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The Intern: On Capitol Hill

Criminal Justice graduate Devron Brown's lesson in "adulting."

People  |  Jul 20, 2016  |  By Greg Lacour

Devron Brown jumpstarted his career with internships in the Las Vegas and Washington D.C. offices of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.

When Devron Brown moved to Washington D.C., he no idea that being adult involved much more than getting to work and earning a paycheck. Midway through his senior year, the native Las Vegan landed a coveted Capitol Hill internship and soon realized his conception of living independent was all wrong.

Brown had lived at home throughout his UNLV days and headed to his Beltway internship in January 2012, in the midst of an East Coast winter. With a diet consisting of Pop-Tarts and frozen dinners, he developed mouth sores from malnutrition. “I didn’t fully understand what it was like to be an adult and schedule time to grocery shop,” said Brown, who’s now entering his second year at George Washington University’s law school.

He grew up quickly that semester as an intern in U.S. Sen. — and then-Senate Majority Leader — Harry Reid’s Washington office. Brown started his Capitol Hill internship by compiling statistics on minority hiring in the Senate. The internships soon led to being hired as a full-time Senate staffer, an offer he attributes to the skills he developed through his previous undergraduate internship experiences. With Reid’s leadership office located just across the hall from the entrance to the Senate floor, he’d often field questions from senators, other aids, and, one day, from Vice President Joe Biden. At a pivotal time in Congress, he fully immersed himself in the experience by studying the legislative process and organizing a weekly citizens’ forum for Nevadans.

He finished out his UNLV degree credits online, graduating in 2012 with a bachelor’s in criminal justice. He worked as special assistant to Reid’s chief of staff until he left for law school in July 2015.

Brown also had interned in Reid’s Las Vegas office in fall 2010 and spring 2011 but was turned down twice for a D.C. office internship before he finally landed it. In the Las Vegas office, at the height of the housing crisis, he answered the phones, sometimes from citizens who filled his ears with gutter profanity. Interns, he said, have to cope by “just being professional, on point, ready to take on any responsibility that might come their way.”

His classes introduced him to legislative procedure and issues he wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Working in the D.C. office let him put all his lessons to use. The combination was indespensable to his development.

“I could learn in class all day, but working in that environment helped me develop practical skills,” Brown said. “It helped me learn the power of networking and develop a tough skin to accept insight and criticism. That’s something I think a lot of young people struggle with.”

Learn more about internships through UNLV Career Services