With a historic election still fresh and debates on budget bills and stimulus packages dominating news headlines, everyone’s watching politics. But few people – and even fewer students – get to experience it firsthand.
The Legislative Internship Program at the Office of the Chief Clerk, however, gives a select few undergraduates a chance to do just that. The full-time, paid position, which accepts only applicants from UC Davis and California State University, Sacramento (CSUS), places students in positions within the Chief Clerk’s Office at the State Capitol for five to six months.
“We treat interns as full time members of our staff,” said Brian Ebbert, assistant chief clerk and program coordinator for the internship. “They are part of the gears of the legislative process that help keep things running.“
Potential interns obtain applications in September, are interviewed in October, and notified by November for a term lasting four to six months beginning in February or April the following year. The position counts toward 10 units for Political Science 192A or B, and includes a salary of up to $1,752 a month.
The five interns hired each year work in one of four positions within the Chief Clerk’s Office, a nonpartisan office responsible for processing legislation and advising the assembly on rules and procedure: at the Assembly Desk, Assembly Floor Analysis, the Amending Office and the Enrolling and Engrossing (E&E) Unit.
Crystal Quezada, a 2008 participant who recently graduated from CSUS, worked as an assembly desk intern.
“Working on the assembly floor gave me the opportunity to experience the legislative process from a professional standpoint – instead of being in a classroom, I had hands-on experience,” Quezada said.
In addition to on-the-job training and full-time staff work, students also participate in a Guest Speaker program, and parliamentary roundtables, where interns are trained to be experts on the rules and procedures of the house.
“Through the Guest Speaker program, you get almost one-on-one time with a key person in the community – whether it be the chair of the budget committee, or the chief legislative deputy. A wide range of individuals come and talk to our interns each week; we also take interns on insiders‘ tours, like to the state archives or state library,” Ebbert said.
But perhaps the greatest immediate perk available to interns of the Chief Clerk’s Office – and only that office – is floor privileges on the Assembly chamber.
“You have the chance to speak to assemblymembers, whether it’s ‘I admire what you said,‘ or ‘great job today!’, or just a hello; you get to know that these people are real people and you can be one of them,” said Tanya Anderson, a 2001 UC Davis alumna who interned at Engrossing and Enrolling, which deals primarily with proofreading and editing amended bill versions. Anderson now works for Sacramento City College as an outreach specialist.
And according to those who have completed the internship, the benefits of the internship continue even after the position ends. For example, Casey Elliot ended his internship on a Friday and began his next job at the governor’s office the following Monday.
“My experience as an intern directly resulted in me getting my first job at the governor’s office, where I worked for three-and-a-half years, and that job paved the way for who I am today,” said Elliot, a UC Davis alumnus class of 2000, who worked as an amending intern during his last year as an undergraduate.
Elliot now works as a senior legislative advocate for Townsend Public Affairs, a large contract lobbying representing cities and special districts across the state.
In today’s economic situation, many students worry about getting the experience they need to remain competitive in the job market. Jackie Teeple, undergraduate advisor for the political science department, said the internship provides a unique experience.
“The actual work is hands on – [students are] going out there, and working at the actual job and getting the experience that way … I think that’s a huge factor, especially to have that on your resume,” Teeple said.
“Everyone I talked to absolutely loved that internship. With the Chief Clerk’s Office, you get exposure to the entire assembly – all the Democrats, and all of the Republicans,” added Ken Barnes, program coordinator at the UC Davis Internship and Career Center. “You may work there for hours, but you see all that first hand – actual legislation being created that affects 33 million people. It’s definitely worth it … I would rank this [internship] as one as one of the best.”
The program was created in 1989, thanks to the efforts of the late Mickey Barlow, a UC Davis Political Science Department staff member. Ebbert was among the internship’s first students.
Interns for the 2009 term include UC Davis students Jocelyn Aquino, Andrew Lee, Elizabeth Le, and Maria Lerman. Potential applicants for the 2010 term can obtain paperwork beginning September 2009. Please contact the Internship and Career Center for more details.
ANDRE LEE can be reached at features@ theaggie.org.