TCC student receives Udall Foundation 2021 Native American Congressional Internship

As an active member of the Tulsa Community College (TCC) Native American Student Alliance (NASA,) Bailey Stephens-Johns has advocated for preservation of the Mvskoke language, spoken by the Muscogee Creek nation, and culture in addition to encouraging other members to study their ancestral languages.

Soon however, Stephens-Johns can expect an exciting and busy summer after her acceptance by the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation (Udall Foundation) for the Native American Congressional Internship Program.

Funded by the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy (NNI) at The University of Arizona, the Native American Congressional Internship Program explains the internship “provides American Indian and Alaska Native students with the opportunity to gain practical experience with the federal legislative process.” The experience gained would allow students to learn and understand government-to-government relationships between the federal government and tribes. The program latest class includes students representing five tribes and educational institutions across the country. Selections were determined by an independent review committee. Academic achievement, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to careers in tribal public policy were considered during the review process.

Due to precautions taken as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 summer program will occur over nine weeks virtually. The 2021 students will have access to the similar opportunities of past participants, just in a virtual environment. The class of 2021 Udall Interns were provided the option to defer to the 2022 program, expecting a more traditional internship season.

Stephens-Johns applied prior to a decision regarding in-person or virtual. She expressed gratitude to the program for prioritizing health and safety. Once the program elected to offer multiple options, Stephens-Johns opted to defer participation until 2022.

Applying to the internship, for Stephens-Johns, included multiple elements. She described the process as “collecting and submitting the typical materials like a resume, transcript, letters of recommendation, and writing essays. There were eight short answer essays to write which I felt were really the bulk of the application and provided an opportunity for me to share what my personal and educational goals are.”

When asked what Bailey Stephens-Johns was most excited for, she identified the timing, referencing the opportunity to learn about Native nations and tribal policy during “a historic moment in U.S. history when the first Native American Secretary of Interior, Deb Haaland, serves as a steward of our lands and natural resources.” Stephens-Johns also made a point that while engineering is a passion of hers, “helping to create equitable policy-base solutions” is her main aspiration. The Udall Internship will provide assistance in making key networking connections in addition to experience gained.

Bailey Stephens-Johns would like to encourage others to become familiar with the Udall Foundation and its programs. Stephen-Johns discovered the foundation through her partner, a former Udall Scholar, as well as specific details through the foundation’s Facebook page. With support from numerous people, she was able to prepare her application and wishes to pay it forward by offering to help future aspiring interns with applications.

Bailey Stephens-Johns is a recipient of a Udall Foundation internship scholarship. She has a passion for social and environmental justice. She is a member of the Native American Student Alliance (NASA) at Tulsa Community College (TCC). Photo provided by Bailey Stephens-Johns.