During Nina Barbero’s first weeks interning in U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s communications office, the New York Times broke a story about a string of 17 traffic violations the Miami-based congressman and his wife had received dating back to 1997.
“I thought, ‘Oh, no – they’re going to be freaking out,” Barbero recalls.
The brouhaha faded after a few news cycles – only four of the tickets were given to the Republican presidential candidate – but the situation was a quick eye-opener for the FGCU senior majoring in economics and minoring in journalism.
“I learned how congressional offices handle news, how they handle a crisis or a deal-breaker,” she says. “I was doing blog roundups to see what people were saying. I didn’t expect people (critical of Rubio) to stretch the truth so much, so blatantly.”
From her journalism courses, Barbero already knew it was important to question the credibility of information sources, to look beyond what they say and consider their motivation for saying it. She’s always been interested in news, going back to when she and her father would record Sunday morning political talk shows and watch them together. With the knowledge she’s gained in business courses, she’s been considering pursuing a career in economic policy.
The combination of the economics and journalism studies made Barbero a good fit for a congressional internship, says Associate Professor Carrie B. Kerekes, who has taught Barbero in two classes.
“She has a good understanding of economics and insight into how it plays into politics that others might not have,” Kerekes says. “Economic students have a different way of thinking – more analytical, more critical thinking. With her background in journalism, she’s a good writer, too.”
An Honors student and managing editor of Eagle News, FGCU’s student newspaper, Barbero spent seven weeks on Capitol Hill this summer – the first time she’d visited Washington since an eighth-grade trip. While working in Rubio’s office, she wrote content for his website and contributed to other communications efforts.
Barbero applied for the internship even though she didn’t think she could afford to take the unpaid position. With assistance from Financial Aid and the FGCU Foundation, she was able to pay for travel expenses and housing at Georgetown University.
“Other students I know who have taken internships in congressional offices have told me about the positive energy that fills these offices, and the feeling of making a difference and being part of something bigger than myself,” she says. “It was a great opportunity. I’m so thankful I was able to do this.”