My summer in the swamp

Editor’s note: Courtney Kueppers is a senior journalism and political science student at UW-Eau Claire. She spent the summer interning for the Star Tribune-DC bureau. Last spring Kueppers interned for the CJ Department and helped run this blog. She will graduate in December.


When I arrived in Washington in late May it was indeed as hot as everyone — including Chancellor James Schmidt — had warned me it would be. I had taken a few short jaunts to the district, including the classic American middle school trip in seventh grade, but this was to be my first extended stay.

I very much brought my Midwest roots with me, and I’m not just talking about the Minnesotan accent my new friends mocked every time I said “bag” or “boat.” I had a number of experiences that connected Washington to “Wisconsin’s most beautiful campus.” Here are some of those accounts of connecting campus to the capital:

For starters, I was in Washington because of a program called Washington Center of Politics and Journalism, which two of my friends and former coworkers at The Spectator, Alex Zank and Nate Beck, are also alum of. The program is run by a man named Terry Michael, whose undergraduate journalism professor in Illinois was UWEC Professor Emeritus Henry Lippold. My first Blugold connection.

A number of the connections I encountered can be attributed to the Ann Devroy Fellowship. Devroy, a 1970 UW-Eau Claire journalism graduate, went on to cover the White House for 15 years until her death in 1997. The first Devroy-related encounter was a trip to The Washington Post to see the newsroom and meet some of the people I’ll work with in January as a part of the fellowship. It was the first time in DC, but not the last, I heard Devroy’s former coworkers talk about her talent and tenacity.

I also received a joyous hug one night from Andrea Mitchell, NBC news correspondent and 2004 Devroy Forum speaker, when I mentioned Devroy’s name. And one day at a lunch time seminar, Ron Fournier, a National Journal columnist, told me Devroy was one of the best and toughest reporters ever to work the White House beat.

One of Fournier’s coworkers at the National Journal offshoot, The Next America, is Janie Boschma, UWEC alumna and Devroy Fellow. She and I grabbed coffee one day in the historic Watergate Complex and also crossed paths at a picnic at the home of Craig Gilbert and Carol Guensburg (a UWEC journalism alumna). Craig and Carol graciously host the Devroy fellows every January. Their generosity and kindness cannot be overstated.

The picnic was the culmination of my UWEC run-ins in Washington. Devroy Fellows Breann Schossow and Taylor Kuether were there, as well as alumnus Brian Reisinger and Ann Devroy’s widower Mark Matthews. As I looked around that picnic, I felt unbelievably fortunate to be receiving my journalism degree from UW-Eau Claire, to be a Devroy Fellow and to be spending my summer working for the paper I was raised on: The Star Tribune.

Devroy Fellows Courtney Kueppers, Taylor Kuether, Breann Schossow and Janie Boschma with Ann Devroy's widower Mark Matthews this summer near Washington, DC.
Devroy Fellows Courtney Kueppers, Taylor Kuether, Breann Schossow and Janie Boschma with Ann Devroy’s widower Mark Matthews this summer near Washington, DC.

When I returned to the Midwest in early August I paid a visit to the Star Tribune’s mothership in downtown Minneapolis. At a morning story meeting, Star Tribune Deputy Sports Editor Chris Carr, the first ever Devroy Fellow, sat next to me. We talked about The Spectator, The Leader-Telegram and the fellowship. He was the final Blugold connection of my summer in the swamp.

What I learned is, we may be a small Wisconsin university, but alumni of our department will go to the ends of the world for each other. I am honored to be in such great company whether it is on campus or from a far.


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