From Mizzou to McCaskill’s Office
Mateo Mateo says one of the most important lessons he learned at Mizzou during his freshman year is to pay attention in class. The Immokalee, Florida, native was sitting in one of Teaching Professor Bill Horner’s political science classes last spring when he heard Horner mention that applications were being accepted for the Betty Ann McCaskill Memorial Scholarship, which provides financial support to undergraduates studying political science who participate in internship programs in Washington, D.C.
Mateo, who is majoring in accounting with a minor in political science, stayed after class to discuss the scholarship with Horner, then applied for it and received it.
“Had I not been paying attention in class that day, I don’t know that I would have met the people from Mizzou who are now my friends, and I don’t know if I would have gotten a scholarship — it just fell into place,” he says.
Learning the Ropes
Mateo interned in the Washington, D.C., office of now-former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who is the daughter of Betty Ann McCaskill. Mateo spent two months in our nation’s capital last summer and calls it an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“I took a lot from it,” he says. “As an intern, learning to be professional is huge. When someone tells you to do something, you’d better do it. When you are working with legislative assistants or legislative staff, you’ve got to know your role. Everyone starts out from the bottom and works their way up. You don’t know everything, and that’s okay. It’s okay to ask questions.”
Mateo says activity in the office became rather hectic during high-profile events like the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings or the announcement of the administration’s child-separation policy for immigrants along the southern border — times when the senator’s office would be flooded with faxes, emails, and voicemails that he and other interns handled. But he relished Sen. McCaskill’s weekly “Coffee with Claire” sessions when she met with constituents and had her picture taken with them.
Mateo’s job was to set up the large conference room for “Coffee with Claire,” and then after they had their pictures taken with the senator, he would help them get to their next destination. After lunch, he would give tours to constituents through the U.S. Capitol Building, taking them through the underground tunnels that connect senatorial buildings. After the tour, Mateo often attended an intern lecture series, hearing from prominent officials such as Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama or Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”
A typical day ended with Mateo completing his research assignments and doing light office work.
Lunch with the Boss
Near the end of the internship, Mateo and the other interns were invited to have lunch with the senator in her personal office.
“It was just Claire being herself — as a person, as a mother, as a former student. She told us about her days at Mizzou, how she worked as a prosecutor, and the challenges she faced as a woman in a male-dominated legislature in Jefferson City, and how that experience reinforced her stances on things like women’s equality or health care.
“It was incredible; it did not feel like we were talking to a U.S. senator—we were talking to Claire McCaskill.”
From Interns to Friends
Mateo says he was the youngest of the Mizzou students he lived with in Washington, D.C., and he did not know any of them before he arrived. But he now considers them friends. Before heading home to Florida, he and a few of the other interns got together for dinner in Columbia.
“Although the adventure ended, our friendship continues,” he says.
Taking Advantage of Opportunities
Mateo is very grateful for the experience and to everyone who helped him. He says the Betty Anne McCaskill Scholarship helped him secure housing in the WISH building where fellow Mizzou students were staying, and it helped defray other expenses associated with interning in Washington, D.C., such as Metro Rail passes and a new suit.
“It was all made possible by the College of Arts and Science and people from the Department of Political Science, and I want to give a shout out to Dr. Horner for making that announcement,” he says.
“To future students who are considering political science or considering a major or minor outside of the norm, be open to new possibilities, and keep your options open. That’s why I chose political science as a minor — you just have to be open to experiencing something outside of your comfort zone.”
This summer, Mateo is returning to D.C. to intern for PricewaterhouseCoopers.