Southern puts students to work at Missouri General Assembly

Missouri Southern’s Legislative Intern Program is seeking out students interested in working with legislators in the Missouri General Assembly for the spring 2015 session. Students will live in Jefferson City and work full-time with their assigned legislator as an assistant.

Dr. JoAnna Derfelt, political science instructor and director of the Spradling Center for Law and Politics at Southern, said six to ten students will be sent to represent Southern as personal assistants to legislators. Interns work within the legislator’s office to help with policy work, completing tasks varying from running errands to assisting in research to constituent work, she said.

Students chosen for the program live together in a house and receive a tuition waver, as well as a stipend that covers rent and utilities. Derfelt said the program is worth up to eight credits, and most students enroll in two or three online classes to create a full schedule. Since the legislative session takes place Monday through Thursday, Derfelt said most interns have an additional weekend job in Jefferson City.

The program offers students a unique experience, according to Derfelt.

“Almost every intern has used the program to help with job placement, [and] with grad and law school,” she said. “They come out of the program with numerous contacts and knowledge of state government that couldn’t be taught in a classroom.”

The intern program isn’t limited to social science majors said Derfelt. The program has sent nursing majors, business majors and education majors to represent Southern.

“It’s not limited to any field because the actual work that’s going on up there affects every single field,” said Derfelt.

She said the program tries to place students with legislators who have shared interests to maximize the experience.

Johnny Boyer, a senior political science major, interned in Jefferson City during the 2013 spring session. He said the experience was very rewarding and prepared him for law school and a future career as a prosecuting attorney.

Boyer said that it was eye-opening to see how much compromising was required in the state legislature.

“You don’t ever get your way,” Boyer said, “no matter how noble or economically sound your proposal might be, you always have to come together and work out the differences, not only between parties, but [with] the inter-party struggles as well.”

Derfelt said the program prefers applicants with 30 credit hours or more and will be taking applications until Nov. 3. Applicants must submit the application, along with a cover letter and résumé, to the Spradling Center and will later go through an interview process. Applications can be found on the bulletin board outside of the center or via email per request.