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Senior Criminal Justice Major Witness to History as Capitol Hill Intern

People of Plattsburgh

mary stockman in front of capitolA SUNY Plattsburgh senior interning on Capitol Hill witnessed the historic ouster of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy earlier this fall.

Mary Stockman, a criminal justice and law and justice double major from Hamburg, N.Y., is interning in the Washington, D.C., office of her hometown representative, Democratic Congressman Brian Higgins. Higgins represents New York’s 26th district, which includes Buffalo, Hamburg and Niagara Falls.

‘Watched Vote from the House Gallery’

Stockman’s internship supervisor sent her and a fellow intern to the gallery of the House chamber Oct. 3 so they could witness events as they unfolded following Rep. Matt Gaetz’s Oct. 2 motion to vacate the chair of the House of Representatives.

She said that following the Florida Republican’s rarely used motion, word got around among staffers that the effort to remove McCarthy could succeed.

A small faction of House Republicans voted with 208 Democrats to oust McCarthy from his position in a political move unprecedented in American history — the first time a House speaker has been removed in a no-confidence vote.

McCarthy drew the ire of some conservative members after he worked with Democrats to pass a last-minute continuing resolution to fund the government.

“Everybody (there) knew it was going to happen. There was a lot of tension,” she said. “It was wild to be there when that happened.”

Three Weeks Without a Speaker

The drama continued for the next three weeks while Republicans struggled to elect a new speaker while barreling toward the threat of another government shutdown.

Since Stockman isn’t an essential employee, she couldn’t work if the government shut down and that worried her, she said.

But another continuing resolution, this time spearheaded by new Speaker Mike Johnson, passed Nov. 15 so the threat of Stockman’s internship coming to an early end is over. She can continue serving the constituents who rely on Higgins’ office.

“I’m here to learn, I’m here to work, and I don’t want there to be a government shutdown,” she said.

Stockman was given the opportunity to witness the historic moment in Congress thanks to the dedication of SUNY Plattsburgh faculty, she said. Without their help, she wouldn’t have seen her internship as affordable or attainable.

john mcmahonShe said she learned about the SUNY Washington Internship Program from Dr. John McMahon, associate professor of political science.

“It’s important to me that students not only know about internship opportunities but also can have a dialogue about how internships fit into their time at SUNY Plattsburgh and to their future beyond their time here,” McMahon said.

A crucial part for Stockman was that the program allowed her to continue paying in-state tuition while living in Washington D.C., she said, adding that her lodging is in a house owned by the internship program near the Supreme Court.

“I’m living with 10 other people, and most of them are SUNY students,” Stockman said.

‘Work with Constituents, Monitor Media’

Her internship duties range from answering constituent phone calls, attending Congressional committee hearings and monitoring media sources for mentions of Higgins.

“It’s made me become a more patient person,” Stockman said. “I’m more diligent than I think I used to be. I feel like I used to have the last word. Now, I’m definitely listening (more).”

Internship Includes Field Trips, Research Paper

Stockman performs her office duties Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, she attends a seminar class and explores the various government attractions in D.C. with other interns.

stockman at oblisk She visited the Library of Congress, Supreme Court, State Department, Pentagon, NASA, the White House gardens and several Smithsonian museums.

“I love how the class is structured. We’ll travel all around D.C.”

Stockman said students also write a research paper about a topic of their choice. Her paper compares conditions in U.S. prisons to those in Norway.

‘Inquisitive and Open-minded’

When she’s on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus, she serves as a community advocate in the residence halls and is active in the political science department.

“Mary is one of the most inquisitive and open-minded students I have encountered, which she pairs with her commitment to her learning and the learning of her peers,” McMahon said.

“She is also one of the student leaders in the political science department, which houses the interdisciplinary law and justice major. She is an advocate for the program who always volunteers to meet with prospective students and contribute to the department community.”

Stockman said McMahon is a mentor for her.

“I’m so appreciative of Professor McMahon. I don’t think I would have survived college without him. Whenever I’m back at school, I’m always in his office talking to him. He’s helped me through a lot in my personal life.”

‘Never Afraid to Shape Class Discussion’

ray carmanDr. Ray Carman, associate professor in political science, said Stockman’s contributions to class discussions benefit her fellow students.

“In the classroom, Mary is never afraid to lead and shape the discussion. Outside the classroom she is looked up to by her peers. She is always available to help them, whether it be offering advice, helping with academic or personal issues or even helping student pick their course schedule for the next semester.”

Carman said that Stockman’s passion for her two majors influenced her to recruit new majors in the department.

“She has also been one of the political science department’s best recruiters. She joins faculty at formal recruitment events and even does her own extracurricular recruitment for the department,” Carman said.

'Preparation for Career’

Carman said students in the political science department are well situated for success in internship work.

“They provide students an opportunity to further develop their critical thinking, researching and writing skills. They also provide students an opportunity to explore potential careers and make connections with individuals who might be able to assist them in finding future employment,” he said.

After she graduates in spring 2024, Stockman plans to enroll in the U.S. Navy.

“I would like to go into intelligence,” she said, adding that she has not ruled out a run for office in her future.

“I’m just going to plan for the next five years and then see what happens after that.”

— By Assistant Director of Communications Felicia Krieg/Photos Provided

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