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Nation’s capital draws young Union alums

Katie (Mohler) Barnes at her desk in Sen. Mitch McConnell's office in Washington, D.C. Barnes is one of several recent Union graduates who have worked in the nation's capital.
Katie (Mohler) Barnes at her desk in Sen. Mitch McConnell's office in Washington, D.C. Barnes is one of several recent Union graduates who have worked in the nation's capital.

WASHINGTONJuly 26, 2013 – A handful of Union University graduates each year make their way from West Tennessee to Washington, D.C., often to pursue careers in politics and the media.

Karl Magnuson, Union’s 2011 Student Government Association president, walked the wide corridors of the U.S. Capitol Building as an intern for Mitch McConnell’s office, after working on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. McConnell is the Senate minority leader.

“You get to see a lot of incredible stuff,” Magnuson said, looking up at the Capitol dome while giving a tour on his second-to-last day in Washington this spring. “There really is no room in the entire country like this room.”

Walking backwards to face his tour group, Magnuson rattled off facts about the history-rich building, naming the last justices who sat in the old Supreme Court room in the Capitol and telling the histories of many of the statues of famous Americans that stand around every corner.

As an intern, Magnuson worked under one of his friends from Union, Katie (Mohler) Barnes, who graduated in 2011 with a degree in history.

“Katie probably has the third best view in Washington,” Magnuson said.

A tall window that sheds light on her desk is the same window through which Thomas Jefferson waved to people standing outside in 1800 as their new president. Men had stood in Barnes’ office to cast the tie-breaking vote which secured Jefferson’s win over Aaron Burr.

“It never gets old to walk into this building as the office,” Barnes said.

As director of arrangements in McConnell’s leadership office, Barnes’ desk sits in the room adjacent to McConnell’s. She provides member outreach from the senator’s office and serves as the “gatekeeper” to McConnell, welcoming some of the world’s most powerful men and women as they met with him.

Barnes said even more than her job, she has appreciated the Capitol Hill Baptist Church, the church where she and her husband attend.

“People can get so Hill-centric,” Barnes said. “A solid church community is the greatest blessing.”

While Barnes manages visitors to the senator, 2012 Union alumnus Alex Brown spends many of his days interviewing members of Congress.

Brown, who served as the editor-in-chief of Union’s student newspaper, the Cardinal & Cream, now reports on Midwest political races for the National Journal Hotline, a publication for Washington political insiders.

His assignments keep him on his toes, meaning some days with long hours at the job, Brown said. But he doesn’t mind; he thrives on the action around him.

The city is an excellent place for young professionals, Brown said, because they fill many of the journalism, law and government staff positions in D.C.

“This city is run by young people,” Brown said.

By Samantha Adams (’13)

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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