Alumni Spotlight: USSYP alum follows his dream to work on Capitol Hill

When Jace Motley (AR – 2013) reflects on his unforgettable week in Washington as a 2013 USSYP delegate, he says that he decided then and there that he wanted to work on Capitol Hill. Jace, a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas, is emblematic of USSYP delegates who set their lofty goals during Washington Week and work toward achieving them step-by-step with grit and unwavering focus. Today we feature Jace’s path to Capitol Hill in our blog. We hope that you are as excited as we are to see where he is now…

How did you secure your role on Capitol Hill? Did you have internships on the Hill prior to this position?

Jace: I interned for my current boss, Senator John Boozman (R-AR), as well as for Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) during the summer after my junior year of college. I used my time as an intern to network with both senators’ staffs and later used those connections to keep an eye out for any openings. Shortly after I graduated I was contacted by a friend I had made on the Hill who had heard of an opening in Senator Boozman’s office. I reached out to our deputy chief of staff to express my interest in the position and in a matter of days I had secured my job and was packing my things to move to Washington, D.C. I was lucky in that I moved with a job; most people move here without one and look for jobs when they get here.

What was your college major? Did that guide your path to the Hill?

Jace: I think I always knew I wanted to be on the Hill in some capacity after my experience with USSYP in 2013. In college, I double majored in Political Science and International Relations as more of a means to get here. Quite a bit of my undergraduate coursework and research has been useful on the Hill and I’m thankful to have that fundamental knowledge to build on.

Do you have the opportunity to spend much time with Senator Boozman? In what capacity?

Jace: I’m fortunate in that I get a lot more face-time with Senator Boozman than most staff assistants get with their bosses. I handle all of the senator’s photography, so whenever the Senate is in session I’m usually following him around snapping pictures or staffing him at events where official Senate photographers are taking them. He’s a very thoughtful guy to work for and he genuinely takes an interest in the lives of his staff, regardless of how senior you are. I also drive him around from time to time whenever the schedule is tight and he may not have time to drive himself and find parking for every engagement.

What surprised you the most about life in a Senate office?

Jace: I think the familial nature and sense of shared purpose has been the most surprising. Everyone envisions the Hill as this cutthroat environment where people will do anything to advance their careers, and while you do meet people like that, the majority of the Senate staff is close-knit and, above all else, highly dedicated to their senators’ success. My office truly serves as a family for me since I’m so far from home, but even amidst the chaos of modern-day politics, our primary goal is always to ensure that our boss is able to serve the people of Arkansas as effectively as possible.

Was there a particular event or moment thus far that stands out as a highlight?

Jace: Oh yes. One of the exciting parts about working for the majority party right now is that we have a front row seat to the administration. One day, I was leaving the Senate Appropriations Committee with a small group of people to head back to my office when we were abruptly stopped by an officer who told us to stand in place until he gave the “all clear.” I was really caught off guard to say the least, but before I could react, the vice president rounded the corner and was standing right in front of us. He was surrounded by an entourage of staff and security that looked like they were in a hurry, but he deviated from his schedule to introduce himself to us saying, “Hi, I’m Mike.” I don’t think I played it cool though; I just stood there with a goofy smile and laughed at everything he said while he visited with us. After he left I whipped my phone out and called my mom.

Do you have opportunities to go the Senate floor, and if so, what did you observe and what was your role?

Jace: I’ve been to the Senate floor a few times, but it’s always been after hours in a non-work-related capacity, so I haven’t really gotten to see any fierce Senate showdowns from that vantage point. However, there is a private Senate gallery for Senate staff that is available for us to pop in whenever we like. I usually take advantage of this to go watch my boss speak or when they are debating a controversial issue. The weirdest part about watching the Senate debate is that usually there are only two or three senators in the chamber at a time (including the presiding officer). With today’s technology, their colleagues can listen to the floor debate remotely.

What advice would you give to other students about beginning a career on Capitol Hill?

Jace: Obviously, the Hill looks to recruit talented and capable individuals when vacancies arise, but at the end of the day, landing a job on the Hill boils down to who you know. Hill jobs aren’t usually widely publicized when they open up, and by the time they are, they’ve usually been filled. My advice would be to build your professional network during high school and college by getting involved with organizations like the College Republicans and Young Democrats. Go volunteer on campaigns and try to meet as many people as you can. It’s not uncommon for campaign staffers to move over to the official side of things, which can be helpful during your job search. I would also highlight the importance of interning. You meet so many people during an internship, so if you play your cards right and make good impressions, you can easily turn that experience into a job.

What work skills and other personal qualities have you observed as important for success as a Senate staffer?

Jace: I think to do any job effectively, qualities like honesty, integrity and ambition are paramount. However, I think to be an effective Senate staffer it’s integral that you be able to adapt to change (things happen on a moment’s notice) and that you are able to process a lot of new information in a timely manner. At the end of the day people won’t care how funny, nice, or smart you are if you can’t roll with the punches and accomplish the task at hand. It’s not your average 9:00 to 5:00 job, and the people that flourish are those that can be effective when it matters most.