Congressional Internship Program

The year 2020 marked the twenty-second year of this celebrated program, recognized as one of the leading internship courses for Capitol Hill. Each fall, the Panetta Institute hosts students for its Congressional Internship Program beginning in mid-August through mid-November. This program provides the opportunity for selected students from the twenty-three California State University campuses as well as three Northern California private schools to intern for the California congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. for eleven weeks after a two-week intensive academic and orientation program held at the Panetta Institute, where discussions range from United States foreign and defense policy, to cybersecurity issues, to trade, fiscal and monetary policy.  During this training session, students attend lectures led by an array of authorities from diverse disciplines.

This year, due to COVID-19, the Washington, D.C. internship portion of the program was canceled.  However, the two week academic program was held. This two-week program is designed to supplement the intern’s education through attending and participating in the class sessions featuring nationally renowned speakers and then completing reflective and substantive session reviews. Students were also required to research and write a twenty-page comprehensive research policy paper at the end of the semester.

The Panetta Institute for Public Policy begins its twenty-third annual Congressional Internship Programon Sunday, August 8, 2021 with students nominated by presidents of the twenty-three campuses of California State University along with three private universities.  If Congress is open to interns by that date, the program will follow its traditional format of in-person classes for two weeks at the Institute followed by eleven weeks in Washington, D.C.  If Congress is still closed to interns due to the coronavirus pandemic, the program will be presented online through video conferencing.


We are proud that our program has earned the reputation of being one of the finest internship programs in the nation.  While it is unfortunate that the internship experience in Washington D.C. had to be cancelled, we believe it is important for our interns to experience  the two-week educational program which is a fundamental and significant part of the Congressional Internship Program experience.  This two-week course was presented online through video conferencing and interns were provided twelve units of academic credit for the summer term.  The program is taught by leading experts in their field and covers the legislative, executive and judicial branches and processes along with crucial issues facing our nation today. 

