CSUN Student Interns Gain Valuable Experience in the Nation’s Capital

  • Students gathered on steps of National Archives.

    CSUN student interns sitting at the National Archives. Photo courteous of Matthew Cahn.

Every year, California State University, Northridge gives students of all majors the opportunity to intern in the nation’s capital. The CSUN in D.C. Internship Program sends approximately 30 CSUN juniors and seniors to Washington, D.C. during both the spring and summer terms.

Students get the opportunity to intern with members of Congress, advocacy groups, nonprofits, embassies or private firms. Working 25-40 hours a week and taking two night classes, students must be able to balance their schedule between work, study and school.

“The program leaves students with immense connections who later find their careers in D.C.,” said Lawrence Becker, a professor in the Department of Political Science and Director of the D.C. Internship Program.

Becker picks students with various qualities for the internship.

“GPA isn’t always a great indicator of a good intern,” Becker said. “We look for students who exemplify professional, accountable and reliable behavior.”

Makenna Sievertson, a journalism major, is one of the current D.C. interns. She is interning for Scenic America, a conservation and nature nonprofit, in a communications and development position. Working 40 hours a week, Sievertson said she has received valuable experience in her field.

“I’ve never worked in an office environment before or a 9-to-5,” she said. “I love being able to get that experience now.”

Being away from home has been the hardest part, but she is glad that she can show her family how much she has grown, Sievertson said.

Students in D.C. take home incredible, unforgettable stories.

“The second day I was here was the Women’s March on Washington,” Sievertson said. “I was jet-lagged and cold, but a group of us walked about three miles to join the march. I remember standing on the frozen Reflecting Pool, listening to [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi speak, and looking over the thousands of people who came to protest. I had chills knowing that I was standing in the same spot Martin Luther King Jr. did his I Have a Dream speech for the original March on Washington. That moment is going to be something I remember for the rest of my life.”

Becker said the program gives students direct political experience, with many of them interning with members of Congress.

Kimberly Caseres, a political science major, works in the office of Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Illinois). The congressman was elected in 2016 and represents Illinois’ 8th District, covering Chicago’s northwest suburbs. Caseres is the lead intern for the office and the deputy scheduler, while also working with the press secretary to enhance the congressman’s social media presence.

“Representing CSUN in a new member of Congress’ office gives me a sense of empowerment,” Caseres said. “Knowing that I have made great progress in that office with the hard work I put in allows others to have a great impression of what I am and what CSUN has done for me.”

Although she does not want to work on Capitol Hill in the future, the internship has opened other doors, Caseres said.

“This program has helped me network with various people and it incredibly improved my writing skills,” she said. “It also helped me start getting used to living on my own — which is something I’d like to do within the next couple of years.”

Caseres, too, has made some amazing memories in D.C.

“I was walking down the hallway in one of the buildings, and I was feet away from Representatives [and California Democrats] Maxine Waters and Jimmy Gomez within a span of two minutes,” she said. “It was pretty awesome.”

Funding for this experimental leaning program comes from student fees, scholarships and donor support. For more information on giving, please contact Tracy Baum, director of development for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, at (818) 677-7129 or tracy.baum@csun.edu.

For more information on the CSUN in D.C. Internship Program, please visit the program’s website.