Searching for internships stops here: Try THIS

Clarion, Pa.- Looking for an internship opportunity is often stressful and confusing. There are more options for students

Prince Matthews stands in front of the Capitol Building where he interned.
Prince Matthews stands in front of the Capitol Building where he interned.

than ever before.

Searching for an internship just got easier, said Hannah Keck, a senior environmental geoscience major and mathematics minor, and Prince Matthews, a super-senior political science major.

Matthews was the fall 2014 intern, while Keck is the 2015 spring semester intern participating in The Harrisburg Internship Semester, a rigorous 15-credit semester program that strives to provide its students with a rewarding experience by learning the dynamics within state government and building resumes with hands-on experience.

Dr. Barry Sweet is Clarion University’s campus coordinator for THIS to reach out to both interested students and explain the internship opportunity. “I have never had a student who participated in the internship say a negative thing about it. It is truly a rewarding program to students of any major,” said Sweet.

Since 1989, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education has sponsored THIS, giving students from its 14 state system universities the opportunity to engage with political leaders, policymakers and independent government agency members.

THIS is administered by the Division of Academic and Student Affairs in the Office of the Chancellor, based at the Dixon

Hannah Keck stands in her office in the Pennsylvania State Historic Museum.
Hannah Keck stands in her office in the Pennsylvania State Historic Museum.

University Center in Harrisburg.

“I currently am working for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in the Bureau of Historical Preservation office,” said Heck, who will be spending the next 15 weeks learning the ins and outs of her new job.

Matthews worked at the Senate Research Office for the Democratic Caucus as well as for the Issues and Communications Office for the Democratic Caucus in the Capitol Building.

“My job coming in was to basically make things more efficient than ever before,” stated Matthews, reflecting on the experience. “I helped modernize the Senate archives (from hard copies to digital copies), to save more time, and to get more done.”

In order to apply for internship, students must have maintained at least a 3.0 grade point average, have a minimum of 45 undergraduate credit hours, and complete a paper application including their resume, a Letter of Application, writing sample, two letters of recommendation and current transcript. Once receiving the internship, interns are interviewed at three separate locations in Harrisburg in order to find their place of interest to work.

“The internship is open to any and all majors,” said Keck, “and we are able to choose where we will work, what interests us. I saw that the Museum was one of choices and learned about their plan to complete a Hurricane Sandy research project by 2020, and asked to work in their office.”

She continued, “The Museum Commission received a grant from legislature to help counties in PA who were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. They hope to restore property and resources and provide support for hazard litigation and disaster planning.”

Matthews described how within the building he was working, he also had the duty to write press releases, attend press conferences and media events, write speeches for Senators, update the PASenate.com website daily and digitalized all past governor’s vetoes as well as overridden vetoes.

“I got to meet Governor Wolf, Former Lt. (and Acting Governor) Governor Mark Singel, and Governor Corbett on various occasions. I also got to meet and work with Senators, state representatives, and government agencies,” Matthews continued, “The networking opportunities were unbelievable. Furthermore, I wrote and finished a book titled, Student Loan Debt, Higher Education Affordability, and Alternative Funding Methods.”

“We are encouraged in our individual work to attend legislative meetings, senate sessions, talk to public officials and express your ideas. I actually met our state governor twice in three days. Many government officials are more than willing to set up a time to talk,” said Keck.

She added, “You realize that no matter what major you have, government policy effects you and your future career. Everything crosses over at some point no matter what you do.”

During the internship, Keck and Matthews were required to attend a class seminar once a week, lasting up to three hours, featuring keynote speakers from various political realms. Keck explained, “So far I have listened to the Chancellor for Academic/Student Affairs and Executive Vice Chancellor for PASSHE. Next week we will be listening to a judge.”

During the seminars, interns are encouraged to interact with the speakers, learn more about his or her occupation and then to write a reflections assignment on the specific seminar.  Keck explained the importance of attending and participating in the seminars, “the way in which the internship is designed, the seminars are worth three credits, with graded assignments, three credits for a research project of your choice that includes detailed analysis and individual research, also graded, and then nine credits for the internship itself.”

Matthews added, “Working full-time and balancing a full credit load takes some time to get used to. I also think that amalgamating the theoretical knowledge gained in the classroom with the practical experience in the workplace can be a challenge at times for various reasons.”

Throughout the 15 weeks, students are responsible for finding housing and paying for a normal semester’s tuitions and fees. However, interns are provided with a $6,500 stipend to help cover the cost of living, groceries, utilities, etc. The stipend is granted to the students through the PASSHE system, divided into seven payments paid to interns every two weeks.

Sweet added, “I have been the Campus Coordinator since the Fall of 2009, and have seen many students attend the internship and then come back and graduate and still talk about the experience. One previous student, who attended THIS, was able to intern at the attorney general’s office. Now, he is the public defender of Clarion County.”

Keck described the experience as an intro to reality, a glimpse of the adult world. She said, “My employer helped me ease into the job, giving me baby steps, checking on me once or twice a week to make sure that I understood what I was doing. They will teach you about the profession while you are in it.”

“I got to witness it at hand how the state system works. The internship is geared toward individual interest, and so far while here,” she added,  “I have begun to understand how the decision that our government makes first is spread to a state and then to a local level. You learn how the decisions they make here truly effect everyone at a certain level.”

Keck concluded, “THIS is a truly great opportunity and is open to any major.  They will find what interests you and place you in it.”

Matthews shared similar experiences, and was even offered a future full-time permanent position at the Senate Research Office by his supervisor. “The skills, relationships, and practical experience I have gained throughout my time in Harrisburg was priceless,” he concluded.

If interested in applying for the THIS internship for either the fall 2015 or spring 2016 semesters, contact Dr. Barry Sweet in 306 Founders Hall at bsweet@clarion.edu to pick up an application. Completed applications are due by Friday, Feb. 27.

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