Eye on the Helpers: Politics Major Applies Truth Practically
Date published: Aug. 17, 2020
Interning in a Pandemic
Politics major BeLynn Hollers, BA ’21, participated in site briefings at the White
House, the Department of State, the British Embassy and the Hong Kong Economic Office
this summer — albeit virtually. In her internship with the nonprofit Mil Mujeres Legal Services through The Fund for American Studies (TFAS), she learned to manage time zones, juggle meetings in L.A. and Chicago, and
help people attain legal residency status while also taking classes at George Mason
University — all from her Old Mill apartment. In retrospect, though she certainly sometimes missed the physical presence
of others and getting to actually be in D.C., she thinks that her experiences were
in some ways enriched by their virtual nature.
Mil Mujeres aims to help immigrants, particularly those in low-income communities
who have experienced violence in the U.S., as they work toward attaining legal status.
As a legal intern, Hollers’ duties included tasks such as processing mail and confirming
that all necessary documents for expedited cases were correct and in order. While
seemingly routine, such duties were critical to ensuring that legal residency cards
made it to the appropriate individuals and visa applications had the strongest chance
of being approved. Too often, expedited cases would be missing critical exhibits or
lacking significant items such as cover letters. Hollers’ responsibilities encompassed
searching for information in a client’s file to create a compelling cover letter or
determining what was needed to expedite a particular application.
“It wasn’t until I started working on these expedited cases, writing these persuasive
letters, that I realized this is very meaningful work,” she said. “It was kind of
boring because I was sitting at my desk in Old Mill by myself for the 10th day in
a row behind a laptop, but then I would read these stories, and a lot of these people
were victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, felonous crimes; a lot of them
have worked very hard to be where they’re at, but still have so many barriers to entry.
It was really inspirational to me to read some of the stories of what people had endured.”
Incorporating Coursework and Mentorship
TFAS is an academic internship normally based in Washington, D.C. As a Sumners Scholar at UD, Hollers had received an email earlier in the school year saying that the Sumners
Foundation would fund students for the program, but once the COVID-19 pandemic hit,
a summer in D.C. seemed questionable. TFAS later confirmed that the program would
proceed, albeit online, with full financial support from The Sumners Foundation for
the duration of the internship.
Hollers was required to take classes during the internship, so she took an “Economics
in Transition” course as well as a D.C. seminar course on political journalism and
public policy. The courses were through George Mason University, but part of the TFAS
“The political journalism and policy class was really cool because the policy side
incorporated projects for whatever organization you were working for,” said Hollers.
“I actually did a lot of immigration research and got to write memos and things like
that, and that was really interesting. I was able to take what I was learning and
go research and write papers on it as well.”
Hollers also worked on media posts and wrote informational articles on the Deferred
Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and immigrant rights.
Aside from the internship component and the course component, TFAS also includes guest
lectures and site briefings. Hollers attended many guest lectures and professional
development workshops, including a law school admissions panel and a graduate school
admissions panel. The guest lectures included “Why the Founders Created the Electoral
College,” “Political Economy: Is Capitalism Sustainable?” and “Free Speech Face-Off:
The Rights of Social Media Companies vs. the Right of Free Expression”(this last
given by National Review Online Editor Charles C.W. Cooke), among others. She received
the benefit of TFAS alumni networking and was paired with a mentor for the summer,
UD alumnus Peter Redpath, BA ’95, who works for the Federalist Society. Hollers and
Redpath met for an hour each week, during which Redpath shared law school and resume
tips and discussed the job market.
“It was very helpful,” said Hollers.
Arriving at UD
A transfer student from Collin College, where she earned an associate’s degree, Hollers
came to UD in the fall of 2018. At Collin College, she knew she wanted to go to law
school but didn’t yet know what to major in for her bachelor’s degree. To help figure
this out, she took courses in different disciplines, including philosophy, psychology
and political science. The political science class was based on political philosophy,
incorporating Aristotle, Plato and Locke, among others. Hollers went to her professor
for this course — Julie Hershenberg, J.D., who was also her pre-law adviser and still
serves as a mentor — and expressed uncertainty about where to transfer. Hershenberg,
whom Hollers credits with inspiring her to pursue a bachelor’s and later a J.D., recommended
the University of Dallas for its political philosophy program.
