UW Tacoma Students Influential in Olympia

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In the 2020 legislative session, there are more students interning in Olympia from UW Tacoma than any other college in the state.

(Photo above: The cohort of 2020 Washington legislative interns from UW Tacoma poses in the Rotunda of the Capitol in Olympia. Left to right: Mark Joseph, John Sullivan, Juan Castiblanco, Jessica Bryant, Keren Fermen, Brenda Portaro-Garcia, Carly Norton, Jaspreet Singh, Lexi Ehresmann, Charlene Walker, Jordan Caron, Andrew Willett, Laura Amador, Athena Brewer. Not pictured is ASUWT student lobbyist Bengisu Incetas.)

If the state legislature is in session, you can bet there are UW Tacoma students present.

The civic education office of the Washington State Legislature runs a legislative intern program that attracts competitive undergraduate applicants every session from across the state.

“This winter, 15 UW Tacoma students are in Olympia working full-time as paid interns,” said Dr. Katie Baird, professor of economics in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences.

UW Tacoma has been sending students to Olympia at least as far back as the year 2000, which was the campus’s 11th year of existence. This year, the program in total has 69 students. The 15 UW Tacoma students represent 22% of that total. “I’m guessing more students represent UW Tacoma in the program than any other school in the state,” said Baird. Leo O'Leary of the civic education office confirms the UW Tacoma dominance. He notes that the internship program got started in the 1950s and has operated continuously since then. His office received more than 300 applications for this year's 69 internships. Only students from the state's four-year institutions are eligible to apply.

The UW Tacoma interns are studying a variety of subjects, from criminal justice and politics, philosophy and economics to law and policy, communication, and psychology. If selected, students enroll in TPOLS 497, a 15-credit, quarter-long course.

According to a description of the internship on the SIAS website, Interns get assigned to work with a single senator or several representatives and “perform legislative research, track bills and conduct constituent correspondence.” Student opportunities to intern in Olympia also include serving as ASUWT's student lobbyist during the legislative session.

The website description goes on to say that interns “also attend committee hearings and meetings, and participate in academic seminars and workshops with state officials. They engage in panel discussions, mock hearings, floor debate and budget exercises. They learn about parliamentary procedure and how to write for the legislature, and they have the opportunity to shadow an elected official or state administrator for a day to learn about their jobs.”

This year's students, who they are interning with and their majors:

Laura Amador Sen. Jeannie Darneille, 27th-Tacoma Criminal Justice
Athena Brewer Rep. Steve Tharinger, 24th-Olympic Peninsula
Rep. June Robinson, 38th-Everett
Politics, Philosophy & Economics
Jessica Bryant Sen. David Frockt, 46th-Seattle/Kenmore Law & Policy
Jordan Caron Sen. Randi Becker, 2nd-Yelm/Eatonville Law & Policy
Juan Castiblanco Rep. Alex Ybarra, 13th-Ellensburg/Moses Lake Politics, Philosophy & Economics
Lexi Ehresmann Rep. Jake Fey, 27th-Tacoma
Rep. Frank Chopp, 43rd-Seattle
Psychology/Environmental Studies
Keren Ferman Rep. Steve Bergquist, 11th-Seattle/Tukwila/Renton
Rep. Monica Jurado Stonier, 49th-Vancouver
Law & Policy
Bengisu Incetas ASUWT Student Lobbyist Law & Policy
Mark Joseph Rep. Mike Sells, 38th-Everett
Rep. Jared Mead, 44th-Lake Stevens/Mill Creek
Politics, Philosophy & Economics
Carly Norton Sen. Jeff Holy, 6th-Medical Lake/Cheney Criminal Justice
Brenda Portaro-Garcia Sen. Steve Conway, 29th-Tacoma/Lakewood/Spanaway Politics, Philosophy & Economics
Jaspreet Singh Sen. Manka Dhingra, 45th-Kirkland/Woodinville/Duvall/Samamish Politics, Philosophy & Economics
John Sullivan Sen. Jesse Salomon, 32nd-Shoreline/Lynnwood Politics, Philosophy & Economics
Charlene Walker Rep. Zack Hudgins, 11th-Seattle/Tukwila/Renton
Rep. Strom Peterson, 21st-Edmonds/Mukilteo
Rep. Mike Pellicciotti, 30th-Federal Way
American Studies
Andrew Willett Sen. Hans Zeiger, 25th-Fife/Puyallup Law & Policy


Written by: 
John Burkhardt / February 19, 2020
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or johnbjr@uw.edu