a taste for her future.
“When I landed here, it felt like I was home,” McClanahan said. “Without the program, I wouldn’t have known that and wouldn’t have been so passionate to move up here after graduation.”
McClanahan said she encourages any student thinking about applying for the Baylor in Washington program to get as much information as they can. She said that going for it was the best decision she could have made and wants other students to take advantage of their opportunities while they have them.
“Baylor in D.C. was my favorite part of my Baylor experience,” McClanahan said. “It changed my life for the better, and I hope it will change yours too.”