Jennifer Knox: From the Hilltop to the Hill

Jennifer Knox ’14 wakes up every morning and goes to work on the Hill — not the Hilltop, but Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Jennifer Knox '14
Jennifer Knox ’14

“It’s very intense,” Knox said. “It’s just so exciting to be in the middle of events as they happen and getting an intimate look at the legislative process.”

Knox, who is from Texas, has a specialized focus in her day-to-day work because she was hired as a Congressional Nuclear Security Fellow.

“The initiative is bipartisan, and we work to try and find what’s, frankly, a shrinking iceberg of consensus on nuclear security issues,” she said. “That includes issues like weapons of mass destruction counterterrorism, securing radiological materials, and funding nonproliferation initiatives. We are trying to raise the profile of these issues among members on the House side and looking for opportunities to hold briefings and hearings.”

Knox graduated from Cornell with a double major in international relations and classics. She was also part of the Cornell Fellows Program, through which she had an internship with Global Zero, an international movement focused on the elimination of nuclear weapons. She went on to get her master’s at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Her first job was a research job at the same place where she did her Cornell Fellowship, Global Zero. That experience helped land her the job working in the House of Representatives.

She is enjoying every minute in D.C. and says it’s a place where there are a lot of moving parts, which requires you to learn quickly. She says it’s a pace of learning that she felt very prepared to handle because of Cornell’s One Course At A Time curriculum.

“One thing that’s really interesting about working in Congress is it reminds me of working on the block plan,” she said. “ The system here is very cyclical and what you are doing depends a lot on where you are in that cycle. This doesn’t feel like my fifth month working on the hill. It’s my first month working on the Hill when we are doing markup. Last month was my first month on the Hill when we were finalizing the appropriations bills. The month before that was my first month on the Hill drafting programmatic requests on behalf of my congressperson. It is these kinds of short intense periods of quickly learning and applying these new sets of skills to all of the legislative demands.”

As she looks forward to continuing her work to help solve issues related to nuclear security, she has one piece of advice for current Cornell students.

“Get active in looking for opportunities,” Knox said. “The day I went to my supervisor and said I’m a little worried about finding internships that are relevant to my field is the day he sent me to the Cornell Fellows office. That weekend I was doing an interview with Global Zero. As soon as I reached out, the opportunities showed up in a way I wasn’t expecting. Just take that first step to see what’s out there. You are going to be surprised by the kinds of opportunities that will find you.”