Text by Sarah A. Chuby, ’03
Photographs by Robert Barclay
Centralight, CMU’s alumni magazine, summer 2009.
Future Heads of State
An ambitious contingent of CMU interns made an impact on Michigan’s capital city this spring as CMU’s new Capital City Internship Program created connections between students, alumni mentors and the legislators who are making the decisions for the Great Lakes state.
Through the Capital City Internship Program,Michigan lawmakers see the caliber of CMU students, the dedication of alumni to get them to Lansing and a university that provides the best opportunities for learning.
Intern Andrea King, an information technology major, says state government may not be the first place someone in her major might look for an internship, but she knew this was a great opportunity to see the legal side of technology and how lawmakers use today’s technology. And staffers in the office of Rep. Gino Polidori, D-District 15, were happy to have someone with IT experience to help with their computer needs.
During the four-month internship, King and the 34 other interns attended appropriations committee meetings, legislative sessions, wrote letters to constituents and sat in on policy forums. Along the way, they have become more informed citizens.
“This internship has gotten me so involved,” says graduate student James Garner, who is writing his thesis on voter participation in African-American communities. “It is one thing to read about how the government works; it is another thing to experience it.” CMU’s program is one of a kind Key to the program are Kathy Wilbur, CMU vice president of government relations and public affairs and newly appointed interim CMU president, and Brian Partie Jr., CMU’s Career Services assistant director. They began laying the program’s foundation two years ago.
Partie recruits and trains the students from his office on campus, assists them with résumé writing and interviewing skills, and coaches them on appropriate dress and professionalism. All CMU students can apply – the only requirement is motivation.
“I’m very impressed with CMU’s students. They are hardworking and eager to learn,” says Sen. Hansen Clarke, D-District 1. “The three interns we had in our office were dependable, had positive personalities and exhibited a true enthusiasm for the internship.”
Wilbur says other Michigan universities have interns in Lansing, but there is nothing else like CMU’s program. “CMU has really worked hard to streamline everything for the benefit of the offices and the students,” she says. “Not only do we provide transportation to get the students to and from Lansing, we act as a go-to source for offices to find great interns. They know that we have students from all different backgrounds who want experience.
“Many people think of political science majors when they think of government. But to keep things running, the state needs people who are knowledgeable in a variety of subjects. We need information technology, business, communications, environmental science."
The interns are matched with the various offices based on career interests, goals and hometown location. And Wilbur says office staffers are already clamoring for CMU interns for next year. There will be at least 50 in the fall.
“Believe me, word flies fast around here,” she says. “Everyone is so impressed with our students. They are on time, dressed professionally and hardworking."
Speaker Pro Tempore Pam Byrnes, D-District 52, says the CMU internship program provides students with more than job development; they also get hands-on experience with the legislative process.
“CMU is the only Michigan university that has approached us with an organized internship program,” says Byrnes, who hosted international business student Nou Her as an intern. “This experience will aid these students in preparation for their careers. I applaud CMU’s leadership for taking this initiative."
Rep. Bill Caul, R-District 99, says his intern, Daniel O’Rourke, an English major, has been a great addition to the staff. “Since he lives in my district, he understands the area and my constituents’ needs,” Caul says.
Alumni give advice and opportunities to CMU students Success of the internship program also relies on the CMU alumni who serve as mentors to the interns. Wilbur maintains a list of alumni contacts known as the Capital City Chippewas. “Now we are at 180 names or so,” she says. “And that list grows every day."
“We have such a great network in Lansing, and this internship program will help strengthen that,” Wilbur says. “Internships will help our students get a foot in the door. And hopefully that will lead to a job for them – and more CMU connections for us.”
Cami Pendell, ’95, manager of state government affairs for BL Government Affairs, has mentored two CMU students. She has taken them to the Senate floor, introduced them to her colleagues, and met them for coffee and conversation.
“I like being able to help students navigate the transition from college to the professional working world,” says Pendell, whose organization provides government relations and strategic counsel to corporations and trade associations. “Given the current state of the economy, internships and establishing networks are so important in helping to obtain that first professional job out of college.”
Carisa Seltz, a sophomore studying political science and economics, says after speaking with students from other universities, she knows how coveted the positions are. “I have spoken with other interns who have told me how hard it was for them to get internships, but for me it was seamless,” Seltz says. “I feel very privileged and lucky.”
| "My participation as a Capital City Intern was truly a remarkable and memorable experience. The CCIP provided me with valuable tools to assist my academic credentials as a Masters student in political science. The CCIP provided me the opportunity to develop my resume and skill set as well as have experiences that could not be ascertained through at textbook or seminar. I am truly grateful for the experience provided to me from the Capital City Internship Program.”
James Garner, Master of Arts in Political Science graduate student
Intern Spring 2009,
Senator Deborah Cherry