Change is in the air.
It’s that time of year and the UIS Campus is beginning to look like a college campus again with students coming and going in larger numbers than in over a year. Throughout this time, the Illinois Legislative Staff Intern Program has continued placing students with the Illinois General Assembly. The numbers were lower last year with only 11 interns participating due to the uncertainty. This year the program has returned to 22 internships. Fortunately, the numbers last year did not offset the experience. Even amid the sometimes rapidly changing times, interns continued working in a variety of remote hybrid situations depending on their staff assignments. Of course, at the end of the day, it is all about what comes next. For many of our interns, this is a determining step as to what comes next. Some will pursue further education either graduate school or law school. Others are ready to enter the workforce. Some will be offered positions on staff or through their networking as an intern, employment in a state agency or non-profit.
Getting the Job
One of last year’s interns, Maggie Lenkart was offered an opportunity to join the team after completing her internship with the Senate Democratic – Communications Staff. Maggie works with the Illinois Senate Democrats Communications team in their Springfield office. In this position, she staffs three senators. When staffing a senator, her duties include writing press releases, running their social media accounts, monitoring their legislation and connecting them with reporters. She also assists the caucus in writing stories for the caucus website, live-tweeting committees during session and other various things that come up throughout the day.
A Springfield native, Maggie knew she wanted to be involved in politics somehow, but she never imagined herself at the Capitol. Now that she’s there, she knows this experience will be vital to connecting her to her next step in her career. Before being an ILSIP intern, Maggie received her undergraduate degree from Lake Forest College and her Master's degree in Environmental Science from the University of Illinois – Springfield. Yes, she is one of our own graduates, previously participating in the Graduate Public Service Internship.
In addition to internships with Communications, placements are also available with the Research and Appropriations Staff, which translates as Committee Staff. For instance, an intern placed on the Higher Education Committee, would be responsible for assisting and supporting all the legislators on their side of the aisle that are members of that committee and work closely with the leadership of the committee. Research and Appropriations Staff review and provide a written analysis of all the bills/legislation that comes before their assigned committee. They may be asked to prepare amendments. They also serve as the point person on all the bills that come before their committee, working with state agency staff, lobbyists, and the general public to perfect the policies developed within their assigned committee. On most staffs, they are also asked to handle the related appropriations which for Higher Education means preparing Excel spreadsheets of the budgets for all the institutions of Higher Education within the State of Illinois including the University of Illinois, a.k.a. UIS. Eventually, these spreadsheets are cobbled together into the state budget which when passed and signed by the governor funds all the state agencies.
If you are not interested in working on partisan staff and would prefer a non-partisan position, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability serves as a legislative support agency for the Legislature, serving both sides of the aisle. They are responsible for reviewing revenue or income for the State of Illinois to determine how much money is available each year for funding services throughout the State of Illinois. They also provide the Legislature with research and information related to the economy, state pensions and insurance along with a variety of other topics of interest to the legislative members and their staff through the Research Unit.
If any of these opportunities are of interest to you or someone you know, the Illinois Legislative Staff Intern Program still has a few internships available on the Senate and House Republican Staffs for this year and will be recruiting for 24 positions that will begin in August 2022. The program offers a paid internship of $2,400 per month with the internship beginning in August and running through June 30 of the following year. Please note these are full-time paid internships.
Changing it Up
This last year, ILSIP initiated an online application process which will continue moving forward. All applicants begin with a graduate application and then select ILSIP if interested in pursuing the program.
If you are looking for the office, ILSIP has moved, joining the Office of Graduate Intern Programs in Brookens Library, Room 475, effective July 1.
Beginning this fiscal year, the deadline for applications has also changed. In an effort to avoid the unpredictability of the legislative session, the deadline for applications will be moved up to November 1 with interviews scheduled for the first week of December and if necessary, a deadline of May 1 for a second round of interviews scheduled in June, for any internships that remain to be filled.
Change is in the air and it is all good. It is a sign of growth. Like the fall leaves, it is all about letting go of the old in preparation for the new that will appear in the spring. If you think you might be interested in a legislative internship, please take the opportunity to check out the Illinois Legislative Staff Intern Program and be sure to pass the word along.
For more information about the Illinois Legislative Staff Intern Program, check out the Office of Graduate Intern Programs at https://www.uis.edu/graduateinternprograms/ilsip/.
Barbara Van Dyke-Brown continues to serve as director of the Illinois Legislative Staff Intern Program at UIS beginning in 2003. She is the co-author of Lobbying Illinois: How You Can Make a Difference in Public Policy (2003) and editor of the Almanac of Illinois Politics (2002 and 2004). As adjunct faculty, she taught for multiple years, an undergraduate seminar for legislative interns as well as an online graduate course, Political Action and Advocacy, designed specifically for the master level educational leadership curriculum. Before coming to UIS in 2000, Barbara accumulated almost a decade of legislative experience as lobbyist, public policy coordinator, and legislative staff. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Illinois State University and her Master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Louisville. For Barbara, education, public service, and making a difference in the lives of others is a life-long pursuit.
If you have questions, feel free to connect with us and request more information!