— Leon E. Panetta, Chairman of the Panetta Institute


Guest speakers and their specific topics for this year were:
  • Challenges in Our Democracy, The Honorable Leon E. Panetta, Chairman, The Panetta Institute for Public Policy
  • Creation of the Republic: A Common Set of Beliefs, The Honorable Leon E. Panetta, Chairman, The Panetta Institute for Public Policy
  • Congressional Leadership, Committees and Policymaking, The Honorable Leon E. Panetta, Chairman, The Panetta Institute for Public Policy
  • Order in the House of Representatives: Rules and Procedures, Thomas Wickham, J.D.Parliamentarian, The United States House of Representatives
  • The Power to Tax and Spend: The Appropriations, and the Ways and Means Committees, The Honorable Marty Russo, Former United States Representative, 3rd District, Illinois (1975-1993)
  • Party Polarization: Breaking Gridlock in Congress, The Honorable Josh Gottheimer, United States Representative, New Jersey and Co-Chair of Problem Solvers Caucus with The Honorable Jimmy Panetta, United States Representative, California
  • Historical Overview: The Road to Congressional Dysfunction, Richard Kezirian, Ph.D., Professor, The Panetta Institute for Public Policy
  • The Global Issue of Climate Change: The Current State of Marine Biology and Marine Ecology, Stephen Palumbi, Ph.D., Professor of Marine Biology, Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University
  • The Links between Cybersecurity and National Security, John Arquilla, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, Department of Defense Analysis,Naval Postgraduate School
  • Social Justice Reform: Race, Crime and the Law, Robert Fairfax, Jr., J.D., Professor of Law and Founding Director, Criminal Law and Policy Initiative,The George Washington University Law School
  • The Art and Science of Passing Laws: Consensus Building Skills, Sonia Banks, J.D., Professor, The Panetta Institute for Public Policy
  • Economic Effects of U.S. Trade Policies, Joe Minarik, Ph.D., Chief Economist, U.S. Office of Management and Budget (1993-2001)
  • California’s Natural Resources: Challenges and Priorities, The Honorable John Laird, California Secretary of Natural Resources Agency (2011-2019)
  • The Criminal Justice System: Equal Justice Under the Law, The Honorable Rafael Vazquez, Judge, Monterey County Superior Court
  • Economic and Budget Policies of the United States:Economic Challenges and the Budget Crisis, Maya MacGuineas, President, The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget
  • U.S. Wealth and Income Inequality: Growing Income Disparity, The Honorable Robert Reich, Professor, University of California, Berkeley, U.S. Secretary of Labor (1993-1997)
  • Re-teaching American History: Beginning Again, Eddie Glaude, Jr., Ph.D., Professor of African American Studies, Princeton University, MSNBC Historian and Commentator
  • The Challenges Facing California’s Agriculture and Farmworkers, The Honorable Luis Alejo, J.D, Supervisor, District 1, Monterey County Board of Supervisors, Tonya Antle, Member, Panetta Institute Board of Directors and Carmen Ponce, J.D., Vice President and General Counsel of Labor, Tanimura and Antle
  • U.S. Election Integrity: Interference in U.S. 2020 Presidential Elections, Jeremy Bash, J.D., Founder of Beacon Global Strategies, MSNBC National Security Analyst and Commentator, Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (2011-2013) and Chief of Staff to the Director of the CIA (2009-2011)
  • U.S. Foreign and Defense Policies:Global Flash Points, The Honorable Leon E. Panetta, Chairman, The Panetta Institute for Public Policy
  • The Role of the Free Press: The Impact of the Press on Politics, Dan Balz, Chief Correspondent, The Washington Post and Carla Marinucci, Senior Writer, POLITICO’s California Playbook
  • Energy Challenges on the Global Level: Global Consensus and the Geopolitics of Climate and Energy, Markos Kounalakis, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University
  • U.S. Defense Policy: Challenges Abroad, Admiral William McRaven, USN (Ret.), Chancellor of The University of Texas System (2015 – 2018) and Commander of Special Operations Command (2011-2014)
  • U.S. Diplomacy: The Iranian Nuclear Accord as a Case Study, Ilan Goldenberg, Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East Security Program Center for a New American Security
  • Promoting the Policies of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Chris Womack, Executive Vice President and President, External Affairs, Southern Company
  • Politics of Diversity and Social Welfare Policy:Challenges of Aging and Diversity in the 21st Century, Fernando Torres-Gil, Ph.D., Dean and Professor, University of California Los Angeles, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1993-1997)
  • U.S. Healthcare Policy: Reshaping Health Care in the Aftermath of COVID-19, Hector Flores, M.D., Founding Member and Co-Director of the White Memorial Medical Center Family Residency Program
  • Presidential-Congressional Relations: Major Turning Points, Douglas Brinkley, Ph.D., Professor of History, Rice University
  • Operations and Managing Decisions in a Congressional Office, Jodie Torkelson, Chief of Staff, Office of U.S. Representative Rick Nolan, 8th District, Minnesota, (2013-2019)
  • Law Enforcement’s Role with Homeland Security, The Honorable Jeh Charles Johnson, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security (2013-2017)
  • The Federal Judiciary: The Courts, the Decisions and the Bench, Jamil Jaffer, J.D., Founder, National Security Institute, George Mason University, Former Law Clark to the Honorable Neil Gorsuch, Associate Justice for the Supreme Court of the United States
  • Balancing California’s Budget: An ExerciseStephanie Leonard, Communications Project Manager, Next 10
  • The Direction of Education and Current U.S. Education Policy, Lisa Kloppenberg, J.D., Provost, Santa Clara University
  • The California Judiciary: Delivering Blind Justice under the Law, The Honorable Ming Chin, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California
  • Immigration Issues and Trends: Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Theresa Cardinal Brown, Director of Immigration and Cross-Border Policy, Bipartisan Policy Center
  • U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East, Matthew Spence, Ph.D., J.D., Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East (2012-2015)
  • California’s Law Enforcement Role and the Attorney General’s Office, The Honorable Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, State of California
  • Concluding Remarks and Summary Comments, The Honorable Leon E. Panetta, Chairman, The Panetta Institute for Public Policy

We were exposed to so many different topics by so many different awesome speakers.  No matter what career field I end up finding myself in, I know I can always look back and thank the Panetta Institute for proving me this wonderful opportunity in which I was able to learn and experience so much.  In many ways this experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity and the memories I made here will be ones that I will cherish forever.

— Jaaziel Brown, CSU East Bay, Intern Class of 2020


The 2020 Class of Congressional Interns:

Name Home Campus
Sophia Aguirre Cal Poly Pomona
Isaac Alferos CSU Fullerton
Ivett Arellano Saint Mary’s College
McKenna Avery San Diego State
Shira Basa San Francisco State
Donalin Bell CSU Channel Islands
Jaaziel Brown CSU East Bay
Matthew Contreras CSU Northridge
Kaitlyn Cortez CSU Bakersfield
Imahn Daeenabi Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Fernanda De Velasco San Jose State
Natalie Kassar Cal Poly Pomona
Rebecca Harbison CSU Monterey Bay
Allison Kustic Dominican University
Alexa Loera CSU San Marcos
Lincoln Mattwandel CSU Stanislaus
Zachary Meade Santa Clara University
Kayleigh Rae O’Connor CSU Fresno
Matiana Parra CSU Los Angeles
Jonathan Serrano CSU Dominguez Hills
Johnathan Solomon CSU San Bernardino
Moira Sloane Vanciel Sacramento State
William Yates Cal Maritime Academy