At State Capitol, Trinity Interns Get An In-Depth View of Legislative Process

Semester-long Legislative Internship Program a Tradition Since 1970s

Hartford, CT, March 26, 2015 – Many Trinity College students take advantage of internships that range from shadowing doctors, to assisting senior investment bankers, and learning from experts in public relations firms.  These internships expand on classroom learning and prepare students for future careers. 

Trinity’s unique location, less than a mile from Connecticut’s State Capitol building, allows for exclusive internships with members of the General Assembly. As a result, the College sponsors a highly selective, semester-long Legislative Internship Program. Serena Laws, visiting assistant professor of political science, directs this program, which began in the early 1970s under Clyde McKee.

Elisa Dolan '15 and Poppy Doolan '16 at the Legislative Office Building, with the State Capitol in the background.
 The program is open to all majors but typically attracts political science or public policy and law students. Along with their internship responsibilities, students attend a weekly seminar, led by Laws. Readings and papers in the seminar supplement their work at the state legislature.

“Each seminar class, we relate the readings to the experiences we have had in our internship. Even though we are all working within the legislature, it is interesting to see how my involvement differs from that of others in the class,” says Poppy Doolan ’16. “For example, I work closely with the Appropriations Committee, while some of my classmates focus on tracking their representatives’ bills.”

Doolan, one of several students enrolled in a full-time internship position, works with Watertown Senator Rob Kane, the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee. Each participant in the program is assigned to a member of the General Assembly in either a part-time or full-time position. The part-time position is 17 hours each week and worth two credits, while the full-time position is 35 hours per week and worth four credits.

“A typical day at work includes answering phones to help constituents of [New Haven Democratic] State Representative Toni Walker. After hearing a constituent’s issue, I then contact state departments to help solve the issue,” says Elisa Dolan ’15, a senior political science major who is completing a part-time internship. “Right now, we are working on the budget, which is passed every two years. We write testimony for the public hearings and attend the sessions. The process involves the legislature, the appropriations committee, and local citizens who have concerns about the budget.”

“This program has been an amazing opportunity to learn first-hand about the daily activities of state government. The staff I work with are very helpful and even make it a point to sit down with me and explain some of the intricate processes,” says Dolan. “I am so glad to have taken part in this unique experience because it will help me with my career after college.”

“The Legislative Internship Program is a wonderful way for Trinity students to get hands-on experience with the political process. Students learn about state politics by attending hearings, responding to constituents, and researching policy issues for the senators and legislators they intern for at the Connecticut General Assembly,” says Laws. “The program not only offers a fantastic learning experience for undergraduates, but also serves as a stepping stone for future employment. Several past LIP interns have gone on to work in Washington or in state politics. The experience interns gain through the program gives them skills and connections that will serve them well, whether they go into public service or some other field.”

Learn more about Trinity’s internship opportunities and the Department of Political Science

Written by Maddie Perez '15. Photos by Richard Bergen.