Jonh Sellers, a senior political science major at CSULB, spent the fall semester in Washington, D.C. as CSULB's 2012 representative to the Congressional Internship Program, which is sponsored by the Panetta Institute for Public Policy.
Sellers was one of 25 California students (one each from the 23 CSU campuses and two others from Santa Clara and Dominica universities) selected for the program. Each intern spent 11 weeks in the nation’s capital working full-time in the office of a California member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Congressional Internship Program has been recognized as one of the best in the country because of the training opportunities provided to participants as well as the full scholarship covering all program costs.
After undergoing a rigorous review and interview process, Sellers was nominated by President King Alexander based on his academic standing, student leadership experience, commitment to community and public service, interest in politics, communication skills and overall demeanor. Final selection was made by the Panetta Institute interview team and a representative from the CSU Chancellor’s Office. Sellers was ecstatic about his selection.
Sellers’ internship began with a two-week training session at the Panetta Institute, located on the campus of CSU Monterey Bay. Training included elected officials, seasoned government staff, policy experts and Panetta Institute professors explaining how the legislative process works and providing synthesized information on the key issues facing the nation. At the end of the session, Sellers was assigned to work for two-and-a-half months with Congressman Brian Bilbray, a Republican from San Diego who represents California’s 50th Congressional District.
Sellers says Bilbray’s primary legislative efforts are focused on improving the economy vis-a-vis the military, alternative energy sources and immigration. Sellers’ internship responsibilities included answering phone calls and letters from constituents, giving tours, performing general office tasks and attending legislative hearings. While in D.C., Sellers and his fellow interns also attended regular weekly seminars with key administration personnel on different aspects of government policy, ranging from economics to the environment and foreign affairs to defense resources.
Of his D.C. experience, Sellers says, “There is nothing like getting off the metro every morning and seeing the U.S. Capitol. Working inside those halls impressed upon me a profound respect for our nation's history.” “One of the most interesting and exciting aspects for me was doing legislative research that would possibly influence future legislation and presenting those memos to be used by both staffers and the Congressman.”
Since Sellers returned from Washington, there has been no rest. Life continues to be busy. “I finished the internship in November and married the love of my life in December,” Sellers explained. “In January, I started my last semester at CSULB and am working on my thesis for the Political Science Honors Program. I will graduate in spring 2013 with a B.A. in political science and a minor in Spanish.”
"Of all the things I learned,” Sellers says, “the most valuable was the understanding of how many forces are at work all the time in the creation of national legislation, and what we glean from the media is a small—and often distorted—measure of what is really going on. No matter the ideology, I really believe most people in Washington are trying to do what they think is right.”.
The Congressional Internship Program was founded by the Panetta Institute to give students hands-on experience on how the nation’s democracy operates. Participants are nominated by their respective campus presidents and are selected based on their scholastic achievements as well as their interest in politics. The Panetta Institute pays for the entire program, in part to ensure that students of all economic backgrounds have the opportunity to participate.