Alexandra (Alex) Schnelle has been interested in politics since a young age when her parents showed her the power of volunteer action in multiple local and statewide campaigns. Upon arriving at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as a freshman, she headed directly for a degree in political science with a long-term goal of ending up in Washington, D.C. working on behalf of Tennesseans.
Throughout her undergraduate career, she participated in Student Government Association and secured an internship in Representative Jim Cooper’s district office and spent her last semester interning with then-Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh in the Tennessee General Assembly.
To gain experience and enhance her skills, she decided to return to UT to pursue an advanced degree in the Master of Public Administration and Public Policy (MPPA) program.
“The program expanded my foundational knowledge of public policy and its impacts, undoubtedly preparing me for my congressional career helping to craft legislation and effectively influence the policy landscape,” Schnelle said.
She also thinks it helped her gain a leg up in an extremely competitive job market on Capitol Hill. She landed in the House in Representative Steve Cohen’s D.C. office as an intern and then was hired on as full-time in the staff assistant role. She spent the next several years working her way up from a legislative correspondent to legislative aide then senior legislative assistant, all while learning in real-time and amid intense political battles, how to communicate with constituents and shape public policy She currently serves as Representative Cohen’s Deputy Chief of Staff.
“I'm humbled to have a direct role in helping to manage the day-to-day operations of his congressional office while also serving as the lead staffer for his Transportation and Infrastructure Committee work, which has been incredibly fascinating during this year's negotiations on the bipartisan infrastructure bill,” Schnelle said. “It’s a true honor to work for a member of Congress representing my home state. I'm grateful for the time spent at UT, which helped me cultivate a successful career trajectory and afforded me opportunities to better the communities of our state.”
Schnelle knows not every congressional staffer’s path is the same, but offers some advice to set students up for success in this line of work.
“Do every job and take every opportunity to do more, no matter how small,” she said. “Understand the importance of writing and be humble in the career-long process of always trying to improve it. Your commitment to mastering the written word applies in every facet of your service to the member’s constituency.”