“Once I looked into the school, the Politics Department and the curriculum — the Core — I knew it was exactly where I wanted to go,” said Hollers.
“UD and having this liberal arts background have given me this way of thinking and
these beautiful components of truth,” she added. “What I really liked about this summer,
though, was that I learned how to apply truth practically — how to read policy and
how to interact with economics, for example.”
In Hollers’ economics class, they evaluated countries transitioning from socialist
economies into capitalist economies, including China, India, Russia and Venezuela,
as well as many countries in Africa.
“Knowing I know how to write, knowing I have this grounding from UD, has been really
helpful, but this summer gave me the chance to say, ‘This is how I can apply these
things practically; this is how I can take what I’ve learned and put it into action,’”
she said. “It solidified that I still want to go to law school, but I also want to
take some time off to explore other things. This summer has been very pivotal because
I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people, and I’ve gotten to connect with a lot of TFAS
alumni and ask them how they got a job in D.C., how they went from entry level to
where they’re at now, what education it took to get there, and that kind of thing.”
In general, Hollers feels that her UD experience has been very humbling. In community
college, she was more or less a straight-A student and was used to being at the top
of her class. But at UD, particularly in Core courses, she struggled a bit, particularly
“One of my professors said, ‘Yeah, you’re very smart in class, but your writing is
not good,’” she laughed. “In my classes this summer, though, I did great — I got a
100 on my final, and I’ve never gotten a 100 at UD! So, I see that at UD, yes, there
is rigor, and maybe my grades don’t always show the effort I put in, but going out
into the real world, it’s kind of a relief to know that I’m so much more prepared
than I thought I was.”
Applying Her UD Education
This summer, Hollers received the academic award for the public policy and economics
“When I got the award, I was like, ‘Are you sure?,’” she said. “It was nice to take
these classes, and they were difficult, but now I know I have this background that will help me. In my political
journalism class, the professor wrote on my final paper that I had the best paper
in the class, and again I asked, ‘Are you sure?’ — because I’m used to having the
worst paper at UD! So the summer has been really good for me in that it’s shown me
how much UD has helped me grow and become a better student.”
Hollers is not sure what type of law she wants to practice. In addition to the immigration
law internship, she worked as a receptionist at a family law firm while she was at
“In an ideal world, I would love to work in First Amendment rights, and that’s probably
what I’ll write my thesis on this semester, but I also want to take some time off
and get more specialized in a particular field. I’d like to work in media policy as
it relates to First Amendment issues,” she said.
This summer, she was able to talk to many people who went to law school but who also
took time off before and are doing very well in their careers.
“In fact, they’re doing even better in their careers because they made these connections
before they went and spent a lot of money on a law degree without knowing what field
they wanted to practice in,” she said. “I’m pretty open to exploring new things right
now; I’m pretty undecided.”
She has enjoyed her UD experience and is sad that it’s ending this year. As for the
summer, she had very much wanted to be able to do the internship in D.C., but she
thinks that if she had been there, she probably wouldn’t have gotten to also work
with the L.A. and Chicago offices, among other experiences unique to this much more
virtual (if hopefully temporary) world.
“I got exposed to a lot more than I think I would have if I was actually in D.C.,”
she said. “I’m sure there would have been other experiences there, but I’m thankful
for it for sure.”
At the end of her first week, her supervisor had shared a picture of a man whose mail
she had processed, holding his legal residency card.
“He now can work legally and provide for his family,” said Hollers. “We were able
to help people get legal residency status. Some desperately needed the health care
and the help. To be able to read their case file and their story and then write a
persuasive cover letter — sometimes we didn’t have a lot to work with, and were trying
to argue for a humanitarian visa, etc., and it’s uncomfortable reading some of the
accounts — and then to see a few weeks later that someone’s card got processed, was
“We were encouraged by the fact that even though we were behind our laptops by ourselves
in random states, we had this connection with people across the country,” she added.