May 21, 2012
Internship program helps students gain insight into legislative process
By Ben Lawson, media assistant
Four Northwest Missouri State University students participated in internships that placed them in state and federal government offices this spring.
Doug Porter, Paul Wilson and Erin Klassen took part in Northwest’s Legislative Internship program, which annually places students with state senators and representatives at the Missouri State Capitol. Porter served with state Rep. Sheila Solon, Wilson worked with state Sen. Brad Lager and Klassen served with state Rep. Mike Thomson. Serena Euler served in Washington, D.C., with U.S. Rep. Sam Graves from Missouri.
The interns were expected to assist with constituent work, lead tours of the Capitol, conduct research, attend committee meetings and track legislation.
“It was a great experience,” Euler said of her internship in Washington, D.C. “You won’t really understand and know about government until you’re there like that. It was very hands-on. I feel a lot more informed. I learned more from just being there and jumping in than I would from any textbook.”
Said Wilson, “The Missouri Legislative Internship is a great opportunity for all Northwest students. It provides not only an inside look into the state's legislative process, but also puts you in a position to make connections with people in a variety of careers. Students of all majors and interests can benefit from the real-world experience of a legislative internship in Jefferson City.”
The interns in Jefferson City were scheduled for four-day, 40-hour work weeks, but they sometimes put in many more hours. The interns said they didn’t leave the office until everything the staff needed to complete was finished, and some nights that meant not leaving the Capitol building until midnight.
Porter, Wilson and Klassen also participated in mock legislative sessions on the Missouri House of Representatives floor. They elected officials, formed committees and addressed the same issues going through the House at that time. Porter was elected speaker of the house, Wilson was elected floor leader and Klassen was appointed chief clerk.
“You learn the process and how hard it is to pass legislation,” Porter said. “It’s not as easy as filing a bill and letting it get voted on. It probably gets voted on and torn apart 50 different times. It’s just crazy how much effort goes into passing one piece of legislation and how many different people have parts in it.”
Wilson recalled the difficulties he went through when trying to pass a bill in the mock sessions.
“I worked on a spending cap bill that I tried to get passed,” Wilson said. “It didn’t even make it through committee. When you have legislation that you’re trying to get through the process, you learn about all the roadblocks.”
Porter also emphasized how participating in the internship program helps students make important connections. Interns meet politicians from all over the state, and representatives and lobbyists from influential companies in Missouri. The interns in Jefferson City even attended a barbeque hosted by Governor Jay Nixon at the Missouri Governor’s Mansion.
“If you’re looking to get into law or grad school, it’s a recommendation you can’t beat anywhere else, to have a state representative or a state senator vouching for you and your work,” Porter said. “If you don’t have a job coming in, you’re almost guaranteed a job on the way out because of all the connections you can make.”
Porter graduated from Northwest this spring with a degree in business and economics. Next month, he begins working for Cerner Corporation as a business consultant. Wilson also graduated with a degree in political science and plans to continue his education at the University of Iowa Law School. Euler graduated with a public relations degree and is working as a sales account executive for KQ2 in St. Joseph.
Klassen is a junior political science major with a comprehensive crisis response minor. She plans to graduate in May 2013.
For more information, please contact:
Mark Hornickel, Media Relations Specialist
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Northwest Missouri State University
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