University at Albany

NYS Assembly Internship Program Courts
Rockefeller College Students 

Come January, there will be lots of new faces around the Capitol. And a good many of them will be Rockefeller College students who have landed full-time, semester-long assignments in the New York State Assembly’s highly regarded annual Session Internship Program.

For students like Wesley Levenstein, a junior from Lynbrook, Long Island, who attended Rockefeller College’s October information session on the Assembly Internship Program, it’s an opportunity to position himself for a future career.  “It’s a terrific program.  I’d love to do it.  I want to be a lawyer and this program would be very beneficial for that.” 

Each year, the Assembly offers up to 150 undergraduates an opportunity to get involved in state government and gain firsthand knowledge of the legislative process. Interns complete an orientation, are enrolled in a course taught by intern committee faculty, and attend weekly issue-oriented policy forums where they’ll have the opportunity to hear from and interact with state leaders, policymakers, and Assembly senior staff. From January through May, interns work full-time for one member of the Assembly, conducting research and carrying out administrative duties. Most colleges grant session interns a full semester of credit. 

The Assembly also provides full-time research or policy analysis internships to ten graduate students. Graduate scholars’ responsibilities can include: fiscal analysis of proposed legislation and program budgets, researching and drafting bills and memos, and preparing background papers and reports. Approximately one-third of graduate participants continue their careers at the Legislature or move into other positions in state government. 

Melanie Strange, a second semester UAlbany graduate student working toward her MPH in health policy and management, considers an internship at the Capitol a huge draw for a graduate student with aspirations to work in public policy. “I’ve heard from so many people what a terrific program this is. It has a great reputation for providing hands-on experience,” she added. 

Another element of the Assembly internship that makes it particularly appealing to students is the ability to earn while they learn. Undergraduate interns receive a stipend of $4,140. Graduate scholars are paid $11,500 for a six-month assignment from January to June. To be eligible, students must be either undergraduates matriculated in a college degree program, currently enrolled graduate students, or recent recipients of a graduate degree. Applications for the spring 2010 semester were due October 30. Successful candidates will be announced in December. 

Dr. Helen R. Desfosses, associate professor of public administration and policy and African studies, is Professor-in-Residence for the Assembly program. Dr. Desfosses is an expert in the legislative process. “Rockefeller College students make a tremendous contribution to the Assembly Internship Program, and its benefits for them are incalculable. Every year I enjoy watching the expansion of their knowledge base about state government, the development of their commitment to public service, and the career opportunities that open up for many of them in the legislature, state agencies, and even national and international organizations. For many Rockefeller College graduate students and undergraduates, the New York State Assembly Internship Program can truly be a life-changing experience,” said Dr. Desfosses. 

Rockefeller College has always enjoyed a special relationship with the Assembly program. Located just a few blocks from the Capitol and Legislative Office Building, the nationally-ranked public affairs school has a long history of preparing individuals for careers in state government and, through the work of its faculty and research centers, has been a close collaborator with numerous state agencies and legislative committees. Every year, a number of students from Rockefeller College are accepted as session interns. In 2009, four out of 10 graduate interns were from the University at Albany, and the program’s graduate assistant also came from Rockefeller College. On the undergraduate level, 66 of 132 Assembly interns were from UAlbany. The overwhelming proportion of those 66 were Rockefeller College majors in political science and public policy. 

Dr. Roman Hedges is faculty advisor for the internship program. A former associate professor of political science at Rockefeller College, Dr. Hedges served as Deputy Secretary of the Assembly Committee on Ways and Means for more than 15 years. He explained that expectations are high for the students who are chosen. “Assembly members and their staffs really rely on their interns to get the job done. They think of them as workers, not students,” said Hedges. “It’s a one-of-a-kind stellar internship program that you’re not going to get anywhere else.”