Ascending the Hill

Author: School of Architecture

On Capital Hill, congressional staffers have a saying: poorly written memos have a nasty habit of becoming poorly written law. Fourth-year student Eric Hageman proved he could avoid that pitfall during an internship last summer in Montana Senator Max Baucus's Washington office. He performed so well, in fact, that this summer Hageman ascends to the "holy grail"—an internship with the Senate Committee on Finance. He believes the precision of his architectural work, and his awareness of its far-reaching impact, prepared him for the pressures of the legislative process.

“When we design and render, we know our decisions will have consequences. The same is true for Congressional staffers,” says Hageman. “You never know when language from a memo you wrote or a brief you gave will end up in the Congressional Record or a piece of legislation. To be successful in politics, I have to control my work for Congress as stringently as I control my work as a student.”

In the academic year between his internships, Hageman researched ties between architecture and public policy. Working with Matthew Capdevielle, director of the University Writing Center, Hageman produced an essay on the state of modern American memorial architecture. While he may not be interested in practicing architecture, he knows that the skills he has learned as an architecture student will play a large role in his future success. 

“The study of architecture requires a tremendous amount of discipline. That discipline has made my transition to Capitol Hill far easier,” says Hageman. “Congressional staffers work long hours, they’re under a lot of pressure, and the whole nation suffers when they make mistakes. I don’t think I would have done as well as I did last summer had I not first suffered through a few years of tedium in the School of Architecture.”

The most important connection that Hageman has found between architecture and public policy is that each has the same goal: to create, maintain, and defend the common good. “We do so in different ways—the architect helps shape the physical city, and the policymaker helps shape the civic action that inhabits it—but," says Hageman, "we are both public servants."