Congressional Internship Program Gives Students the Opportunity to Work and Study in Washington, D.C.

Each fall, the Panetta Institute hosts students for its Congressional Internship Program beginning in mid-August with an intensive two-week course at the Institute and continuing in Washington, D.C. through mid-November.

Dan Balz of The Washington Post discusses the role of the press with Secretary Panetta and 2019 interns.

The year 2019 marked the twenty-first year of this celebrated program, recognized as one of the leading internship courses for Capitol Hill.

“We are proud that our program has earned the reputation of being one of the finest internship programs in the nation,” says Secretary Leon E. Panetta.

Interns first attend an intensive two-week course at the Panetta Institute, where discussions range from United States foreign and defense policy, to cybersecurity issues, to trade, fiscal and monetary policy, to practicalities of what interns can expect once they arrive for work on Capitol Hill. During this training session, students attend lectures led by an array of authorities from diverse disciplines.

Each intern is then assigned to work for two and one-half months in the Capitol Hill office of a member of the California congressional delegation. In addition to their work in congressional offices, participants attend weekly seminars on policy issues and different aspects of government.

“The Panetta Institute is a highly respected program on Capitol Hill.”

–Elena Redding, staff assistant, Congressman Ami Bera

The preparation and continuing course work pays off for each intern. A staff assistant from a Congressional office recently stated: “All our interns from the Panetta Institute have joined our office well prepared for the tasks assigned to them as well as ready to carry out a variety of duties and assignments.

Interns are nominated by the presidents of each CSU campus, as well as Dominican University of California, Saint Mary’s College of California and Santa Clara University — and approved for participation by the Panetta Institute.

The Institute covers program costs including course registration fees, campus services and housing during orientation, air travel and housing in Washington, D.C. As a result, the Panetta Institute makes the program available to interns from all socioeconomic levels. Interns also receive twenty semester credits.

Many of the Panetta Institute interns go on to successful positions in public service. One such intern, from the class of 2010, is Hafiza Arikat, who today is a consultant at Deloitte management consulting in Washington, D.C. Previously she had served as a Department of Homeland Security liaison officer to the U.S. Department of State’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications. Looking back at her internship, she said, “As a child of two refugees who immigrated to the United States for a better life for themselves and their children, I know how important it is to give back to the country that has given me so much. I served as a Panetta congressional intern with pride and with honor. I owe so much to your amazing Institute that took a sociology major (who never thought she could work in government), believed in her and set her up for success.”

Again in 2019, a wide variety of experts spoke with interns, both at the Institute and in Washington, D.C. “There’s just no substitute for this first-hand experience to promote public service,” says Secretary Panetta, “and we’ve had tremendous cooperation from our members of Congress – both Republicans and Democrats – in working with our students.”

Authorities participating in the two-week orientation at the Panetta Institute along with Secretary Panetta included: Dan Balz, best-selling author and chief correspondent for The Washington Post; Thomas Wickham, parliamentarian, United States House of Representatives; William Lowery, former United States Representative (R), 41st District, California, and Marty Russo, former United States Representative (D), 3rd District, Illinois.

Below is a complete list of the speakers and topics in the 2019 orientation course:

