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Engaging with tough ideas in Washington, D.C.

Luke Atherton '18 came to Whitworth thinking he would study pre-medicine, but instead discovered his true passions for political science and business. He took advantage of many opportunities to gain experience in both areas, ultimately completing a semester-long internship in Washington, D.C., that combined the two.

A political science major, Atherton spent last fall semester in the nation's capital through the American Studies Program. The program provides courses and housing for students of Christian colleges while they complete internships related to government. It is one of several Council for Christian Colleges & Universities programs for which Whitworth offers scholarships.

"The American Studies Program is focused on Christian approaches to political thinking and bringing your faith to the public square," Atherton says. "That was really formative for me because I was able to think about how I approach politics and policy and engage with some tough ideas like what it means to be a Christian and a senator."

For his internship, Atherton worked at the American Enterprise Institute, a major think tank. His program at AEI, Values and Capitalism, focused on encouraging Christian college students to think about how faith, free enterprise and public policy intersect. Atherton was responsible for coordinating events and discussions on college campuses across the country.

"We were trying to get young people excited about talking about policy and the best ways to approach different problems in our society," he says. "AEI was a really fun place to be. There were senators and foreign dignitaries that would come through and give presentations. It was a neat place to engage with people who had big thoughts and big ideas." 

Atherton values healthy and respectful dialogue about politics. As a sophomore, he founded the Whitworth Political Science Club, which encouraged students to engage with politics and exercise their right to vote.  

"During the 2016 election, we had over 200 people watching a presidential debate," he says. "It was cool to see how interested people were when given the chance to engage."

Atherton was also part of the Whitworth Student Investment Group, for which he served as an analyst and sector head during his junior year. That year, Atherton got connected through the Whitworth School of Business to a summer financial analyst job at Wells Fargo in his hometown of Portland, Ore. He worked with business owners to help them grow their businesses and ensure they would be able to repay debts.

"I loved it," Atherton says. "There's a large relational component, which I really enjoyed."

Before graduation, he accepted a full-time financial analyst job with Wells Fargo.

Atherton enters the business world with a goal of giving back. He spent his final semester at Whitworth as an intern at World Relief Spokane, a refugee resettlement agency. His work included welcoming families to the United States and getting them settled in Spokane.  

"I've realized that we have it really easy, and I feel called to give back," he says. "There's a lot of people that need help, all around the world, but also right here in our community."