By Roanoke College News

Washington Semester Program kicks off career in Virginia politics for Maggie Anderson '13

Maggie Anderson '13 knew she wanted to attend a small school. After a campus tour scheduled by her mother, Betty Dixon '80, Anderson knew she wanted to attend Roanoke College.

"It seemed like a perfect fit," Anderson says. "There were so many opportunities." 

Programs such as R House and the Undergraduate Research Assistants Program sweetened the deal for Anderson, who says Roanoke offered great hands-on experience and opened doors for her, ultimately leading to a job in the U.S. Senate.

Currently a staff assistant for Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Anderson says that in addition to her academic training, participation in the URAP and Washington Semester programs were key experiences for her. 

Anderson participated in the Lutheran College Washington Semester Program during her sophomore year, spending a semester in D.C. as an intern in Sen. Warner's office. With encouragement from her academic advisor, Dr. Todd Peppers, Anderson secured that internship opportunity, and three years later, it would help her land a full-time job in the same office.

"Dr. Peppers was an incredible mentor to me...He got me involved in many things," Anderson says. "I was nervous about [participating in] the Washington Semester Program, but he guided me." 

That guidance continues. Anderson currently is co-authoring a book with Peppers about death-penalty abolitionist Marie Deans.

In the three years between her internship on Capitol Hill and her return to Warner's office, Anderson found other ways to involve herself in politics. She attended the College Leaders Program at the University of Virginia's Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership. The competitive two-week program immerses participants in Virginia politics and policy proposal presentations to Virginia General Assembly members. Anderson received the "Spirit of Citizenship" award at the end of the session for her dedication to public service and ability to work with others.

After her participation in the Sorensen program, Anderson got an internship with now-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's campaign office and the OneVirginia2021 campaign in Charlottesville, Va. Anderson was hired by the McAuliffe campaign as a deputy field organizer.

"I'm not the type of person who sits still very well," Anderson says with a laugh. 

Anderson describes her daily work in Sen. Warner's office as challenging and rewarding. She interacts with constituents, manages interns and assists with events. She says that being a Senate staff member is a great experience and that interacting with and supporting such an influential Virginian is very fulfilling. 

Sen. Warner "goes out of his way to make us feel a part of a team. He really does respect the needs of constituents," she says.

Anderson says she plans to continue working in Virginia politics. 

"I have a deep passion for public service, especially in Virginia," she says. "But, I also think that there are many opportunities for Virginia to improve, socially and economically, and I hope to be part of that change." 

-By Traci Crockett Moe '01