David Reed, senior political science major, takes a moment between readings in mock legislature.

David Reed, senior political science major, takes a moment between readings in mock legislature.

Amye Buckley & Alexandra Nicolas

Spring semester saw 10 student interns leave Missouri Southern and travel to Jefferson City to work as legislative assistants.

“It’s like a backstage pass in the world of politics,” said Russell Rice, junior international business and Spanish major. “You get to see first hand what you’d only read about in books, what you see about on TV.”

The first-hand experience is what Rachel Downing, junior biochemistry and pre-dental major, enjoys about the experience.

She wants to go into dentistry and has been following a bill she hopes stays in committee.

“What you learn in the classroom is so much different than what you see going on everyday in the capitol,” Day said. “They tell you, ‘well, this is how a bill gets passed,’ it goes through the House and it goes through the committees and all that, but once you get there and you see and you’re in the committees and you’re on the house floor when they’re arguing about them it’s really so much different than you imagine in the classroom.”

The program is in its third year.

Dr. Thomas Simpson, professor of political science and director of the Regional Development Center, oversees the student’s internships. For the inaugural year of the program, Simpson scrambled to find 10 interns

“Dr. Léon wanted to make a commitment to serve the legislators in our area,” Simpson said.

The response was overwhelming.

Simpson has had requests from across the state for Southern students. Program participants function as full-time employees of the lawmakers they serve. They receive a $1000 stipend from the University, and a 12-hour tuition waiver as well.

“They went to Jeff City and they lived like Spartans,” Simpson said. “The praise that we got from those 10 convinced us that we were on the right track.”

The 2007 program saw only five interns, but Simpson recruited heavily and filled all the positions for this year.

Seven students have already applied for next year’s program.

“To me they’re as effective as a lobbyist in making Southern look good and keeping Southern before the eyes of our legislators,” Simpson said.

Students send back weekly reports to Simpson on what they have done.

Dr. Terri Agee, senior vice president, says the connection is valuable in both directions.

“It promotes Missouri Southern at the capitol, having our students active and involved in the process and it helps keep us connected to the issues that impact us in this area of the state.”

Feedback from the program has been positive.

“I wish I had this opportunity when I was in school,” Agee said. “I would have taken my university up on this, and I am hoping my children can one day enjoy this experience.”

Although he recommends students in the program not overload themselves, it does not surprise him when they decide to add a class or two.

“I admire the ones who are taking classes,” Simpson said. ” The kid who is motivated to take an internship is also motivated to graduate.”

Students involved in the program are assigned to a state representative or senator. They answer phones and attend sessions, but their responsibilities vary. Some work with Senators and Representatives in charge of committees.

“Every representative has different needs and requirements so the workload for each intern is going to be different,” said Jason Morse, junior finance and economics major. Much of what they do is research.

“Whenever the senator goes to committee meetings or is getting ready to go to the floor to talk about an issue or something like that, it’s basically my job to make sure …