Posted September 24, 2009

A capital idea: New internship program connects Temple, Harrisburg

A trendsetting new program is providing Temple undergraduates with semester-long, credit-earning, total-immersion public policy experiences in Harrisburg, the state capital of Pennsylvania. Think of it as MTV's "The Real World" for students who want to explore state government — only with internships tailored to their majors instead of cameras and drama.

Temple's Pennsylvania Capital Semester (PCS) program placed its first cohort of students in internships in the capital in early September. Nine Temple juniors and seniors — a group that includes students majoring in criminal justice, economics, journalism, political science and social work — are working as interns, taking courses for credit at Temple University Harrisburg (TUH) and, in most cases, living within a block or two of TUH and the Capitol building in the International House, a residential facility for students from around the world.

The program, run by Temple's Institute for Public Affairs and hosted by TUH, is the first of its kind at a Philadelphia-area college or university.

Photo by Joe Hermitt
Senior political science major Daniel Goldstein is interning in Rep. Mark B. Cohen’s office this semester as part of Temple's Pennsylvania Capital Semester (PCS) program.

"It's good to see students from Temple in the Capitol, because students from Central Pennsylvania schools have dominated the placement of interns in Harrisburg," said House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Mark B. Cohen, whose district includes parts of North and Northeast Philadelphia.

"Pennsylvania Capital Semester is a great program for students, because internships can lead to jobs — sometimes interns can even influence policy," added Cohen, whose office employs PCS intern Daniel Goldstein. "I'm delighted that Temple is participating, and I hope that other Philadelphia area colleges and universities will follow their lead."

Depending on their placement, PCS interns work on legislation, constituent service, policy research, public relations, grassroots campaigns, special events, press releases and press conferences, economic development projects, news reporting, lobbying and advocacy, fundraising and more — all while staying on track for graduation by earning up to 15 credits.

Nine undergraduate students interning as part of the Capital Semester program gathered at a recent reception with legislators and program directors at the Temple University Harrisburg campus.

Joseph P. McLaughlin Jr., director of the Institute for Public Affairs and assistant dean for external affairs at Temple's College of Liberal Arts, says the program creates invaluable opportunities for networking and career-building that will help students and the state alike.

"The Pennsylvania Capital Semester program pays dividends not just for the students and the university, but to the Commonwealth that supports the university, because it provides the Capitol with a stream of talented young people, many of whom will end up in public service, perhaps for the state — a career path that might not have opened up for them without these internships," McLaughlin explained.

McLaughlin says that PCS internship coordinator and long-time Harrisburg insider Michael Cassidy, a former state representative and current adjunct political science instructor at TUH, has been able to place each Pennsylvania Capital Semester intern in a position directly related to that student's major. Criminal justice major Jeff Sheare is working for the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee, for example, while journalism and political science double-major Sean Rossman has already written several articles for The Pennsylvania Letter and Capitol Recap, newsletters produced by Pennsylvania Legislative Services.

"I think it's very important for students in all majors to realize that, no matter what their passion is, they can represent it in Harrisburg," said Molly Anglin, a junior social work major who was placed in the Office of Long Term Living in Pennsylvania's Department of Aging and the Department of Public Welfare.

Although a few state universities in Pennsylvania have similar internship programs, none can offer the proximity to the Capitol and the institutional support offered by TUH and International House. For senior political science major Daniel Goldstein, an intern in Rep. Cohen's office, the program's central location and his internship's once-in-a-lifetime timing — in the thick of an epic budget crisis — have combined to make his first few weeks on the job unforgettable.

"It has been an interesting, learning-intensive experience," said Goldstein, who also has a fellowship from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives' Bipartisan Management Committee. "We're only two blocks from the Capitol. To wake up and walk to work in that awesome building every morning is pretty cool."

The full semester consists of the internship (three to nine credits), an internship seminar (three credits) and a "State Politics and Policy" course (three credits).

Students in any Temple school or college who are juniors or seniors by the time the internship semester begins may apply for PCS. Students must have a minimum grade point average of 3.0 and complete Political Science 1101, "The American Political System," before starting their internship. Some internships are paid; others are not. For more information, including instructions and application forms for fall 2010 PCS internships, go to