Trinity’s Legislative Internship Program has proven to be a transformative experience for Jason Farrell Jr. ’23, who is double-majoring in sociology and political science, with a minor in philosophy. Farrell spent the spring 2022 semester working at the Connecticut State Capitol and Legislative Office Building as an intern for Jason Rojas M’12, who represents the Ninth Assembly District (East Hartford and Manchester) in the Connecticut House of Representatives.
“I was able to not only witness real-life applications of what I have been learning, but to take part in them as well,” said Farrell, who is from West Hartford and plans to attend law school and pursue a career in policymaking or legal advocacy. “My experience was extremely hands-on. I attended public hearings and meetings with lobbyists, engaged with constituents, and created minutes and memos for committee meetings. It allowed me to spend more time in a professional environment, taking my studies outside of the classroom.”
As Farrell found out, the duties of a legislative body go beyond the legislators themselves. “Through the Legislative Internship Program, I learned how intricate the state political process is,” he said. “I was able to work with policy analysts, sessional attorneys, legislative assistants, other legislators, and social media coordinators. The responsibilities of a legislator require research, outreach, and analysis that goes beyond the capabilities of one person. While the legislature may have several hundred policymakers, these individuals must be able to represent the needs and opinions of more than three million people.” Farrell may be able to put some of these lessons to use during the 2022-23 academic year, when he will serve as president of Trinity’s Student Government Association.
Farrell said that a highlight of his involvement in the program was a presentation to constituent leaders on Rojas’ 9th District Advisory Board on the state of healthcare costs in Connecticut. “I presented research the state has done on rising healthcare costs, along with several proposals on how the state plans to address these costs. I was tasked with not only creating a discussion, but aiding in answering any questions the board had,” Farrell said.
Rojas said that Farrell made the most of his time in the Legislative Internship Program. “Jason, emblematic of all Trinity interns I’ve worked with, was a pleasure to work with and took advantage of all the opportunities he was given to participate in all aspects of the legislative process. He met with caucus staff, lobbyists, advocates, and legislative leaders, and got an in-depth view of the mechanics of the process by virtue of my role as Majority Leader,” said Rojas, who earned his master’s in public policy from Trinity.
In office since 2009, Rojas was elected by his Democratic colleagues in 2021 to serve as Majority Leader. In addition to his duties as an elected official and a member of his party’s leadership, Rojas works at Trinity as the president’s chief of staff and associate vice president for external affairs, serving as a liaison between the college and the Hartford community.
According to Professor of Political Science Stefanie Chambers, Trinity’s Legislative Internship Program is a signature opportunity at the college that leverages its location in the state’s capital city. “Students gain a deep understanding of the legislative process through their academic work and their experiential learning as interns,” Chambers said. “Our students work with incredibly committed legislators and their aides to create laws in the state of Connecticut. Many of our students use their training as a launching pad for their future work in government.” The interns in this program meet in the classroom weekly to discuss supplemental readings and share stories about their experiences.
Farrell was named as this year’s recipient of the Diana Evans Prize for Experiential Learning, which is awarded to a political science major who demonstrates both excellence in the performance of their internship responsibilities and true experiential learning through the integration of academic learning with their work as an intern.
Chambers said, “Jason exemplifies the type of student who participates in the Legislative Internship Program. He’s intellectually curious, cares deeply about equity and fairness in our democratic process, has excellent academic skills, and is highly motivated. Throughout the program he sought opportunities to help constituents in Representative Rojas’ legislative district. Together with the other interns in Trinity’s program, their work at the Connecticut General Assembly serves as a powerful representation of Trinity’s interest in the policymaking process in our state.”
Professor of Political Science, Emerita, Diana Evans, who presented the prize to Farrell at Honors Day and for whom the prize is named, said that students in the program often come to realize that most legislators care deeply about the problems facing their constituents and the state, and work hard to make good public policy. “They also come to understand and embrace the fact that politics plays an integral role in the process. As a result, they become better, more active citizens,” Evans said. “I’ve always found this very inspiring.”
Farrell added, “Professor Chambers, Representative Rojas, and all of his staff created an environment that gave me the confidence to take on new opportunities and ask questions. If any Trinity student is interested in this internship, I strongly suggest they ask a student or professor who is involved in the program. It provides an immersive experience with the political sphere and the opportunity to push yourself.”