This spring semester, while many Tech students may be learning about the government in their classes, some Jackets are living out those lessons every day as full-time interns at the Georgia State Capitol.
The Georgia Legislative Internship Program (GLIP) offers 30 undergraduate students from around the state a paid opportunity to serve full-time as interns to legislators, legislative committees or legislative staffers.
The statewide program has been running for over 40 years and is directed by the Office of Institute Relations at Tech.
“During this internship, students receive firsthand experience of the legislative process,” said Morgan McCombs, director of state relations within the Office of Institute Relations at Tech. “Georgia Tech has been an active participant and supportive partner for the program’s continued growth and development.”
Each internship session lasts between 12 and 16 weeks from Jan. to April, depending on the length of the legislative session.
“GLIP students at the Capitol get assigned to various legislators to assist in their office or to a particular committee to staff operations,” McCombs said. “This includes offices in both the House and Senate as well as a variety of committees ranging from most every subject matter — higher education, appropriations, ethics, public safety, etc.”
The internship is open to students of all majors who are at least in their second year of college, but the selection process has become very selective at Tech.
“The amount of applications vary from year to year, but there has been a steady increase over the last four to five years,” McCombs said.
“For Georgia Tech, the application process is extremely competitive since those chosen will be directly working with members of the legislature and their staff. We strongly consider professionalism, communication skills, work ethics and quick problem-solving abilities given the fast-paced environment of the legislative session.”
During the internship, students have the opportunity to work on a variety of legislative-related tasks all while earning six hours of PUBP credit.
“Interns are often tasked with communicating with constituents, preparing bill summaries, tracking committee meetings and maintaining daily office tasks,” McCombs said.
Austin Reitano, second-year PUBP and BA, is currently an intern in the House Budget and Research Office (HBRO).
“I am the only Tech intern that is in the House of Representatives, so my experience is a bit different,” Reitano said.
“This office usually does not take an intern, but this year was a little different because one of their policy analysts is out on maternity leave. I took on a lot of her responsibilities, and it has been an awesome experience so far.”
Many of Reitano’s daily responsibilities are closely tied to the role of the HBRO.
“HBRO itself is in charge of creating the amended FY 2022 budget and the FY 2023 budget for the state of Georgia, as well as providing objective policy research to all 180 members of the House of Representatives,” Reitano said.
“My day-to-day looks different depending on if I have a committee meeting, but on a meeting day, I gather bills and their substitutes, pack folders for the members, and help the chairman facilitate the meetings by running the Zoom call, taking attendance, noting motions that are made, etc.”
Reitano’s work is also related to larger initiatives of the state government of Georgia.
“A lot of my work is reporting to the Clerk of the House, as well as in an online database. I staff the Education and Higher Education committees of the House, and they have both seen some very interesting bills this session,” Reitano said.
“Representatives will also request policy research from us, so I have also worked on some memos and research projects.”
A few months into her internship, Reitano has enjoyed many aspects of her work at the Capitol.
“My office is the best place to work at the Capitol, as there is awesome leadership from our director, Martha Wigton, who gives just the right amount of support but also leaves room for independence and autonomy,” Reitano said. “You can always feel the family environment at the Capitol.”
Reitano has so far seen many benefits to interning at the Capitol, which is less than a ten minute drive from campus and one of the most powerful places in Georgia.
“The biggest benefit for me has been being able to live on-campus and stay involved, while also working an eight to five job,” Reitano said.
“I’ve been able to meet some very influential people in the state of Georgia and got an in-depth look at state government.”
McCombs also sees many similar benefits to the program.
“The most significant [benefit] is the exposure to members of the legislature and state government,” McCombs said. “Although many internships keep students at an introductory level, GLIP integrates students directly into the real-time process of the legislative session.”
Reitano encourages other students to participate in the GLIP for next spring.
“Even if you are not considering a career in law or government, I would still strongly recommend this program,” Reitano said.
“I think seeing government this closely gives you some insight on how government systems work for and against people and organizations, which can be helpful to any career. I would totally recommend the program, so if you’re thinking about it, apply.”
McCombs also believes there are many reasons for Tech students, regardless of their background, to apply.
“My advice would be to keep an open-mind about state government and the people you might work with at the Capitol. Regardless of your political affiliation, there is always lessons to be learned and bipartisan work taking places during the legislative session,” McCombs said.
“Even if your career aspirations are in the private sector, this experience involves the intersection of both public and private and provides a foundational understanding of government that is useful for any professional endeavor moving forward.”
To find out more information about GLIP and opportunities to intern at the Georgia Capitol during a future semester, students can visit gov.gatech.edu/internships/georgia.