Business & Society

Alumni in Politics: From Old Main Hill to Capitol Hill

Utah State University may seem a long way from world capitals like Washington, D.C., but over the years, it’s proven itself a reliable way to get there.
A rural Nevada boy named Harry Reid liked what he saw at USU, and used his political science and history double major to vault him into a successful career in the United States Senate. Now he’s the Senate Majority Leader, occupying arguably the most influential seat in the entire legislative branch. And he’s not the only one. Students from a wide variety of departments and majors — not just political science — leave USU’s campus equipped for leadership in the world ahead.
The university’s political internship program plays a pivotal role in that success. The program places an astounding 50 to 60 students in various positions each year, including about 35 in Washington. In addition to class credit, student interns receive actual policy experience. In our nation’s capital, they work alongside high-profile decision-makers. On the local level, they perform vital tasks and swiftly ascend the ladder. Aggies stand out in work for elected officials, think tanks, and non-profit organizations alike. In each capacity, they establish valuable contacts, giving them the leg up on future career opportunities. It’s no surprise then, that USU political interns lead all Utah schools in actual job placement. Capitol Hill isn’t so far away after all.
Alumni spotlight: Harry Reid ‘61
U.S. Senate Majority Leader 2006-Present, U.S. Senator (D-NV) 1986-present
  • 1939: Born in Searchlight, Nevada, and raised in a cabin without indoor plumbing
  • 1961: Graduated from Utah State University, then worked as a U.S. Capitol police officer to support his family through law school
  • 1968: Elected to Nevada State Assembly at age 28
  • 1970: Became youngest Lieutenant Governor in Nevada’s history at age 30
  • 1977: Appointed as Chairman, Nevada Gaming Commission
  • 1982: Elected to U.S. House of Representatives
  • 1986: Elected to U.S. Senate
  • 2006: Became U.S. Senate Majority Leader
USU Political Legacy
  • Norah al-Faiz ‘82: Deputy Minister for Women’s Education in Saudi Arabia. Named to Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People of 2009”
  • Ardeshir Zahedi ‘50: Former Assistant to the Prime Minister of Iran, Ambassador to the U.S., U.K.
  • Elizabeth Dowdeswell ‘72: Special Advisor, Nuclear Waste Management Organization; former Executive Director, United Nations Environment Program
  • Mike Simpson ‘72: U.S. House of Representatives (R-ID), 1999-present
  • Kathleen Clarke ‘72: Director, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, 2001-06
  • Deanna Okun ‘85: Commissioner, U.S. International Trade Commission, 2000-08
  • Grayson Weeks ‘10: White House Internship Program
Related link:
Writer: Jeff Carr, 435-797-1355,
Sen. Harry Reid is a USU alum

Sen. Harry Reid '61

the rotunda of the Utah State Capitol building

The beautiful Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City is a second home to many current and former Aggies.


Alumni 122stories

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