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Senate, Assembly Internships a Capital Experience for University at Albany Students

From left, UAlbany students Gow Mosby Jr., Erica Nkasiobi Akpaka, Cindy S. Ogando and Cecil Belfon Jr.are all interns in the New York State Legislature this semester. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 8, 2013) – The University at Albany’s legislative program serves as a major pipeline for students wishing to gain practical internship experience in the New York State Assembly and Senate. According to representatives at the Assembly Intern Committee, UAlbany sent more students this spring than any other university or college, which resulted in a record number of acceptances to internships in the New York State Assembly.

One hundred and thirty three UAlbany undergraduates are currently interning in the state legislature. Nineteen students are assigned to the NYS Senate Internship Program, while another 114 students are session interns in the NYS Assembly, up from 65 just five years ago. The program growth is being attributed to increased awareness from faculty and former student interns.

“This is a huge number for us and we are very proud of the students who were selected,” said Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Education Karen Acosta McNeill. For more than 30 years, the program has created internship opportunities for thousands of students, paving the way for career opportunities in public administration, politics, and law. Today, 14 UAlbany alums serve in the New York State Legislature.

Students benefit from UAlbany’s strategic location in the state capital, which makes it a natural fit for students interested in government. The program allows students to be a part of the legislative process through a well-structured academic and hands-on learning experience. For the Assembly internships, eligible students should be full-time matriculated juniors or seniors in good academic standing and must be recommended by faculty members. For the Senate internships, a 3.0 GPA is required. Graduate internships are also available.

Erica Nkasiobi Akpaka, a political science and sociology major from Rochester, N.Y., believes that everything she has learned in State Sen. David Carlucci’s (38th District – Rockland/Westchester) office moves her closer to her long-term career goal of law school and a future career in government or politics.

“The internship is opening doors for me,” said Akpaka. “My personal goal is to get everything out of this experience and cherish every moment of it.”

Erica Nkasiobi Akpaka and Cindy S. Ogando in the New York State Senate

From left, UAlbany students Erica Nkasiobi Akpaka and Cindy S. Ogando in the Senate Chambers. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

Cecil Belfon Jr. of Brooklyn, N.Y., a senior information science major, works in Assembly Member J. Gary Pretlow’s office (89th District – Mt. Vernon and Yonkers).  He feels he’s gained professional experience in public speaking and networking. Belfon also interns for defense contractor Lockheed Martin and plans to work in industrial security or information technology.

These well-rounded UAlbany students have interests outside the Capitol building as well. Akpaka has volunteered at homeless shelters, with Girls Inc., and is president of the student organization Reclassifying All Children Equally Organization (R.A.C.E.). She also interns with the NYS Office of General Services. Belfon and fellow Pretlow intern, Gow Mosby Jr. of Bellport, N.Y., helped out Superstorm Sandy survivors on an Educational Opportunity Program trip to Far Rockaway in December.

“This internship is allowing me to figure out what I would like to do in the future,” said Cindy S. Ogando, a senior criminal justice honors student from Brooklyn, N.Y., who works for State Sen. Michael H. Ranzenhofer (61st District – Genesee), a UAlbany alumnus. Ogando is Recording Secretary of Phi Alpha Delta, the pre-law fraternity on campus. She is committed to law and looking forward to a career in public practice.

Many of UAlbany’s former legislative interns have gone on to work in the Assembly or Senate. Vanessa L. Gibson, Assembly Member (77th District – Bronx) was once a UAlbany Assembly intern, as was NYS Senate Director of Student Programs Nicholas J. Parrella.