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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Internship program gives students firsthand experience in the world of politics

Participants from a previous year in the Washington, D.C., and Topeka internship program pose for a photo. Courtesy of Wichita State

Through the Washington, D.C., and Topeka Internship Program, Wichita State students can explore working in politics while living in the state or nation’s capital.

The internship is open to undergraduate students of any major and is worth nine credit hours. It was originally created by Melvin Kahn, who recently died.

According to Neal Allen, associate professor of political science, who coordinates internships,  the program is not only diverse in student majors but in students themselves. 

“We have had a very diverse group of students not just in ideology, partisanship, but also by gender and ethnicity,” Allen said. “We have some Republicans and Democrats, and people that don’t affiliate or necessarily support either of the two political parties.”

The Topeka internships take place in the spring when the state legislature is in session. The D.C. internships also occur in the spring to avoid congressional recesses and give students better internship experiences. 

“(In D.C.) students are doing more work involving going into committee hearings, direct work with constituents, research work for legislators, and also get to have a lot more contact with their legislator if they’re working for a congressman or senator,” Allen said. 

Students can choose from many different intern positions in both the nation’s capital and the state capital. They can work as part of interest groups, delving into different social issues. According to Allen, students have interned for groups involved in the education of migrant worker children, health care, combating cancer or addressing hunger.

Interns can also work with a legislator or a lobbying firm. Topeka internships differ from D.C. internships because students working for a legislator or committee chair are usually their only staff members. 

Allen explained that because those in governmental positions at Topeka have so little staff, students get more direct experience. 

“Our interns become their staff immediately,” Allens said. “There’s a lot of work going into committee hearings, particularly for committees that the member is not on, because they can’t be in two places at one time.”

Allen said that Topeka internships are very fast-paced, which allows students to play a larger role. 

“Things can move very, very fast in Topeka because they’re only in session for a limited amount of time,” Allen said. “And especially in certain periods in March and April, a lot gets done really fast, and interns can be a big part of that.”

The D.C. Internship offers students the chance to explore living in a large urban area. 

I’ve had students actually go to DC and love their experience but decide that it really isn’t for them. But that’s also part of the appeal of it,” Allen said.

Students who intern at D.C. can do various tasks, including research and service work. 

They also have the opportunity to intern with different aspects of the government. Allen said in the past, students interned at the State Department and the Latin American unit of American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.

The Washington, D.C., and Topeka Internship Program also provides funds to cover housing for students, and the D.C. program collaborates with The University of Kansas (KU) to provide housing for interns. 

“It’s good that we’re cooperating (with KU) because housing has gotten more expensive, and that’s a big challenge,” Allen said.

The application deadline to participate in the Washington, D.C., and Topeka Internship program in spring 2024 has already passed, but students interested in participating the following spring should contact Neal Allen at [email protected]

More information about this program can be found on the WSU website. For information about student’s experiences, visit The Sunflower.

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About the Contributor
Lydia Steeby, Reporter
Lydia Steeby is a first-year reporter for The Sunflower. She's lived in Wichita her whole life and loves to be outside. A freshman, she is an undecided major exploring different career paths involving writing. Steeby also enjoys reading, playing the trumpet and making art.

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