After nine years as a recruiter at a prominent law firm, Gwen Farmer enrolled at Howard University, where she’s now a junior. She is interning in the office of Rep. William Lacy Clay, and contemplating a radical career change.
Gwen Farmer isn’t your typical Hill intern.
After nine years as a recruiter at one of Washington, D.C.’s most prominent law firms, Farmer realized she had one major regret: She had never finished college. She enrolled at Howard University, where she’s now a junior. She began an internship in the office of Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.). And she’s contemplating a radical career change.
“I didn’t want it to say on my epitaph: She didn’t finish college,” Farmer said in an interview in Clay’s office.
Farmer, a lively (possibly?) 40-something in a brightly colored print dress, laughed when asked about her age.
“Even my son doesn’t know my real age,” she replied. “Age isn’t a big deal.”
She found the internship through the for-credit Congressional Internship Program at the University of the District of Columbia, hoping it would bring her one step closer to her dream of working in communications or public relations on Capitol Hill.
In Clay’s office, she has worked on constituent correspondence and has attended hearings. Clay has given her more responsibility than a normal intern, Farmer said. “I’ve run major offices, and I know what it takes to be efficient and take the ball and run,” she said.
‘Youthful, Fun and Happy’
Farmer dropped out of the University of Maryland at 19 to raise her son. Later, she struggled to find time to return to school.
She worked as a paralegal. Thirteen years of experience led to her being hired as a senior recruiting coordinator, where she spent nine years traveling around the country to recruit the best students from top law schools.
But Farmer realized how much further she could go if she had a degree, which she had been only three semesters from attaining at College Park.
Her son, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, recently earned his MBA from the University of Virginia.
“I felt like a hypocrite because I was always adamant about my son doing extremely well in school,” she said. “I just always thought there’s something incomplete in my life. And I always did well in school, but I just didn’t finish.”
Last year she took the leap, quitting her job and enrolling at UDC to finish her degree in communications and journalism. For the fall semester, she transferred to Howard.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.