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Pennsylvania House of Representatives
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Nicholas Thompson

Liberal Arts Major(s): Economics
Minor: Labor and Human Resources
Hometown: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Experience Time: Spring 2020

Give us a brief summary of your experience?

For the duration of the program, I am assigned to a committee in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. While on this committee, I work under an Executive Director and a Senior Research Analyst. My job is to assist them in their work as well as do several projects throughout the semester. The projects I have to complete are an interview with a representative, a bill analysis, a constituent letter, a formal portfolio, and an original piece of legislation. While there is no "typical" day in politics, as I often find myself given a new project with a higher priority, most of the time I conduct background research for committee hearings or new bills. I also draft cosponsor memos, look into and draft a response to constituent inquiries, write meeting agendas, and more. Often times, I will have the opportunity to sit in on meetings with the committee chairman as they talk with special interest groups or minority party members. At this point in the semester, I am involved heavily with researching and drafting my legislation. This entails meeting with my supervisors, stakeholders, and attorneys to help draft the bill. One thing I learned about working in politics is that you have to be ready to change direction or re-prioritize projects to fit changing needs of the committee or representatives very quickly.  

How did this experience impact you academically?

Being an Economics major in the College of the Liberal Arts has given me a wide range of tools to use and develop throughout school and my professional career. Working in state government and politics has helped me analyze problems differently and respond to them in a more efficient manner. One of the things I have to do is draft constituent letters. While this may seem simple enough, my committee is made up of different representatives from different districts. Responding to a concern of a constituent in Elk County is very different than responding to a person in Bucks County. I have to constantly remind myself that I am writing from the representative's perspective, not my own. This has helped me greatly in looking at problems and responding to questions and concerns in a more precise way. It has also strengthened my critical thinking abilities and my writing skills. These abilities and skills are required in any field of employment and are valuable to every employer. 
One thing I learned about working in politics is that you have to be ready to change direction or re-prioritize projects to fit changing needs of the committee or representatives very quickly.  

How will this experience impact your career goals?

This internship experience has given me more confidence in my critical thinking, researching, writing, and communication abilities. Furthermore, it has helped me to see the importance of having strong sales skills. I did not see it as readily obvious, but politics involves a lot of sales. For example, with the bill I am working on, I have to sell it to people who are concerned or hesitant as well as my committee. I have to convince people this bill will help to resolve the problem or at least get the community to talk more about it. This internship also helped fuel my passion for law and politics and has reignited my desire to become an attorney. Witnessing the amount of work behind legislation and how important laws are to our society has given me a new perspective on politics. This program will hopefully drive me to explore this passion further and eventually pursue law school. 

 

How has the College of the Liberal Arts helped you to find and/or succeed in this experience (e.g., adviser, faculty, staff, enrichment funds, etc.)?

The College of the Liberal Arts has been very supportive, informative, and helpful throughout my Penn State career. I have met with and emailed Susan Knell over the years, and she has helped me to dramatically improve my resume. I have highlighted my strengths and accomplishments and discussed interview tactics prior to my interview for this internship. Furthermore, I have applied to and received enrichment funds for this program. Since I am taking the internship for credit, I had tuition and two rents to pay. The enrichment funds helped to alleviate that financial strain by lessening the cost. My internship class with Dr. Peter Miraldi also assisted me in identifying the goals of my internship and what I needed in order to succeed in this program. 

For more information on internships for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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