Seven Western students complete legislative internships in Olympia
To get notified of our latest news and updates, click the "subscribe" button
Over the 2023 Winter Quarter, seven Western students engaged in the Legislative Internship Program in Olympia, helping state elected officials with a wide range of tasks.
The students selected were Kiarhy Meyers of Arlington; Kit Hager of Evergreen, Colorado; Grace Alkema of Edmonds; Georgia Brock of Bellevue; Zach Cohen of Kent; Waverly Kenny of Seattle; and Jean Ocampo of Puyallup.
Legislative interns are non-partisan staff that perform a variety of tasks including policy research, attending committee hearings, handling constituent casework and various other activities.
Hager worked in the office of State Sen. Claire Wilson of the 30th District (Federal Way) taking calls, responding to emails and working on side projects.
“I enjoyed my office because of the environment; it felt like we all got along and were able to laugh while getting serious work done,” Hager said. “I was inspired by all of the people I worked with, and by Sen. Wilson. I truly felt a part of the team, valued and cared for.”
Meyers worked for State Rep. Jenny Graham of the 6th District (Spokane) and State Rep. Michelle Caldier of the 26th District (Gig Harbor) and said the internship cemented concepts that could not be learned in a classroom, while offering the opportunity to meet a wide range of officials.
“We had group meetings with people including the state attorney general, state lands commissioner, speaker of the house, superintendent of Public Education, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Washington, and many more amazing individuals,” Meyers said. “Hearing how they got to their positions and the advice they gave us was invaluable for students who are still trying to figure out what they want to do with their life.”
Ocampo — who graduated from Western in Winter 2023 and continued working for State Sen. Rolfes of the 23rd District (Bainbridge Island) — said some of the best parts of the internship were meeting people with similar interests and taking on interesting projects with real applications.
“A favorite task of mine was doing casework, because it had a direct impact on constituents' lives, and my work often ended up having a positive effect,” Ocampo said. “Having research projects that can potentially be added as a component on actual bills was also interesting. I think I have found my calling in public service.”
I think I have found my calling in public service.
WWU student and legislative intern
Cohen worked for State Sen. (and WWU Economics faculty member) Sharon Shewmake of the 42nd District (Bellingham) and said the internship was a great experience in which Cohen mostly tracked bills and served the needs of individual constituents.
“The internship also offered fantastic opportunities to hear from almost every statewide elected official, multiple commissioners, and included tours of the Governor's mansion and State Archives,” Cohen said. “I would highly recommend it to anyone with any interest at all in state government!”
Kenny worked for State Sen. Jesse Salomon of the 32nd District (Shoreline), responding to constituents and tracking bills as they moved through the legislature. Kenny said he appreciated the complexity of the problems faced during the internship in Olympia.
“I loved being able to apply my political science degree to real world problems,” Kenny said. “I was no longer just simply reading about these problems but actually working on them on the front lines.”
Brock worked for Senate Committee Services, which provides non-partisan, objective research to help Senators decide what policy options they should pursue.
Legislative Internship Program Advisor Todd Donovan, who is a professor of political science at Western, said the internship provides students with direct, hands-on experience working for their state government.
“While an internship, it is a full-time job that with responsibilities and opportunities that exceed what one might find in post-undergraduate internship placements,” Donovan said. “It also provides a chance to learn about government beyond the legislature, and potential career opportunities.”
While each of the interns worked for different representatives and senators, the cohort enjoyed a tight connection with each other.
"I enjoyed the chemistry and bonds we created together,” Meyers said. For more information about the legislative internship, please contact Professor of Political Science Todd Donovan at Donovat@wwu.edu.