WestConn students learn legislative process at state Capitol
DANBURY, CONN. — Whether it’s their debate team skills or the lessons they learned in the classroom, several Western Connecticut State University students are finding that they are well-prepared — academically speaking — for life in the state Capitol.
Nine students from WestConn were selected as legislative interns for the 2009 General Assembly Session in Hartford. There were some 90 interns selected this year from private and public colleges around the state. “Our students comprise a significant percentage of this year’s total legislative internship body,” WCSU Director of Cooperative Education Anthony Ciarleglio said.
Ciarleglio attributes WestConn’s 100 percent selection rate this year to both a “successful track record with this program over the years” and to an “increasingly well-prepared WCSU applicant pool.”
From attending committee public hearings and reporting back to Rep.Vickie Nardello (D-89th Dist.) to listening to lobbyists, sophomore justice and law major Denise Morelli of New Fairfield said she’s already learned a lot about what goes on in Hartford.
“I never realized how much time it really takes to be a legislator. And the amount of constituent contact is very high, as they are constantly calling to express their opinions,” Morelli said.
Sean Swanson, a senior political science major from New Britain, is working with Rep. Bob Godfrey (D-Danbury). “I’ve enjoyed learning about the actual process: seeing the strict rules that committees and the House of Representatives follow, the way debate follows certain formats and the give-and-take that goes on to get people to vote for legislation.”
Both Morelli and Swanson said that internships are a valuable part of a college education and that WestConn prepared them well. “Internships are key to giving students like me the experience we need for jobs in the real world,” Swanson said. “WestConn’s political science
program and debate team are both top notch and helped me learn how to quickly analyze situations, and form my own opinion about them, which has allowed me to engage in the high level of conversation here at the Capitol.”
“Internships at this level are very important, primarily because we are at a pivotal point in our lives where we are trying to decide what we would like to do,” Morelli said. She added that her professors helped instill in her the ability to adapt to situations and think on her feet. “I receive little instruction on how to handle tasks here, and because of my experiences at WestConn, I am able to figure out pretty quickly how to handle different responsibilities.”
To qualify, students must have earned 45 credits, maintain a good academic standing and express a genuine interest in the program. The application requires two essays. The final determination is made by a legislative committee after interviewing student applicants.
Intern responsibilities include constituent casework and problem solving, bill tracking, public relations activities, news release and correspondence preparation, and attendance at committee meetings and hearings. Students report to a chief administrative aide, but also work directly with the legislator to whom they are assigned. They also attend seminars at the Capitol regarding the state budget and related topics.
Students are required to write a 10-page paper on the budgetary process and a five-page research paper on a chosen topic. They must keep a weekly journal about their work, what they are getting from the experience and how it affects their career planning. Many past interns have been hired as assistants to legislative aides following their internships.
For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.
Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.