Noorain Khan, Martel '06, was one of the first cohorts of the Baker Institute’s Jesse Jones Leadership Center Summer in D.C. Policy Research Internship Program. After graduating from Rice, Khan earned a Master of Philosophy at the University of Oxford, where she was a Rhodes scholar. She completed her J.D. at Yale University and is now chief of staff to Wendy Kopp, CEO and co-founder at Teach for All, a global network of organizations working to improve the education of students and build countrywide movements for educational equity.
Khan became involved with the Baker Institute in 2004 as a member of the Student Forum. Later that year, she began talking with China fellow Steven Lewis about the idea of working in D.C. Working with Rice faculty and other institute fellows Lewis founded the summer program, giving students the responsibility of finding a low- or no-pay internship at a government agency, private think tank or nongovernmental organization in Washington and providing them with a stipend to cover living expenses.
“My internship was in the executive office of [Washington, D.C.] Mayor Anthony Williams,” said Khan. “At the time they were understaffed, so I had a lot of responsibility. In addition to the internship, which was two days a week, I worked at the Middle East Institute three days a week, took Arabic classes, and met with Dr. Lewis on a regular basis.
“All of the students lived in housing at George Washington University, which I would not have been able to afford without the support of the institute. It was great because our group wasn’t the prototypical makeup of students studying economics and political science. They were interested in many kinds of policy, and hearing their perspectives really pushed my thinking and helped me understand how theory applies to different contexts. So it was exciting both socially and intellectually.
“At the end of the internship, we made a presentation of our academic paper to a panel of faculty members. Standing before a group of people and answering questions about my research helped me when I was preparing for graduate school, for my Rhodes interview, and for law school.
“I’ve helped prep Rice students for the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships, and many of them have been students of Dr. Lewis and participated in this program. I can tell by their applications that they’re more sophisticated in their thinking.
“The internship in Washington, D.C., significantly enhanced my experience at Rice. I was introduced to political theory and political science thinking in Dr. Lewis’ seminar, and I was able to apply the concepts that I learned in my internship. The reading I was required to do has been very applicable to my work as well, and I find myself even now thinking about what I read in that class. Of the many different networks I’ve been a part of, the D.C. internship was the most transformative.”