Westmont Magazine Westmont in Washington, D.C.
After Nina Krig ’00 graduated from Westmont, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. “I knew I needed to wake up excited to go to work, believing I was making a difference in people’s lives,” she says.
She found such a job as legislative assistant for Joe Pitts, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania. Her duties include researching issues and recommending how to vote. She meets with lobbyists and special interest groups and reads constantly. “It’s intellectually stimulating to stay up on current events,” she says. “It’s cool because I’m paid to be aware of what is going on.
“Being a double major in biology and economics has helped me be informed on more than one topic,” Nina says. “It’s OK if I don’t know the answer. The key is to know how to find the answer. A liberal arts education sets you up to research a variety of topics and become well versed in a variety of subjects. That’s why I was able to survive without a political science background.”
Her position requires good research and reading skills and the ability to connect with people. “Westmont’s emphasis on relationships was a huge benefit for me because of the need to develop and maintain relationships in political circles,” Nina says.
She thinks Christians need to become involved in politics. “It’s essential to make our values heard through legislative policy. That’s difficult, because people don’t want religion imposed upon them. But we can encourage and support the values that Christ taught.”
Her work comes at a price. “The pay is low, the hours are long and the stress is high,” Nina says. “But supporting true leadership and working for causes I believe in keep me going when things get tough.”
Is she concerned about living in an area that terrorists have targeted? “When the Lord calls you to do something, it’s important to serve faithfully despite any fear you may have,” she responds.
When KaylenE Bettis ’02 left Westmont for Washington, D.C., she didn’t leave the college community. “There’s a large Westmont presence here,” she notes. “It’s great to have a Westmont family here on the opposite coast.”
As an intern/volunteer in the White House scheduling office, she has met and had her picture taken with the president, had lunch in the West Wing with her boss, listened to the symphony from the presidential box in the Kennedy Center, met Barbara Walters after listening to her be interviewed by CNN, and assisted in the Easter egg roll on the White House lawn.
Kaylene appreciates the diversity she has encountered in the capital, which is a change from Westmont. She was surprised to discover the college had prepared her to handle it. “My professors worked hard to equip me with the ability to relate to and love a variety of people,” she explains.
An English major and communication studies minor, Kaylene learned to speak “eloquently and gracefully with others, demonstrating that those who live their lives from a Christian world view are not ignorant.
“At Westmont you hear a lot about the importance of integrating faith and learning. I’ve seen the practical application of that as I have been able to integrate my faith into everything I’m doing here.”
Her time in D.C. has become a kind of off-campus semester, and she has embraced the opportunity to continue learning and growing. “I have been convicted about knowing so little about what is going on the world, let alone our own country,” she says.
“My experiences and exposure to the political world have shown me some of the things I can do to become a more productive citizen. There is a definite need for a Christian presence within the political world. But Christians need to be active wherever they are.”
Laura Brookshire ’00, deputy press secretary for Rep. Tom Delay, represents his first line of defense. “Because he is the majority whip, everyone wants his ear,” she explains. “If Fox News, CNN, or NBC want him, they come through me, and I find out whether or not to book him on the show.”
Laura describes Delay as a “very conservative, very Republican, very Christian man who is outspoken about his ideals.” His popularity with the press makes her job more exciting. “They love him because they hate him,” she notes.
Writing press releases is a big part of Laura’s job, and she thinks her Westmont education prepared her well. “Having written and read so much was a big advantage and helped me in an environment where I had a lot of catching up to do. Westmont gave me confidence to present myself in a professional manner,” she says. As a communication studies major, she thought through and wrote about a wide variety of moral arguments, preparing her for the issues she encounters every day.
“I felt a bit like a fish out of water moving from laid-back California to the politically charged environment of the East Coast,” she notes. “In college, everything was up for discussion and debate; it was the realm of all arguments. Here you have to pick and defend a side all day long,” she reflects. This aspect of the job went against her personality, which makes it especially nice to get together with other Westmont alums. She was surprised by the number of them in the area. “Even though I didn’t know them well, we had a common ground, a similar base, the same faith — it was comforting.”
Laura encourages other alums to come to D.C. “You don’t have to chain yourself to a cubicle,” she says. “Washington is a mecca of opportunity. There is a place for anything you want to do and an intricate community already set up and willing to help you.”