MA (Hons) Politics & International Relations, 2011
From Aberdeen to the White House
“I’m a sucker for the reruns of Veep,” says Hailey Lernihan when asked how she likes to spend her “hard to come by” downtime after a day at the office in Washington, D.C.
But while watching the American political satire comedy based on a fictional US vice president is one way she likes to relax, she draws the line at reading political books, and it’s not difficult to appreciate why.
Since 2017, the Aberdeen politics and international relations graduate has worked as a presidential stenographer for the Executive Office of the President at the White House. “Traditionally, a stenographer is similar to a court reporter who is also familiar with shorthand. We, on the other hand, are more like transcriptionists with microphones,” says Hailey.
“We follow the President in the White House and on foreign and domestic trips to capture audio and then transcribe it for national archives and for the consumption of the press. We are career positions, so we are there throughout many administrations.”
Hailey says that, irrespective of partisan politics, she gets to see “the most incredible moments in history” being made right in front of her.
“I’ve seen Chairman Kim twice, Queen Elizabeth II, and many heads of state. I’ve been in foreign palaces and all while getting to do my job. It was always my goal to pursue politics so I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity.”
The travel attracted her to the role but she says stepping aboard Air Force One or walking into the Oval Office still seems surreal.
Hailey’s journey from Aberdeen has included teaching English as a foreign language to school pupils in South Korea and the Czech Republic and operational roles at a global laser technology company and cyber security firms in Virginia and D.C.
She came to Scotland from high school in Washington State to attend Fettes College in Edinburgh. Studying at a university that is “older than her country” will always be something that astounds her. “Aberdeen absolutely had a very healthy
foreign student population. Most of my friends were Scottish and English, and those I studied with basically assumed a role of a mini United Nations.”
After graduating in 2012 and receiving a first class honours for her dissertation on torture and interrogation in post-9/11 international relations, Hailey went on to take an MLitt in terrorism studies at St Andrews.
Her time at Aberdeen wasn’t all study. As a volunteer vice-president and treasurer for the University’s Friends of Child Reach International Society, she was part of a 40-strong team that climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2009 which collectively raised over $140,000 for the charity’s work in Moshi and Arusha, Tanzania. The following year she led a team to Everest Base camp as part of a year-long fundraising drive that made almost $300,000 for a school in the Himalayas.