A short time ago, Kelly Law and Derek Chancellor’s work uniforms included pads, tape, and polyester uniforms that read “South Dakota” across the front. Now, the two sport dress shoes and suit jackets as they walk to their jobs on Capitol Hill.
A middle blocker for the Coyote volleyball team from 2014-17, Kelly Law etched her name into USD record books over her four-year career. The Minneapolis native’s .302 career hitting percentage stands at fourth highest in school history, and a .339 hitting percentage her senior year is eighth best in single-season percentages.
Now interning for Minnesota Senator Tina Smith in Washington D.C, Law said she speaks with constituents, assists the legislative staff with projects, gives Minnesotans tours of the city and helps the office in any way she can.
In an email to The Volante Law said her adviser, associate professor of political science Eric Jepsen, helped her score an internship in the Capitol, a place she enjoys living.
“After graduation, I decided that I wanted to live and work in D.C. so I applied to be in Sen. Smith’s office and, with the help of Dr. Jepsen, I was able to find my way here,” she said. “I love DC. It’s an extremely exciting city and there’s always something new happening. I love all of the opportunities that you get to meet people from different countries and cultures and the monuments/museums never disappoint.”
Paying attention to political issues and being open to both sides are things all political science students should keep in mind, Law said.
“When working in an office that is meant to represent constituents, it’s important to have an idea of the issues that are important to people,” she said. “Not only is it necessary to work with those you might not agree with, it’s also really rewarding when you’re able to find common ground, which is often hard to come by in the political world.”
Although, other things are just as important.
“If you’re working on the Hill, wear comfortable shoes,” Law said.
Law said USD’s coaching staff always supported her plans after graduation, ensuring a fair balance between volleyball and her life after it.
“(Head coach Leanne Williamson) would always say to us, ‘Trust the process’. I think that now, being on my own in a new city, that saying means even more to me. I understand that things might not always be easy, just like a match, but if you trust in the process, it’s almost always worth it.”
In 2015, right tackle Derek Chancellor was part of an offensive lineman unit that drove USD’s offense to fourth-best in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. During the season, he was named MVFC Offensive Lineman of the Week, earned honorable mention all-MVFC honors, and was a member of the MVFC honor roll.
Derek Chancellor is now a legislative correspondent in Sen. John Thune’s office on Capitol Hill.
Chancellor said that the teamwork skills he learned as a Coyote has helped him transition to “Team Thune.”
“In a legislative office you have to have a great team mindset to be a part of a legislative team working on the hill,” he said.
Without taking former associate professor Mary Pat Bierle’s non-major U.S. government class at USD, Chancellor said he wouldn’t have known he was interested in political science.
“(She gave me) a good grasp on the legislative process. Mary Pat Bierle kind of instilled that in each and every one of her students who were fortunate enough to have her as a professor in her time at USD,” he said.
As for his time in the DakotaDome, Chancellor said the low profile of being an offensive lineman prepared him well to work on the hill.
“You’re not the star quarterback, your picture isn’t in the paper, your name isn’t in the headlines, a lot of times, you just don’t get recognition at all. There are no real stats for o-linemen — they don’t rack up yards or score points,” he said. “I have found that the same can be said for public servants in a lot of ways.”
This experience prepared Chancellor to work behind the scenes.
“There’s a lot of hard work being done behind the scenes that often gets none of the praise but all of the blame, or doesn’t get any recognition at all,” he said. “ My time as a Yote helped me every day in my current role on Capitol Hill. Specifically, it taught me about ranking and ordering values like time management, discipline, hard work — just grinding it out until there’s a product you can be proud of.”
Rachel Newville contributed to this story.