Political science students serve as legislative interns

April 6 2007

The intrigue, the glamour, the controversy and the politics, Indiana State University students get to experience it all while working an internship at the Indiana Statehouse.

Four political science majors from ISU are participating in an intensive, 40-hour a week internship at the Statehouse, along with other college students from around the state.

Senior Kristin Casper is one of the interns from ISU.

“Originally, I was going to stay on campus and complete my degree,” she said. “I had no plans to do an internship, but I’m really glad I did.”

While working at the Career Center at Indiana State, Casper met the intern director for the Republican Caucus. She was convinced to interview for the job and received it a day later.

This is an especially unique experience for Casper, a native of Effingham, Ill., the daughter of Lyle and Denise Casper. Her main interest is in international politics.

“I really never had much interest in state politics,” she said. “I was told by my classmates who were interested in it that it was where all the action was, where you really saw the differences around you. And I figured I would give it a try.”

And she’s glad she did. Through this internship, she has been able to help many people by answering letters from concerned voters.

“I do a lot of constituent work,” Casper said. “That’s the majority of what I do. I do a lot of correspondence with agencies, Family and Social Services, the Department of Education, and I work with their legislative liaisons to get problems - issues that the constituents have - solved.”

“That is my favorite part of the job,” she said. “I could see myself working in an agency, a state agency, because I really enjoy being able to actually get something solved.”

For Amber Malcolm of Greenwood, a graduate student in political science, the favorite part of the internship is her active involvement.

“They really let you do everything,” she said. “You get to go on the floor with them. You get to be really involved with everything in the legislative process.”

Malcolm works directly for Senator Sam Smith, the Democratic Caucus chair, and representative of Senate District Two.

“We do everything from tracking bills to writing constituent letters to basically just helping the senator with committee work or projects that he might have,” Malcolm said.

Along with the internship, the students are taking a class on Indiana government taught by James L. McDowell, professor of political science at Indiana State.

McDowell, whose area of interest is Indiana government and state governments, has been involved with Indiana politics in some fashion since 1971.

“I have been a student of legislature since I was in college myself,” he said.

“The material I have acquired over the years and the knowledge I have picked up, I can convey to a group of students that really provides a context for what these students are doing.”

The class is held at the Statehouse for the student interns from all across the state. For students like Malcolm, this makes taking college courses for credit much more convenient while still working at a full-time internship.

“As an Indiana State student, it’s pretty far away from here, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to have such a class if it wasn’t being taught at the Statehouse,” she said.

McDowell, who helped with the Senate Democratic caucus internship program from 1975-1977, said it is important to learn the coursework, but nothing compares to working at the Statehouse.

“They find out that textbooks describe it fairly well, but there’s nothing like being here and actually seeing it function,” he said.

“Just to enter this building and to see the people you read about in the paper and to attend a session of the legislature, these things – like sitting in the gallery, which interns rarely do – give a greater meaning to anyone. But for the interns who work with the policy makers, the experience enhances the meaning immeasurably.”

The students agree.

“It’s good to be able to see that what I’m learning in the class, I’m living every day,” said Casper.

Combining the class and the internship experience, the student interns have a head start on their careers in politics.

Malcolm is already putting her experience and classroom knowledge to use within the Indiana government.

“Working with the legislature and having this class on Indiana politics is great, because it’s helping me to learn about Indiana politics and the different things that are happening in Indiana,” Malcolm said.

The other ISU students serving as legislative interns are Grant Scharton of Greenwood and Nicole Comer of Hammond.

Casper-Bray ISU political science major and Indiana legislative intern Kristin Casper works with state Sen. Richard Bray (ISU/Tony Campbell)
Malcolm-Smith Amber Malcoln, a graduate student in political science, works at the Indiana Statehouse with Sen. Sam Smith, Democratic caucus chair (ISU/Tony Campbell)
McDowell James L. McDowell, professor of political science at ISU, teaches a class for legislative interns at the Indiana Statehouse (ISU/Drew Lurker)

Contact: James McDowell, professor of political science, Indiana State University, (812) 237-2514, jmcdowell1@isugw.indstate.edu

Writer: Megan Anderson, media relations intern, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3773, manderson13@indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

Four Indiana State University students are serving as legisltive interns with members of the Indiana General Assembly. The ISU students and other interns from around the state are also learning some things about Indiana government in a class taught at the Statehouse by ISU political science professor James L. McDowell

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