Skip to main content

Students explore opportunities in Washington through WilDCats at the Capitol


By Hayden Gooding and Eric King 

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 24, 2024) — Since its inception in 2016, the WilDCats at the Capitol internship program at the University of Kentucky has allowed students to embark on transformative experiences in Washington, D.C.

Developed through a partnership 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 cornerstone of experiential learning for UK students.

Gavin Cooper is  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 U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin , D-West Virginia.

“My favorite part of this program is having the opportunity to get hands-on experience at a high level,” said Cooper. “Every piece of work here in D.C. affects our lives in intricate ways and this is an opportunity to see how everything happens.”

At its core, the program offers students a semester-long immersive experience in the nation's capital. Participants live together, take classes and intern full-time, all while staying on track to complete their degrees. This blend of academic and professional development enables students to apply classroom knowledge in real-world settings, preparing them for successful careers upon graduation.

“This program is really special because it has allowed me to gain impressive internship experience without interfering with my graduation timeline,” Cooper said.

Over the years, WilDCats at the Capitol has expanded through collaborations with departments and offices within the university. Last year, the Office of Federal Relations joined forces with the Office for Student Success to promote the program across all academic colleges and departments, ensuring that students from every discipline have the opportunity to participate.

Amelia Iliohan is a UK graduate who participated in WilDCats at the Capitol in 2018. She grew up in a small town in Western Kentucky and says this program was the only feasible way for her to experience career opportunities in Washington. She now works as the associate director of events and member engagement at the National Association of States Departments of Agriculture.

“This program created a gateway for me to find my passion for international agriculture,” Iliohan said. “WilDCats at the Capital is a comprehensive program that educationally, financially, socially and personally supports UK students from all colleges and all socioeconomic backgrounds. I would not be in Washington, D.C., today in a career I love without my experience in the program.”

Eric King, executive director of federal relations has named Matthew Jackson as assistant director of federal relations. He will manage and promote the WilDCats at the Capitol program. 

From working with Members of Congress to collaborating with such organizations as NASA and UPS, students can explore careers  and contribute to society.

For more information on the program, including how to apply, visit