Given our program’s emphasis on civic engagement and experiential learning, the student internship occupies a special place in our curriculum. Internships are integrated with coursework, so students earn college credit and progress toward their degree as they gain hands-on experience and career training.
Each political science major must complete a 120 hour internship before graduation, and our faculty begin working with students to identify and secure the best positions for their career goals and political interests in the very first advising session. Many students pursue a second internship, too, so our curriculum allows students to count a second internship as a political science elective. Finally, students can complete mini-internships (40 hours or more) and—in consultation with faculty—may convert them into a “politics lab” that turns a regular three-hour course into a four hour course.
With this flexible approach, we encourage our students to try out different potential career paths before graduation. By offering so many ways to convert work experience into college credit, we also reward our students for connecting analytic skills gained in the classroom with observations made in the “real world.”
John McGee began his first internship experience in the fall of 2017—his very first semester of college. When a special election for the MS House of Representatives was called, McGee joined the campaign of candidate Cheikh Taylor. He canvassed neighborhoods, but also took charge of Mr. Taylor’s social media presence. Developing content for the campaign’s YouTube channel, McGee shot video interviews with political leaders around the state.
When Taylor won, he asked McGee to join him at the State Capitol. Over winter break, McGee was able to do just that: he was awarded a departmental scholarship and tapped into the W’s amazing network of alumni to find a family willing to share their home with him for a few weeks. While in Jackson, McGee managed Rep. Taylor’s social media and researched draft legislation. McGee’s goal throughout the internship was to learn about lawmaking processes and gain first-hand experience in social media marketing.
In his senior year, McGee interned with the Mississippi Free Press (MFP), an award-winning nonprofit news organization whose co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer, Kimberly Griffin, is a proud W alumna. In the fall, he helped secure an American Press Institute grant that paid for his reporting and editing work as a project coordinator for MFP's Trusted Elections Project.
McGee has deferred his scholarship offers to law and journalism school while he decides what career path he wants to pursue. In the meantime, he's working on a NASCAR pit crew, because political science graduates can do anything!
Subrina Oswalt, a 2018 graduate, worked as a paralegal at The Winfield Law Firm of Starkville, MS, in her senior year, a job she secured after completing an internship with the firm in 2017. Oswalt found the internship with the help of US Representative Trent Kelly, whom she interviewed while producing the W’s Nonpartisan Voter Guide in 2016 as part of her coursework.
Some of Oswalt’s job responsibilities included aiding the office by drafting case reports, organizing files, and assisting attorneys at court. Oswalt’s goals for the legal internship were to develop her legal knowledge through experience, grow her professionalism, and become a reliable employee for her firm.
While working for Winfield and completing her degree, Oswalt also began a second internship, this one with the campaign of Winfield attorney Lee Ann Turner, who was seeking election to the 14th Chancery District in Mississippi. In this electoral internship, Oswalt assisted with public relations strategy—monitoring media coverage and planning Turner’s public appearances—and researched county demographics as well as opposition candidates; she also participated in fundraising and voter outreach.
Both internships provided Oswalt with the opportunity to develop her communication and organizational skills. The work also deepened her knowledge of the legal system, including the impact of judicial elections. Oswalt pursued a Master's of Public Policy and Administration at Mississippi State University and now works at the Chancery Court for Oktibbeha County.
Maddy Norgard, a Minnesota native and daughter of a W alum, spent the Fall 2017 semester studying abroad at the University of Helsinki in Finland. Without missing a beat, she jumped into the Spring 2018 semester by securing a position as committee page for the Minnesota House of Representatives. Despite having to live in Minnesota to take advantage of this internship opportunity, Norgard was able to complete a full load of courses at MUW by taking advantage of online classes. When she returns to our campus in the Fall, we’ll welcome her back as the newly-elected President of MUW’s Student Government Association!
Interning in the Minnesota House, Norgard’s primary tasks involved coordinating the logistics of three legislative committees. During floor sessions, Norgard was responsible for communicating among legislators to keep the meetings flowing smoothly and efficiently. Norgard’s goals for the internship were to learn more about the critical role played by committees in the legislative process and, by working closely with Minnesota policymakers, to develop skills that will prepare her for future advocacy work in her native state.
Political science internships can be found not just in federal institutions but also at the regional, state, or local level. Valuable experiences can be gained by working in legislative, executive, or judicial offices; students can also learn about political dynamics by interning with nonprofit organizations or even private companies that have significant engagement with the policymaking process. All of these options provide valuable learning opportunities for eager students. All cultivate a better understanding of the political system and provide hands-on experience that enhances lessons learned in the classroom. By making these experiences an integral part of the curriculum, the politics program at MUW ensures its graduates leave campus with deeper knowledge, meaningful connections with professionals in their field, and more opportunities for future careers.