CSUN’s D.C. Internship Program Opens New Doors, Even to the White House

Abdiel Lewis interns at the Capitol’s Democratic cloakroom. Photo courtesy of Abdiel Lewis.

Abdiel Lewis interns at the Capitol’s Democratic cloakroom. Photo courtesy of Abdiel Lewis.

Not many students get the chance to meet the president of the United States. In Abdiel Lewis’ case, it was part of her internship to attend President Obama’s final State of the Union address where, for a moment, she stood just inches from the president.

“It was an amazing moment for me to be in the presence of such a powerful yet humble man,” said the California State University, Northridge political science student. “My mom was really upset that I didn’t take a selfie with him.”

Lewis, a junior, is one of 19 CSUN students participating in this spring’s D.C. Internship Program. She hopes to become a lawyer and serves as an intern for minority leader Nancy Pelosi in the Capitol’s Democratic cloakroom. At the Capitol, Lewis is gaining hands-on experience, learning about House floor procedures and providing support services to members of Congress.

“I deliver bills and co-sponsors to the Democratic representatives at the House floor — even when the House is in session,” she said. “It’s exciting to be on the House floor during legislative business and votes.”

In addition to her political science major, Lewis is pursuing a minor in philosophy. She said she draws inspiration from philosophers such as author Thomas Merton and icon Mahatma Gandhi, both of whom motivate her to stand up for justice and fuel her ambition to become a lawyer. The Washington, D.C. program was the first step for the ambitious CSUN student to move into a new world.

“I wanted to broaden my perspective by getting some real-world experience and professional development that might benefit my journey to become one of the best lawyers in my field,” Lewis said. “I grasped this opportunity because it provides me with the chance to network on Capitol Hill and in D.C. Who knows? D.C. could be part of my future.”

After graduating from CSUN, Lewis plans to attend law school, specializing in civil rights or constitutional law. Thanks to her internship experience, she’s considering choosing a law school in the nation’s capital.

“D.C. is a great place with a rich history, captivating culture and, of course, great people,” she said. “It is going to be a tough decision.”

The CSUN D.C. Internship Program is open to all students and all majors. For one semester, students work in an internship at the Capitol to gain practical experience in their fields of interest. For the spring and fall semesters, students earn 15 units. Summer semester interns earn six units.

“Students who participate learn a tremendous amount from the internships — both in terms of building skills and substantive policy knowledge, [and] they get an opportunity to network and build their professional profile,” said Lawrence Becker, chair of the Department of Political Science and D.C. program coordinator. “The CSUN in D.C. Internship Program helps students to grow by getting out of Southern California into a very different culture. D.C. is an international, very diverse and vibrant city with a lot happening all the time.”

Political science majors particularly have appreciated the internships in the past, getting the chance to work at Capitol Hill, Becker said. But other majors in social and behavioral science, humanities, health, human development, arts, media, communication, business and economics also have been placed in different agencies, nonprofits and advocacy organizations, he said.

“There are internships in every field in D.C.,” Becker said. “We work with students before they go to identify and secure the kind of internship that is the best fit for them.”

For more information on the D.C. Internship Program, visit http://www.csun.edu/social-behavioral-sciences/political-science/dc-internship or email dcinterns@csun.edu.

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