Better Politics, Smarter Government: Internships Build Skills, Launch Careers and Enrich Lives | Opinion

Editor’s Note: This editorial was distributed by Capitol News Illinois on behalf of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

On a late Friday afternoon in early March, my last appointment of the week was a conversation with interns from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, most of whom work at the Capitol in Springfield. I was looking forward to having the conversation, but I was tired from the long week, so I spent a few minutes gathering my energy for the meeting. It soon became apparent that this was not necessary. The curiosity, passion, idealism, intelligence and hope of our interns gave me a burst of energy that propelled me throughout the afternoon, and it remains. During an hour-long conversation, they discussed working on Capitol Hill while COVID-19 lingers, the ebbs and flows of the General Assembly schedule, and whether to meet with state officials, senators and constitutional officers. A student described meeting the Governor and Ms. Pritzker during this year’s State of the State address.

The conversation reminded me how important internships are for students, universities and employers.

Research shows that internships during college provide students with critical opportunities to channel academic learning into workplace skills. Internships also stimulate personal growth, build confidence, and help students build professional and social networks and evaluate career options. For employers, interns bring energy, curiosity, creativity and fun to work. Everybody wins.

“Internships and other forms of work-based learning are one of the most influential ideas shaping research, policy-making and educational practice in higher education at the start of the 21st century,” study concludes. National University Internship Program conducted last year by the University of Wisconsin. -Madison.

When Paul Simon established the Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University 25 years ago, he saw student opportunities, including internships, as central to its mission. Over the years, the institute has established several internship programs in Springfield and one for a government agency in southern Illinois. We also have a social work internship.

Institute interns have had enriching experiences that have helped launch impressive careers in state government, politics, business, academia, media, and lobbying.

Allow me to say a few words to the trainees of the Institute.

Mallory Harrity, of Fox Lake, Illinois, Criminology and Criminal Justice major: “I took this internship so that I could gain experience in government and learn about the inner workings of the State Capitol. … I hope this internship will help my career by continuing to introduce me to people who are successful in the field of legislation and who share my passion for criminal justice reform. »

Crystal Kendzior, from LaGrange, Illinois, majoring in economics: “I have always wanted to help solve the social problems of our country. I took this internship to hone my passions and figure out where to apply my skills to create change. Becoming an intern of Gene Callahan in the President’s Office provided me with a launch pad for the rest of my career. …I learned valuable lessons about the fundamentals of state government, how to perform in professional social interactions, and the importance of being confident and willing to learn.

Ajara Yakoubou, from Plainfield, Illinois, majoring in political science: “I took this internship so I could learn first-hand how state government works. This internship taught me how to build professional relationships with others and that people are willing to help me strengthen my future in politics by showing me different things I can do there.

Valeria Beltran, from Mundelein, Illinois, social work major: “Through this internship, I have the chance to learn how the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives committees work and how bills progress within the government. This internship has shown me another side of social work and I know it will help me prepare for the future by monitoring the bills that will affect my clients so that I can advocate for their needs.

Chelsey Varela, of Centralia, Illinois, Criminology and Criminal Justice major: “Over the past few months, I’ve learned the benefits of social interaction, introducing myself to new faces and getting out of my comfort zone. As someone interested in politics and dedicated to the pursuit of law, I hope this internship will help propel me forward in bringing about change within the criminal justice system, both at the state level than at the federal level.

John T. Shaw is the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois Carbondale. Shaw’s monthly column explores how Illinois can work toward better politics and smarter government.