Congressional Internship Program

Each fall, the Panetta Institute hosts students for its Congressional Internship Program beginning in mid-August through mid-November.

Now in its twenty-second year, the semester-long public service experience was created by Secretary and  Mrs. Panetta and is sponsored by the Panetta Institute.  Today, it is considered one of the finest congressional intern programs in the nation.  While last year’s class was held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s class will once more take place in person at the Panetta Institute.  Following the initial two weeks of classes, twenty-six students will travel to Washington, D.C. on Saturday, August 21.  On the East Coast, they will serve eleven weeks as interns in the United States House of Representatives, in the offices of both Republican and Democratic members.

Students are nominated by university presidents from the California State University campuses, the largest state university system in the country, along with Dominican University of California, Saint Mary’s College of California and Santa Clara University.  This year thanks to a special grant to CSUMB from the Koret Foundation, the Monterey Bay Campus is able to send two students to serve as interns.

Each intern is selected based on an exemplary scholastic record as well as interest in politics, policy and public service.  In order to ensure that merit is the determining factor for participation, the Panetta Institute covers all expenses associated with the program including tuition, airfare, lodging and assistance for living expenses. The Institute’s financial support allows students from all socio-economic backgrounds to participate.

“This is the first of our programs, after COVID-19 restrictions, to go live with Congressional student interns coming to the Panetta Institute,” said Institute Chairman Leon E. Panetta.  “Their experience in Washington comes at a critical time.  Our recent student survey found that college students had been hit hard by the pandemic, but that they were optimistic about the future and excited to participate and impact our democracy.  This program will give them the tools they need to work in government and to shape and participate in our democracy in the future.”


This is the first of our programs, after COVID-19 restrictions, to go live with Congressional student interns coming to the Panetta Institute. Their experience in Washington comes at a critical time.  Our recent student survey found that college students had been hit hard by the pandemic, but that they were optimistic about the future and excited to participate and impact our democracy.  This program will give them the tools they need to work in government and to shape and participate in our democracy in the future.

— Leon E. Panetta, Chairman of the Panetta Institute


Secretary Panetta will teach on the founding and creation of the American Republic; congressional leadership and policy making; the intelligence community; global flashpoints and the War on Terror.  Additional policy issues to be covered during this orientation include: healthcare, criminal justice reform, income inequality, cyber security, election reform, conflict between democratic and autocratic nations, immigration and education, to name some.

Additional topics and speakers are as follows:

  • John Arquilla, Ph.D., distinguished professor emeritus, Defense Analysis Department, Naval Postgraduate School will speak on cyber security and national security.
  • Jeremy Bash, Esq., former chief of staff to the Secretary of Defense and former chief of staff to the director of the CIA, will speak in a joint session with Secretary Panetta on the role and responsibilities of the U.S. intelligence community.
  • Leo Blanken, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Defense Analysis, Naval Postgraduate School will present on competition between democratic and autocratic nations.
  • Ben Jealous, former national president and CEO, NAACP will discuss policy approaches to advancing equal opportunity in a democracy.
  • Richard Kezirian, Ph.D., professor, Panetta Institute will present on the history of congress and the road to today’s present congressional dysfunction.
  • Lisa Kloppenberg, J.D., acting president Santa Clara University, will discuss higher education in the United States and related policy challenges.
  • John Laird, former secretary of California natural resources and former member of the Assembly, 27thDistrict will discuss the state’s natural resources priorities.
  • Stephanie Leonard, communications project manager, Next 10 will lead the students in an interactive exercise on the state budget.
  • Mel Mason, executive director of The Village Project and Regina Mason, NAACP president, Monterey Bay Chapter will discuss grass roots advocacy.
  • 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, will teach two courses: one on the economy and the budget of the United States and the other on trade policy.
  • The Hon. Jimmy Panetta, United States Representative, 20th District, California, will discuss the appropriations process and the role of the Way and Means Committee.
  • Jason Smith, J.D., parliamentarian, United States House of Representatives, will instruct the interns on parliamentary procedure and the institutions and traditions of the House.
  • Matthew Spence, Ph.D., J.D., former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy, will give the students a review of the the current social, political and military challenges in the region of the Middle East.
  • George Somero, Ph.D., David and Lucile Packard Professor of Marine Science, emeritus, Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University will teach on climate change.
  • Jodie Torkelson, former chief of staff, United States Representative Richard Nolan, will guide 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 will teach politics and challenges of aging and diversity in the 21st century.

Additional courses include a presentation by former Panetta Institute interns and a course on intern protocols.

 


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