  • Secretary Panetta presented sessions on the founding and creation of the American Republic; congressional leadership and policy making; the founding of the American democracy and challenges both nationally and internationally.
  • Luis Alejo, member of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors and former California State Assembly member; Cynthia Garfield, council member for the city of Pacific Grove, and Joe Gunter, mayor for the city of Salinas, discussed relations between local governments and Washington, D.C.
  • John Arquilla, Ph.D., distinguished professor and chair, Defense Analysis Department, Naval Postgraduate School, spoke on cyber security and national security
  • Dan Balz, chief correspondent, The Washington Post, discussed the impact of press and media on politics.
  • Sonia Banks, J.D., professor,  Panetta Institute, taught a course on effective communication.
  • Jeremy Bash, J.D., former chief of staff for the Secretary of Defense and director of the CIA, provided insight on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
  • Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, taught a class on immigration issues.
  • James Copeland, former White House deputy assistant to President Jimmy Carter and Les Francis, former deputy chief of staff to President Jimmy Carter, presented, “How Congress works: a realist’s view.”
  • Jim Cunneen, former assemblyman, 24th District, California State Assembly, Fred Keeley, former assemblyman, 27th District and Frank Hespe, advocate and fiduciary, participated as part of a special three-part session and role playing exercise on consensus building.
  • Hector Flores, M.D., founding member and co-director of the White Memorial Medical Center Family Medicine Residency Program in Los Angeles, discussed healthcare in the United States and California.
  • Colonel Gary Hausman, commandant of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center and Commander Paula Travis, meteorology and oceanography program officer at the Naval Postgraduate School, taught on national security policy.
  • Jeff Horwitt, senior vice president Hart Research Associates, presented the findings of the Panetta Institute’s 2019 Youth Civic Engagement Survey.
  • Richard Kezirian, Ph.D., professor emeritus, Panetta Institute, presented a two-part session on “A history of Congress.”
  • John Laird, former secretary of California natural resources and former assemblyman, 27th District, discussed the state’s natural resources priorities.
  • Stephanie Leonard, communications project manager, Next 10, led the students in an interactive exercise on the state budget.
  • Drew Liebert, J.D., former chief counsel, California Assembly Judiciary Committee, presented “Differences between the federal and state levels.”
  • William Lowery, former United States Representative, 41st District, California and Marty Russo, former United States Representative, 3rd District, Illinois taught courses on the Appropriations and Ways and Means Committees as well as a course on “Gridlock and partisanship in Congress.” Lowery presented from a Republican perspective with Mr. Russo taking the Democratic point of view.
  • James Mayer, senior fellow and president emeritus at California Forward, spoke on public policy issues affecting California.
  • Joe Minarik, Ph.D., former chief economist of the Office of Management and Budget and senior vice president and director of research for the Committee for Economic Development, taught two courses: one on the economy and the budget of the United States and the other on trade policy.
  • Eduardo Ochoa, Ph.D., former assistant secretary for postsecondary education, and president, California State University, Monterey Bay, and Willard Clark Lewallen, Ph.D., superintendent/president of the Hartnell Community College District, shared their thoughts on the challenges in American education.
  • Jan Smutny-Jones, CEO of Independent Energy Producers Association, covered the energy and clean air issues facing the nation and the state of California.
  • George Somero, Ph.D., associate director, Hopkins Marine Station, presented on climate change.
  • Matthew Spence, Ph.D., J.D., former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy, gave the students a review of the the current social, political and military challenges in the region of the Middle East.
  • Jodie Torkelson, former chief of staff, United States Representative Richard Nolan, guided the students on what to expect in their office with a review on the role of the congressional office.
  • Fernando Torres-Gil, Ph.D., former United States assistant secretary on aging and professor of social welfare and public policy, University of California, Los Angeles taught politics and challenges of aging and diversity in the 21st century.
  • Amanda Tyler, J.D., professor of law at the UC Berkeley School of Law, teaught two sessions: one on criminal justice reform and another on recent Supreme Court decisions.
  • Thomas Wickham, J.D., parliamentarian, United States House of Representatives, instructed the interns on parliamentary procedure and the institutions and traditions of the House.
  • Panetta Institute staff lecturers Sonia Banks, Richard Kezirian and Fred Keeley participated in lectures and discussions with students throughout the orientation.
  • Additional courses included a presentation by former Panetta Institute interns and a course on intern protocols.


Below are the 2019 interns:

Name Home Campus U.S. Representative
Symphoni Barbee Sonoma State University The Hon. Ami Bera
Esther Bautista CSU Fresno The Hon. Mike Thompson
Victor Beck San Diego State University The Hon. John Garamendi
Claudia Castaneda CSU San Bernardino The Hon. Alan Lowenthal
Brigitte Dahrouj Chico State University The Hon. Ron Ruiz
Jordan Dayer Cal Poly Pomona The Hon. Kevin McCarthy
Jasmine Flores CSU Sacramento The Hon. Salud Carbajal
Morgan Gross CSU Stanislaus The Hon. Nancy Pelosi
Christopher Harris St. Mary’s College of California The Hon. Ken Calvert
Alyssa Herrera CSU Monterey Bay The Hon. Nanette Diaz-Barragan
Pryce Hood Cal Maritime Academy The Hon. Jimmy Panetta
Karlie Jones CSU Northridge The Hon. Eric Swalwell
Christine Lam Cal Poly San Luis Obispo The Hon. Harley Rouda
Lauren Loeb CSU San Marcos The Hon. Paul Cook
Samantha Logan San Francisco State University The Hon. Adam Schiff
Belinda Magallon CSU East Bay The Hon. Katie Hill
Oscar Mancilla CSU Dominguez Hills The Hon. Jimmy Gomez
Sara Martinez CSU Channel Islands The Hon. Ted Lieu
Ciara Moezidis Santa Clara University The Hon. Ro Khanna
Michael Perez Humboldt State University The Hon. Gilbert Ray Cisneros
Allison Popovitz Dominican University The Hon. T.J. Cox
Omar Prudencio-Gonzalez CSU Long Beach The Hon. Doris Matsui
Deysi Rocha San José State University The Hon. Karen Bass
Dubrea Sanders CSU Bakersfield The Hon. Mark Takano
Davona Watson CSU Los Angeles The Hon. Jim Costa
Meghan Waymire CSU Fullerton The Hon. Susan Davis


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