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.

Panetta Institute 2016 Congressional interns and Secretary Panetta on the Capitol steps

Interns are nominated by the presidents of the twenty-three CSU campuses, 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 and a representative from the CSU Chancellor’s Office. During the intensive summer training session, these students attend lectures led by an array of experts from diverse disciplines.

Class discussion at the Panetta Institute ranges from United States foreign and defense policy to cybersecurity issues to fiscal and monetary policy to practicalities of what interns can expect once they arrive for work on Capitol Hill. Sessions also focus on policy issues as well as how congressional office-holders coordinate their work with state and local governments and constituents.

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. Studies continue when the students move to Washington. In addition to their work in congressional offices, participants attend weekly seminars on policy issues and different aspects of government.

“There’s just no substitute for this first-hand experience to promote public service,” says Institute Chairman Leon E. Panetta, “and we’ve had tremendous cooperation from our members of Congress – both Republicans and Democrats – in working with our students.”

The feedback from Congressional offices has been overwhelmingly positive. For example Brien Courchene, legislative correspondent for California Representative Mark Takano (D), had this to say about intern Maria Gadduang: “She has been a valuable addition to our office and a great person to work with. She puts a lot of enthusiasm and effort into each and every assignment she gets, and produces high-quality work that our office depends on. We are thrilled to have her on our team.”

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

Among others, the experts and faculty participating in the two-week orientation along with Secretary Panetta are: Dan Quayle, forty-fourth vice president of the United States, Dan Balz, best-selling author and reporter for The Washington Post; Carla Marinucci, Senior Writer, POLITICO California Playbook; 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.

In addition to presentations and question-and-answer sessions with more than thirty speakers, the interns participate in a consensus building exercise designed to educate the students to the challenging nature of forging compromise when parties have conflicting priorities. Another addition to this year’s program is an in-depth look at President Donald Trump’s dealings with Russia, with Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff, United States Department of Defense (2011-2013) and the CIA (2009-2011).

Below is a complete list of the speakers in topics in this year’s orientation course:

  • Luis Alejo, member of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors and former California State Assembly Member, Joe Gunter, mayor, City of Salinas; Fred Meurer, former city manager of Monterey and Carrie Theis, mayor pro tem for the city of Carmel-by-the-Sea discuss relations between local governments and Washington, D.C.
  • John Arquilla, Ph.D., professor and chair, Defense Analysis Department, Naval Postgraduate School speaks on cybersecurity and national security.
  • Dan Balz, chief correspondent, The Washington Post and Carla Marinucci, reporter POLITCO, California Playbook, discuss the impact of press and media on politics.
  • Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff for the Secretary of Defense and director of the CIA provides insight into the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
  • Severin Borenstein, professor of business administration and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley covers the energy challenges facing the nation.
  • Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of Immigration and Cross-Border Policy, Bipartisan Policy Center, and Símon Salinas, supervisor, District 3, Monterey County and California State Assembly Member, District 28 (2000-2006) teach 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, present, “How Congress works: a realist’s view.”
  • Jim Cunneen, California State Assembly, District 24 (1994-2000), and Fred Keeley, California State Assembly, District 27 (1996-2002), participate as part of a special three-part session and role playing exercise on consensus building.
  • Sam Farr, United States Representative, 20th District, California (1993-2016), joins Secretary Panetta to discuss a recent Panetta Institute report on national service.
  • Hector Flores, M.D., founding member and co-director of the White Memorial Medical Center Family Medicine Residency Program in Los Angeles, discuss healthcare in the United States and California.
  • Richard Kezirian, Ph.D., professor emeritus, Panetta Institute presents on three historical topics with “A history of Congress,” “Presidential-congressional relations: A historical perspective” and “California’s experience and America’s Future”
  • Nancy Kotowski, Monterey County superintendent of schools, Monterey County Office of Education, and Eduardo Ochoa, former assistant secretary for postsecondary education, and president, California State University, Monterey Bay, share their thoughts on the challenges of American education.
  • John Laird, California secretary for natural resources discusses the state’s natural resources priorities.
  • Stephanie Leonard, communications project manager, Next 10, leads the students in an interactive exercise on the state budget.
  • Drew Liebert, J.D., former chief counsel, California Assembly Judiciary Committee, presents,  “Leadership in Sacramento through the eyes of an insider.”
  • William Lowery, former United States Representative, 41st District, California and Marty Russo, former United States Representative, 3rd District, Illinois each are teaching courses on the Appropriations and Ways and Means Committees as well as a course on “Gridlock and partisanship in Congress.” Mr. Lowery presents from a Republican perspective with Mr. Russo taking the Democratic point of view.
  • Clyde Macdonald, water policy expert and former senior staff to the California State Legislature covers water issues in 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 teaches two courses: one on the economy of the United States and the other on “Budget politics and policy making.
  • Jim Newton, journalist, author and teacher presents on California history and politics.
  • Dan Quayle, forty-fourth Vice President of the United States, gives his impression on “A view of Washington, D.C. today.”
  • George Somero, Ph.D., associate director, Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University, presents on climate change.
  • Matthew Spence, Ph.D., J.D., former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy, gives the students a primer on the current social, political and military challenges in the region of the Middle East.
  • Jodie Torkelson, chief of staff, United States Representative Richard Nolan, guides 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 teaches, “Politics and challenges of aging and diversity in the 21st century.”
  • Thomas Wickham, J.D., parliamentarian, United States House of Representatives, instructs the interns on parliamentary procedure and the institutions and traditions of the House.
  • Panetta Institute staff lecturers Sonia Banks, Richard Kezirian and Fred Keeley will participate in lectures and discussions with students throughout the orientation.
  • Additional courses feature former intern participants in the program and a review of the Institute’s 2017 Youth Civic Engagement Survey.

Below are the 2017 interns:

Name   Home Campus
Tigran Agdaian San Francisco State University
Christian Arevalo CSU Fresno
Mikaela Arneson CSU Los Angeles
Brenda Barniga CSU Marcos
Jessica Gallaway CSU Chico
Alexis Garcia-Arrazola CSU Monterey Bay
Bryiana Haas CSU East Bay
Kristofer Harris Cal Poly Pomona
Carlos Juarez CSU Fullerton
Logan Kemp CSU Sacramento
Julie Leyba CSU San Bernardino
Karina Morales CSU Bakersfield
Marc Ninapaytan-Henry CSU Northridge
Daisy Orozco CSU Long Beach
Maryam Quasto Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Atticus Reyes CSU Channel Islands
Cambria Rodriguez CSU Dominguez Hills
Robert Sanchez Cal Maritime Academy
Beau Scott Santa Clara University
Jessica Tanner San Jose State University
Nicholas Thomas Humboldt State University
Sayra Trejo Dominican University of California
Jenna Valle-Riestra Sonoma State University
Alejandra Vazquez-Ramos San Diego State University
Emily Yonan CSU Stanislaus
Salma Zaragoza Saint Mary’s College of California


Please contact us for more information.

Internship Supporters

The Panetta Institute is grateful to the many supporters of the Congressional Internship Program for their extraordinary public service in supporting this educational opportunity. Among them:

  • Flora Family Foundation
  • William Randolph Hearst Foundation
  • Office of the Chancellor, California State University