Written by Katie Allen
More than 180 students have traveled to D.C. and taken part in the congressional internship experience.
The President’s Government & Public Service Internship Program is nothing new to Texas Tech. The program is wrapping up its eleventh year this fall. It is sponsored by the president’s office and provides students with legislative internships in Washington, D.C., Austin and Lubbock.
In 1999, President Donald Haragan established a scholarship program to allow Texas Tech students to travel to D.C. to learn firsthand how federal policy is formulated in our nation’s capital. The program’s objective is to provide students who have an interest in public policy the opportunity to participate in public service by observing and contributing to the policy-making process. The internship experience is designed to help students understand the challenges and rewards of public life and develop their leadership skills while receiving class credit.
“The experience and life lessons learned while participating in this program are immeasurable,” said Guy Bailey, president of Texas Tech. “I am proud we continue to send outstanding students to Washington, D.C., to represent our university.”
More than 180 students have traveled to D.C. under this program. Many have used their internship experience as a springboard into careers in the nation’s capital, while others have chosen to continue their education by entering into graduate or law school. The internships are unpaid, but students do receive course credit and scholarships to assist them with expenses.
The university’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR) provides a separate government internship opportunity, which began in 1998. To date, that program has allowed more than 110 students the opportunity to serve as congressional interns.
Life as an Intern
Living and working on the Hill provides many opportunities for Texas Tech students to learn about politics, take on challenges and more responsibilities, and network with political leaders from across the country. For Cassie Doyle, a Texas Tech senior electronic media communications major and political science minor, making the decision to intern in Washington, D.C., was easy.
“There is a difference in what you learn from a book and what actually goes on in politics every day,” Doyle said. “I just wanted to see for myself.”
The San Angelo native is currently interning this fall for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. She starts off her mornings finding newspaper articles related to Texas and other important issues. She is also involved in scheduling meetings and even takes constituents on tours of the Capitol. Doyle said she enjoys her work duties and the atmosphere in the office, but perhaps her favorite thing about being an intern is the walk to and from work each day.”
I pass the Library of Congress, the Capitol and the Supreme Court on my walk to and from work, and the walk never gets old,” Doyle said. “It’s surreal to walk by the Supreme Court every day and realize that I live in the nation’s capital.”
Doyle, who wants to attend law school and eventually become a federal judge, said she believes there is no better place to get to know the innermost workings of the government than in the nation’s capital. Texas Tech alumni who live in the city have helped the students in networking, too.
“The Tech alumni in D.C. are a tight-knit group that will help you,” she said. “I would recommend this program to any student, even if you don’t see yourself in politics.”
The “Tech House”
In 2000 Texas Tech leased and renovated the first floor of an office building to provide the students with housing while interning in D.C. The residence is equipped with seven bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a laundry area and a full kitchen. The building is located two blocks from the Capitol and provides students the unique opportunity to live on the Hill while saving them the time and money involved in a commute. Eight students lived in the “Tech House” its inaugural year. This fall, 17 students are living in the “Tech House,” including 12 university interns and five interns specifically from CASNR.
In 2002 the university acquired the third floor of the same office building. Penned the “Texas Embassy” in the 80s because several men from Texas lived there, the third floor was actually an old office area that was not set up like an apartment. When Texas Tech acquired the floor, it was gutted and remodeled into a more appropriate living area similar to the first floor. That year, Texas Tech students shared the “Tech House” with students from the University of North Texas.
Expanding the Program
In 2008 the program was extended not only to provide internships in D.C., but in the Texas capital as well. Interns selected to participate in the Austin internship program work full-time during the Texas legislative session and have the opportunity to learn important aspects of Texas’ policy-making process while receiving class credit.
Just in the past year, Texas Tech has added a local option as well. Sen. John Cornyn’s district office has one intern per semester. The current local intern, Alex Moore, is learning how congressional members interact with their constituents locally.
Moore, a Texas Tech junior psychology major and legal studies minor from Flower Mound, chose the Lubbock option because it was most fitting to her interests and schedule. In addition to serving as an intern, she is also taking 15 credit hours, serving roles in the Student Government Association and her sorority and working a part-time job. Moore would like to eventually attend law school, and she feels this internship will help her later on.
“It’s really interesting to see the other side of things—things you see on the news all the time and don’t understand how they’re done,” Moore said. “This internship has helped.”
As part of her intern duties, Moore reads papers, mail, faxes and searches for other news clips that will benefit the senator. She also takes phone calls and logs them into a program maintained with the senator’s Washington office to keep track of all constituents’ requests and needs.
A Pathway for the Future
The program strives to find all selected student intern positions in Texas congressional offices. However, some interns are placed on congressional committees or in other state’s congressional offices. The day-to-day activities of interns differ from office to office, but they are largely responsible for the simple tasks that help the office run smoothly. They also have the opportunity to sit in on congressional hearings when their office allows it.
Jenna Jones, government and public service internship coordinator for Texas Tech, said she and others involved in the intern selection process try hard to place students in programs based on their qualities, such as personality, as well as their interests, opinions and beliefs.
“We try to place students in offices where we feel they will get the most out of the internship experience,” Jones said.
Jones interned in 2008 in Washington, D.C., before beginning law school at Texas Tech last fall and serving as coordinator of the program. “The experience was something that taught me so much and really opened doors for me,” Jones said. “I know it will continue to do so into the future.”
Since the program’s inception, students have been able to witness many historical events right from their doorstep. From three different presidential inaugurations, to the passing of major legislation, the proximity and availability to the Capitol and its workings that Texas Tech provides its students is second to none.