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Discover D.C.’s Capitol with WilDCats, Your Ticket to Exciting Opportunities



Amelia Iliohan is a UK grad who participated in WilDCats at the Capitol in 2018. She is now the associate director of events and member engagement at the National Association of States Departments of Agriculture (NASDA). Photo provided by Amelia Iliohan.

Since its launch in 2016, the WilDCats at the Capitol internship program at the University of Kentucky. Which has been instrumental in providing students with remarkable opportunities to immerse themselves in the dynamic environment of Washington, D.C. This initiative has served as a gateway for students to engage in transformative experiences that broaden their horizons and shape their future endeavors. Through this program, students have the chance to explore various aspects of the nation’s capital. From its rich history to its bustling political landscape.

WilDCats at the Capitol offers participants the chance to intern in a wide range of fields. Also including government, public policy, advocacy, and more. This diverse array of internship opportunities allows students to tailor their experiences to their interests and career aspirations. It is providing invaluable hands-on learning experiences that complement their academic studies.

Beyond the internship placements, the program also offers a supportive network of mentors. Further, faculty advisors and fellow students who guide and encourage participants throughout their time in Washington, D.C. This network fosters a sense of community and collaboration, enabling students to navigate the complexities of the city. Also make the most of their internship experiences.

Moreover, the WilDCats at the Capitol program organizes a series of professional development workshops, networking events. Further, cultural outings designed to enhance students’ skills, expand their professional networks. Expose them to the vibrant culture of Washington, D.C. These activities not only complement the hands-on learning experiences gained through internships. But also provide students with valuable insights into the workings of government, policy-making processes, and the broader socio-political landscape.


Overall, the WilDCats at the Capitol internship program at the University of Kentucky stands as a testament. Which is providing its students with transformative educational experiences. That prepare them for success in an increasingly complex and interconnected world. Through this program, students not only gain practical skills and knowledge. But also develop a deeper understanding of their role as active citizens and leaders in society.

Created through a collaboration between the Office of Federal Relations. The Department of Political Science in the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Student Government Association. The program has become a vital part of hands on learning for University of Kentucky students.

Gavin Cooper, a junior at the University of Kentucky majoring in community and leadership development. It has been actively involved in the WilDCats at the Capitol program during the Spring 2024 semester. He has been gaining valuable experience through an internship in the office of Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia.

My favorite thing about this program is getting real experience at a big level,” Cooper shared. “Everything we do here in D.C. has a big impact on our lives, and this is a chance to see how it all comes together.

In the corner of picture Gavin Cooper (right) is currently a junior at UK studying community and leadership development. During the spring 2024 semester, he’s been part of WilDCats in the Capitol interning in the office of Senator Joe Manchin (WV).
In the corner of picture Gavin Cooper (right) is currently a junior at UK studying community and leadership development. During the spring 2024 semester, he’s been part of WilDCats in the Capitol interning in the office of Senator Joe Manchin (WV).

At its heart, the program provides students with a semester-long adventure in the nation’s capital. They share living arrangements, attend classes, and work full-time internships, all while staying focused on completing their degrees. This special combination of academic studies and professional training allows students to use what they’ve learned in class in real life situations. It sets them up for successful careers once they graduate.

Living together in Washington, D.C., students form a close-knit community. Supporting each other through the challenges and triumphs of their experiences. This communal living arrangement fosters collaboration and friendship, creating lasting bonds among participants.

Throughout the program, students engage in rigorous coursework that complements their internship experiences. These classes provide theoretical frameworks and practical skills. That enhance their understanding of the political landscape and equip them with the tools needed to excel in their internships.

The full time internships are the cornerstone of the program. It is giving students the chance to work alongside professionals in their chosen field. This hands on experience allows them to apply classroom knowledge to real world projects. Which is gaining invaluable insights and skills that will benefit them in their future careers.

By the end of the semester, students emerge from the program with a deeper understanding of the workings of government. To enhanced professional skills, and a network of contacts that will serve them well in their future endeavors. They leave Washington, D.C. with newfound confidence, ready to tackle the challenges and opportunities that await them upon graduation.


