"When we were able to solve a problem-- particularly a difficult problem-- whether it concerned social security, immigration or veterans affairs, the people we helped were always grateful."
Program of Study: Political Science
Internship: U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg
Location: Camden, New Jersey
Briefly describe your internship and your responsibilities as an intern.
I worked as a case manager in one of Senator Lautenberg’s two constituent service offices. In that capacity, I had direct communication with constituents who contacted the office by telephone, listened to and provided solutions to their concerns, handled casework and projects, and attended outreach meetings and events. I enjoyed my time working with the senator’s professional staff and discussing the many serious issues facing his constituents, although the conversation during the summer of 2009 was dominated by the debate on health care reform. Although we spent much time assisting people with problems concerning social security, immigration and veterans affairs, and fielding calls about President Obama’s nomination of Sonya Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, the vast majority of constituents calling the office where asking questions or expressing opinions (which were generally strong) about the President’s health care plan. My work was both challenging and rewarding.
How did you find your internship? What resources did you find particularly helpful in your internship search?
Recognizing that I wanted to find an internship in the government or public policy arenas, I scoured the Internet for existing programs in the public and private sectors. After reviewing many program descriptions, I focused my attention on the public sector.
Why did you choose your internship? What factored into your search and applying?
I knew that the opportunity to intern in the office of a U.S. senator would provide me with invaluable experience in the area of public policy and government relations.
What were you most apprehensive about going into your internship?
Being on the front lines of a constituent service office, placing me in direct contact with people who were often angry, hostile and occasionally exhibited disturbing behavior. As the summer wore on, I became adept at discussing their problems and concerns with them and often was able to provide them with an answer that, if it didn’t satisfy them, at least quieted them down.
What did you hope to gain from your internship experience?
Experience in public policy and an education on the workings of a political office.
How did your internship experience influence your academic and career interests/goals/plans?
I am now certain of the path I want to follow after graduation from Goucher. I plan to apply to programs offering a joint JD/Masters in Public Policy.
What were the most challenging aspects of your internship?
Working in a constituent service office is not always easy-- and it is never without controversy. Many people who contact the office merely want to be heard (rather than helped) and many of those who want to be helped have problems that we could not solve.
What were most rewarding aspects of your internship?
When we were able to solve a problem-- particularly a difficult problem-- whether it concerned social security, immigration or veterans affairs, the people we helped were always grateful.
How do you feel your internship prepared you for the real world?
Working in Senator Lautenberg’s office allowed me to obtain the education and experience I had sought when I accepted the position. I feel that I am prepared to continue work in a legislative setting.
What advice would you give to students to help them make the most of their internship experience?
Internships are interactive experiences. Success requires hard work from the intern and construction and guidance from the professionals. I was very lucky to have received tremendous guidance from very dedicated public servants, who I know appreciated my hard work.