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UAlbany students get real life experience working as government interns

Curtis Johnson, Catherine Provost and Jeff Locke
  Curtis Johnson, Catherine Provost and Jeff Locke in the Rotunda

What better place to experience government at work than Washington, D.C. This year thirteen UAlbany undergraduates are interns in congressional, executive branch and other governmental offices as part of the Washington Semester Program. During this time they’ll take classes and soak up real world experience in the nation’s capitol.

Senior Curtis Johnson was only on the job in the office of Representative Thomas Reynolds (R-Clarence, NY-26th) of western New York for a few weeks when he was invited to attend a speech by President Bush to mark the opening of a Churchill exhibition in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress. “It was the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Johnson who plans to attend law school. “This is meaningful experience that I hope will give me a leg up in a vastly competitive job and graduate school market.”

“It is the thrill of a lifetime,” said junior Jeff Locke. On his first day of his internship on the Senate’s Committee for Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), he found himself sitting next to the committee’s chair, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and New York’s Democratic senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. They listened to problems of the uninsured and a few days afterward Locke was offered the opportunity to contribute to Kennedy’s response to Bush’s FY2005 budget proposal. The full response was a 30-page document directed toward the Budget Committee and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), as well as the executive branch. “I was thrilled to see my work included in this report, not to mention the behind the scenes access to committee meetings and senior strategy sessions,” said Locke, who also is hoping to become a lawyer.

“They have a full plate of activities,” said the program’s director, Professor Michael Malbin. In addition to directing the Washington Semester Program each spring semester, Malbin teaches legislative politics, elections and campaign finance at UAlbany and also heads up the offices of the Campaign Finance Institute where the students meet for classes with him two days each week. One of the courses this year focuses on the coming election; the other is a research and writing seminar in which the students will write a multi-draft paper based on primary source material. But the course work is only a part of the students’ experience.

“On my first day on the Hill, I found myself in the back of a shiny black Lincoln with my congressman (Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-7th district, NY) on my way to a reception with United Nations laureate winners,” said junior Catherine Provost. “In one week I saw Colin Powell, Tom Daschle (Senate Minority Leader), Tom Ridge (Secretary of Homeland Security), Dennis Hastert (Speaker of the House), the ambassadors to Ecuador, Israel, and the President of Spain. I am living a political science student’s dream.”

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