This program is truly remarkable because it’s enabled me to acquire valuable internship experience. Without delaying my graduation,” Cooper expressed gratefully. So, he highlighted the unique aspect of being able to balance academic progress with professional development. A feature that sets WilDCats at the Capitol apart.

Over time, WilDCats at the Capitol has broadened its impact through collaborations with various departments and offices within the university. Last year, the Office of Federal Relations teamed up with the Office for Student Success. To promote the program across all academic colleges and departments. This strategic partnership ensures that students from diverse academic backgrounds have equal access to this enriching opportunity.

By expanding its reach, the program aims to cater to the interests and career aspirations of students across the university. Whether majoring in political science, business, or the arts, students can now explore internship opportunities in Washington, D.C., aligned with their fields of study. So, this inclusive approach reflects the program’s commitment to providing a diverse and well-rounded experience for all participants.

The collaboration between the Office of Federal Relations and the Office for Student Success demonstrates the university’s dedication to fostering student success and providing them with valuable experiential learning opportunities. By working together, these offices ensure that students are equipped with the skills, knowledge, and experiences necessary to thrive in their academic and professional pursuits.


Amelia Iliohan, a graduate of the University of Kentucky, participated in WilDCats at the Capitol back in 2018. Hailing from a small town in Western Kentucky, she found this program to be her ticket to exploring career opportunities in Washington. Now serving as the associate director of events and member engagement at the National Association of States Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), she credits her experience with WilDCats for igniting her passion for international agriculture.

“This program opened the door for me to discover my passion for international agriculture,” Iliohan remarked. She emphasized the comprehensive support provided by WilDCats, which not only nurtured her academic and professional growth but also provided essential social and personal support. Regardless of their college or socioeconomic background, she believes the program empowers UK students to thrive in Washington, D.C., and beyond.

Eric King, Executive Director of Federal Relations at the university, reaffirmed the institution’s commitment to prioritizing students’ needs by appointing Matthew Jackson as the assistant director of federal relations. Jackson will oversee and promote the WilDCats at the Capitol program, reflecting the university’s dedication to expanding its presence in Washington. This strategic decision underscores their commitment to offering students unparalleled opportunities for development and success.

WilDCats at the Capitol isn’t solely focused on professional development; it’s about making a real impact. From collaborating with Members of Congress to partnering with esteemed organizations like NASA and UPS, students have the chance to explore a wide range of career paths and contribute meaningfully to society.


The program extends an open invitation to all students to join them in Washington and become part of the WilDCats at the Capitol community. Their mission is to empower the next generation of leaders while continuing to prioritize education and growth.

At the University of Kentucky, our mission is clear: to advance the Commonwealth by nurturing the next generation of leaders. Students are our priority, and we’re dedicated to transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research, creative work, service, and healthcare. As the state’s flagship and land-grant institution, we take pride in being a catalyst for innovation and a source of healing, fostering a culture where creativity thrives.

In 2022, Forbes recognized UK as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads,” while INSIGHT into Diversity named us a “Diversity Champion.” These accolades underscore our commitment to progress and inclusivity, ensuring that every member of our community feels a sense of belonging. Though our methods may evolve, our core mission of serving Kentucky and the world remains steadfast since our founding in 1865. We are the University for Kentucky, dedicated to making a difference.

At the heart of our efforts lies the Office for Student Success, where students receive unwavering support from the moment they step onto campus until long after graduation. Comprising five areas and 25 units, our collective vision is to empower students to lead purposeful lives. Through an equitable, holistic, and inclusive approach, we offer a wide range of services tailored to meet the diverse needs of our student body. From academic assistance to personal development, we’re here to help every student achieve their dreams.


In the Office for Student Success, our mission is our identity. We are committed to providing unparalleled resources and support, ensuring that every student has the tools they need to thrive. Whether you’re seeking guidance on academic matters or navigating personal challenges, our team is here for you. Explore the array of resources available, and if you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to a member of our Student Success team at 859-218-YouK (9685). We’re here to help you succeed, every step of the way.

For further details about the program, including application instructions, please visit
University website.