Skip to main content

Practical Politics

Students get lessons from the back room and the classroom in long-running legislative internship program.

We’ve all heard the adage about the differences between “book learnin’” and what you learn in the real world, or the “school of hard knocks.” But what if you could learn both?

That’s what happens for students — from NC State and other N.C. colleges and universities — who participate in a legislative internship program that’s been run by NC State for more than a half century.

The program, run by the School of Public and International Affairs, accepts a dozen students every two years who spend a semester in Raleigh. They work 30 hours a week as interns at the N.C. General Assembly and take two courses — one in legislative process and another in public leadership at NC State. Roughly half of the students tend to be from NC State, with others from colleges around the state.

“They get all the background, the theoretical course material, about how legislatures work, and then they get to go into that world and see how it actually gets done,” says Tony Solari, an assistant teaching professor who oversees the program and teaches one of the courses. “You need to know the formal process. You need to know the rules. But it also helps to see the stuff behind the scenes.”

Solari, who also works as a legislative lobbyist, says students are often surprised by how complex the process can be. “A bill can get hung up in committee, and you’ve got to work out the problems or a member has an issue with it,” he says. “It can go in a lot of different directions from what they read in the textbook.”

Most of the students are political science or public policy majors, so they are intrigued by the world of politics and government. They often make connections that lead to jobs after graduation, Solari says, and “often come away impressed with the sense of public duty, that members take this very seriously.”

Leave a Response

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.