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Prior to an internship at the Massachusetts State House of Representatives, Marquis Scholar Judith Hirx ’06 (Milford, Mass.) didn’t have a strong focus for her postgraduate goals.

A double major in government & law and economics & business, Hirx had thought about becoming a lawyer, seeking a career in international law, or pursuing a job in state politics.

After communicating with constituents and conducting research as an intern for Massachusetts State Rep. Robert Spellane, she knows precisely what she wants to do after she leaves Lafayette.

“Getting involved in public service is something I would love to do as a career,” says Hirx, a member of the crew team. “I knew that coming to college I wanted to do something with government or law, but through this experience I’ve found this is something I love to do. You get to have so much more contact with constituents, and you get the feeling that you’re actually helping people.”

One of her responsibilities was to develop a position paper for representatives about a 1913 law preventing interracial marriage. Gov. Mitt Romney was using the law to prevent homosexual couples outside Massachusetts from coming to the state to be married.

Despite the fact that the homosexual marriage issue is of national importance, Martha Akstin, Hirx’s internship supervisor and a legislative aide for Spellane, says she was not fazed by the assignment.

“She just sort of took it step by step,” Akstin says. “When you start on a very complex journey, you don’t look at the end and ask, ‘How am I going to get over those mountains?’ You say, ‘Well, I’m going to start my trip. Where am I going to begin?’”

Hirx also was responsible for addressing constituents’ phone calls.

“One woman called in and she had just moved to the district. She was trying to get her teaching license transferred and she had been transferred all over the place and couldn’t get a clear answer on what to do,” Hirx says. “It was so rewarding at the end of the day to think you helped this person. Some might think that’s not a big deal, but to the actual person, you’re helping them make their lives better.”

Akstin says most people who call the legislative office are angry and frustrated for being run around by other municipal or state agencies and that is why the delicacy of handling the calls is so crucial.

“[Legislative office workers] have to calm them down, be patient, and listen to them because sometimes they have to unburden themselves before they get to the point,” she says. “If you’re not approachable in the way you carry yourself or if the person doesn’t feel that you’re listening, they are going to become even more frustrated. Judy, with the way she listened and looks at people, is on the right track for a career in public service. You can’t be taught that or fake it, and she’s got it.”

Although Hirx is unsure of whether she would rather work at the state or federal level, she does know that the real-world experience of working with lawmakers has enhanced her education.

“A student hears about the theoretical or analytical aspects of government, but this internship gave me the opportunity to fit this in with the practical aspect of experiencing what I had learned about,” she says.

She thinks that an internship in Washington, D.C. this coming summer will shed light on the pros and cons of working with federal politicos and solidify the area for which she is best suited.

In addition to rowing on Crew Club, Hirx is secretary/treasurer for the Kirby Government & Law Society, a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority, a campus tour guide, and an economics and government tutor. She graduated from Milford High School.

Categorized in: Academic News