Tennessee State Legislative Internships
In the halls and offices of the Tennessee State Capitol, decisions that affect the lives of citizens across the state are being made. Among the state leaders making those decisions and leading those processes are often legislative interns from Tennessee Tech, learning about the inner workings of state government and leadership.
“This internship is great for making connections when going into the workforce, especially if you want to go into government. This is the best place to be,” said Blake Hassler, a political science major from Crossville, Tennessee. “Hopefully this will lead to job opportunities or open doors in some way down the road. Regardless, I came into this with a lot of book knowledge, and quickly realized I didn't know much at all. This has been the learning experience of a lifetime.”
That real-life experience gives the students who complete the legislative internship during their senior semesters at Tech an advantage, but they also boost their critical thinking skills and general understanding of legislative processes.
“A lot of the work and discussion on the bills happens before the session starts,” noted Nick Gernt, a political science major from Cookeville who interned with Senator Ken Yager. “As my Senior Legislative Advisor says, ‘with every 5 minutes of presentation, there are 15 hours of leg work behind the scenes.’”
The students go through an extensive interview process, both with Tech professors and with state leaders, before being awarded the internship. Once selected, they are placed in an office or area and travel to Nashville each day of the semester to work.
“The really cool/surprising thing about this internship is how quickly you gain ‘institutional knowledge,’” said Zach Stephens, a political science major from Livingston, Tennessee who interned in Chairman Curtis Halford’s office. “I would describe institutional knowledge as understanding the innerworkings of whatever environment you are in. For me, that has been learning the procedure and rules of the General Assembly whether that be in committee or on the floor, building relationships, and just really understanding how things get done.”
Duties for the interns range from preparing bills and committee work to taking constituent calls and scheduling office visits, allowing a full view of legislative work for the students.
“This internship has provided me with one of the best semesters I have had,” Stephens said. “While I miss being on campus, I have really enjoyed being hands-on in Nashville. I would say that my legislative internship is one of the building blocks for my professional future, and I am very thankful that I have been allowed the ability to grow professionally and make so many great connections.”
Stephens and one of his classmates have started their own consulting firm, Hamblin & Stephens Consulting Services, and thanks in part to Stephens’ experiences and connections established during his time at the state capitol, their business is already growing.
“It’s really about connections and relationships and being in the right place at the right time,” Stephens said. “That’s what Tennessee Tech has been for me.”
That’s the feeling the interns all say they come out of the experience with.
“Through my internship opportunity, I have been able to work toward my future goals, built my critical thinking skills and established relationships and references that will help me in my career,” agreed Morgan Cagle, who worked with State Representative Dan Howell.