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-third 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.  Following two weeks of classes at the Institute, twenty-five students will travel to Washington, D.C. on Saturday, August 20.  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.


Secretary Panetta will teach on the founding and creation of the American Republic and congressional leadership and policy making.  Additional policy issues to be covered during this orientation include:  healthcare; the impact of the press on politics; Middle East politics, relations and current affairs; inflation, the state of the economy and the budget crisis; income inequality; cyber security; election reform; immigration; and education, to name some.


Noted experts from the East and West Coast, along with national, state and local elected representatives speak directly with the interns and provide them with a strong foundation for their work in different House offices.

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

  • John Arquilla, Ph.D., distinguished professor emeritus, Defense Analysis Department, Naval Postgraduate School will speak on cyber security and national security.


  • Dan Balz, chief correspondent, The Washington Postand Carla Marinucci, senior writer for Politico California Playbook will discuss the impact of press and media on politics.


  • Sonia Banks, Esq., will join with fellow Panetta Institute professor Richard Kezirian on a series of courses and exercises on forging consensus.


  • Jeremy Bash, Esq., chief of staff to the Secretary of Defense (2011-2013) and chief of staff to the Director of the CIA (2009-2011) will speak on intelligence issues and challenges.


  • Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border Policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center will present on immigration reform.


  • Anna Caballero, senator, 12th District, State of California Senate will discuss relations between local governments and Washington, D.C.


  • Paulette Cha, Ph.D., research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California will discuss income inequality at the state and national level.


  • Kaylen Chase will join other former Panetta Institute interns Karen Garcia and Nicholas Stark for first-hand perspectives on the Panetta Intern Program.


  • Ryan Coonerty, 3rd District supervisor, Santa Cruz County will teach on election reform.


  • James Copeland, former White House deputy assistant to President Jimmy Carter and Les Francis, former deputy chief of staff to President Jimmy Carter, will present, “How Congress works: a realist’s view.”


  • The Hon. Ming Chin, former associate justice of the supreme court of California will discuss recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.


  • Jim Cunneen, former assemblyman, 24th District, California State Assembly and Fred Keeley, former assemblyman, 27th District will present on consensus building in the legislature.


  • Dorian Daley, J.D., executive vice president and general counsel at Oracle will present on the impact of technology on democracy.


  • Sam Farr, former United States representative, 17th/20th District, California, will speak to the differences between the state and federal governments.


  • Hector Flores, M.D., founding member and co-director of the White Memorial Medical Center Family Residency Program will teach on healthcare.


  • Niu Gao, senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California will teach on challenges facing K-12 education in the United States.


  • Congressmen Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Blake Moore (R-UT) will talk about congressional gridlock and their work on the Problem Solvers Caucus.


  • Ben Jealous, civil rights activist and former national president & CEO of the NAACP will speak on policy approaches to advancing equal opportunity.


  • The Hon. John Laird, senator, 17th District, State of California Senate California and former secretary of California natural resources 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.


  • Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget will present on the nation’s fiscal challenges and the budget crisis.


  • 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.


  • Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will discuss national security policy.


  • The Hon. Janet Napolitano, former president of the University of California, former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and former governor of Arizona will discussion higher education.


  • The Hon. Jimmy Panetta, United States representative, 20th District, California, will discuss the appropriations process and the role of the Way and Means Committee.


  • The Hon. Dan Quayle, Forty-Fourth Vice President of the United States will speak on the presidency and leadership in the Executive Branch.


  • The Hon. Mary Russo, former U.S. Representative, 3rd District, Illinois will discuss appropriations.


  • 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 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.

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