Students get paid internships with government offices, political campaigns, legal offices and non-profit organizations through a program of the Politics, Philosophy & Economics program.
Mallory Torgerson '10 hit the jackpot when she interned through a University of Washington Tacoma program.
As an intern last year with the state Higher Education Coordinating Board, she explored a field that she was considering as a career. She earned class credit. She got paid. Best of all, the internship helped her land the job she holds today as administrative assistant for student academic services at Seattle University.
“Once they offered me the position, they said they were really impressed by my internship,” she said. “They kept bringing up how relevant it was to what I want to do and the job I’m currently in. I definitely think it made me stand out a little more than other candidates.”
Torgerson interned through the Interdisciplinary Arts and Science's Politics, Philosophy and Economics program. The program arranges internships in government offices, political campaigns, legal offices and nonprofit organizations, said UW Tacoma instructor Chuck Rowling, who coordinates the internship program.
Students who successfully complete the internship receive academic credit, and some are paid.
The program has significantly expanded since its launch in the 2009-10 school year, when it offered internships to 17 students in one quarter. Last year, the program placed 32 students in internships throughout the academic year.
Some interns saw the inner workings of political campaigns for U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, U.S. Senate hopeful Dino Rossi, or state Rep. Bruce Dammeier. Many worked with the state Legislature or completed legal internships with the Pierce County Department of Assigned Counsel, Pierce County Juvenile Court or the state Attorney General’s Office in Tacoma, Rowling said.
Several spent a quarter in Washington, D.C., interning for U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell or the U.S. Department of State.
Besides performing job responsibilities at their assigned programs, students must blog or maintain a weekly journal about their internship and write a 20- to 25-page research paper on a contemporary policy issue. The student who writes the best research paper, as determined by a three-person committee, wins a $50 award.
Working in Congressman Dicks' office
Jeffery Duffy '11, who won this year’s best research paper award, discovered the breadth of congressional staff duties when he interned in U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks’ downtown Tacoma quarters from October to June.
“It’s far more than just helping a congressman decide how to vote on an issue,” Duffy said. “It’s about hearing from constituents and helping other federal agencies. We helped a lot of people with Social Security matters, veteran matters and immigration matters.”
Duffy graduated with cum laude honors in June, earning a bachelor’s degree in politics, philosophy and economics. Though he hasn’t found a job yet, he believes the internship is helping him get interviews.
Several UW Tacoma students, who graduated the year before Duffy, credit their internships for giving them the connections and experience to find a permanent job.
Another Dicks intern, David Loverich '10, now works for the congressman. Loverich arranges Dicks’ appearances in the Sixth Congressional District, which encompasses the Olympic Peninsula, most of the Kitsap Peninsula and most of Tacoma.
He originally interned, without pay, in the Tacoma office for 15 hours a week from January to March 2010. He clipped news stories for staff, sorted mail and answered constituents’ phone calls on health care before forwarding them to Dicks.
When he applied for the scheduling job that summer, Loverich had an edge. He was familiar with the staff and office operations and had already had the chance to prove he was reliable.
“I was very accountable,” Loverich said. “I treated our constituents with respect.”
Internship set her apart
Torgerson hadn’t interned with her current employer, but gained experience from her internship that helped her clinch the job.
As a policy analysis and research intern for the Higher Education Coordinating Board in early 2010, Torgerson’s duties included tracking and researching state legislative proposals and making presentations to staff.
“I feel I scored on the internship,” she said. “It was really cool to be given that responsibility and be trusted with it.”
In the summer of 2010, she prevailed over 150 applicants to be hired at Seattle University. The job includes managing a budget, supervising several student employees, and coordinating meetings and staff training.
This fall, she plans to start studying for her master’s degree in public administration, a goal she developed as a result of her internship.
While her involvement in UW Tacoma student government and a previous job as an office assistant no doubt strengthened her resume, Torgerson believes her internship was key to getting hired.
“In these economic times it’s important to get as much experience and as many connections as you can,” Torgerson said. “I’d definitely recommend doing an internship.”