In September 1976, the Legislative Administration Committee approved the development of an intern program designed:
a) to serve the Oregon Legislative Assembly by assisting legislators, committees, and other interested offices in fulfilling their duties and responsibilities; and,
b) to offer Oregon college and university students the opportunity to work and learn in a legislative environment.
In order to achieve these goals, the program's organizational structure is simple. Campus coordinators have been designated to act as liaison between each institution's academic departments and the Legislative Intern Coordinator at the Capitol. Recruitment procedures, academic requirements and evaluation, and awarding of credit are the responsibility of the institution. The Legislative Administration Committee will present an intern orientation and provide work space and services.
If the internship is to be valuable, there must be a mutual understanding among legislative sponsors, interns and academic advisors. Each must know what is expected of the other. The purpose of this handbook is to provide a general introduction for all three parties. Uniform information should assist in avoiding unnecessary misunderstanding.
Portions of this handbook were adopted from "Handbook for Interns, Sponsors and Academic Advisors" prepared by Oliver L Thompson, executive secretary to the Rhode Island Commission of State Government Internships.
CAPITOL INTERN COORDINATOR:
Cedar Mcmurrin 503-986-1371
1. INTERNS: Each intern will be selected at the institution level. The intern must treat the internship seriously, as must the sponsor and the academic adviser.
a. Assignments: Assignments may be made to individual legislators, committees, or staff units.
b. Intern Activities: A difficulty in many internship programs seems to be the duties of the intern. Some suggestions will be made, but the intern must be willing to show some initiative in developing projects if direction is not immediately forthcoming from the sponsor.Both the sponsor (requesting office) and the intern need to have a concrete product from the internship experience. This necessitates defining the work to be done, as well as providing opportunity for discussion and review as the project or task progresses.
Suggested Intern Responsibilities:
A. Bill briefing and analysis: Could be directed to fiscal implications, impact on member's district, content summary, etc. Could also apply to amendments and resolutions.
B. Spot research, gathering statistical data, tracking current status of legislation of interest to sponsor.
C. Assisting in constituent problem-solving, responding to mail.
D. In-depth research in a specific area of interest to the sponsor.
E. Attendance and summarization of actions taken at committee hearings.
F. Developing and maintaining issue files.
c. Academic Credit: Most institutions participating in the program provide academic credit, however, this is a matter between the institution and the student. Interns should discuss academic credit eligibility and requirements with the academic advisor.
d. Evaluation: Each intern will be evaluated by the legislative sponsor at the end of the program period and will also be given an opportunity to evaluate the program and the individual experience
e. Conduct: Each intern is expected to use mature judgement in matters of dress and appearance. An intern is expected to arrive on time for work within the hours established by the sponsor, unless pre-arranged. Business-like conduct is expected at all times.
An intern is expected to respect those matters of a confidential nature and handle such information discreetly.
An intern is expected to deal courteously with all members of the legislature, legislative staff, constituents, state agency personnel, and others with whom the intern comes in contact.
f. Interns from the Sponsor's Perspective: The most sought after intern qualities are:
A. Willingness to adapt to the internal processes of the unit to which they have been assigned.
B. Willingness to take direction and act in an independent manner when necessary.
C. Ability to express oneself in writing, speaking, and relating to others.
D. Motivation and flexibility necessary to take on whatever tasks may be assigned and complete them in a professional manner.
E. Willingness and ability to conduct oneself with maturity and judgement.
2. LEGISLATIVE SPONSORS
a. Roles and Relationships: Perhaps the most important relationship in an internship is between the intern and the legislative sponsor, and the nature of that relationship should be realistic.
A sponsor cannot expect an intern to be a fully qualified professional; neither should an intern expect to solve problems overnight. On the other hand, a sponsor should not expect a student to be satisfied with the clerical or make-work tasks constituting the entire working day, although an intern should be willing to do some clerical tasks when necessary. In order to provide the greatest service to the sponsor, and the most beneficial experience for the intern, there should be a variety and mix of activities assigned.
To learn by observation is one facet of the intern program. In reality, few legislative sponsors have the time or the background to act as a tutor. As a result, an intern can be disappointed, frustrated, or even demeaned. To be effective, an intern must be supervised by someone willing to make time for adequate interchange as well as having a personal interest in the program. The guidelines of the internship should be established in advance so that unsatisfactory arrangements can be avoided.
A legislative sponsor can be expected to provide adequate initial direction and explanation of a project and then allow the intern to proceed somewhat independently to the project's completion. In addition, the sponsor should endeavor to make adequate time available for discussion of projects in progress and assignment of future tasks. Assigned work space in close proximity to the sponsor's office enhances the opportunity for frequent two-way communication.
b. Trouble-Shooting: Not every combination of sponsor-intern will run smoothly. In some cases there may be a personality conflict, or a student may just not be oriented to the particular assignment. In such an event, it is recommended that your Legislative Intern Liaison be notified. Every effort will be made to resolve the difficulty.
c. Evaluation: The success of an intern program is dependent upon three elements: (1) the interest, initiative, and performance of the intern; (2) the concern and interest of the legislative sponsor, and (3) the ability of the intern's academic adviser to provide academic direction.
Further, the participants must be willing to evaluate the program and suggest improvements. Academic advisers evaluate the intern on overall performance with the sponsor and the quality of academically orientated assignments. The interns evaluate the program based on the nature of their legislative assignments and the overall experience. The legislative sponsor will be asked to complete an evaluation form or discuss the intern's performance and general program quality with the academic adviser.
d. The Productive Experience: On-the-job activities will vary from situation to situation; however, there are some general guidelines which should direct the time spent by an intern.
A. One designated sponsor to be responsible for the intern's time, work assignments and evaluation. There should also be a second person who can substitute for those responsibilities in the sponsors absence.
B. Opportunity for the intern to be involved in a broad range of activities, including staff meetings, hearings, planning sessions, etc.
C. A variety of activity to motivate and satisfy the intern. A schedule of several ongoing assignments, meetings scattered throughout and some expected routine chores is most beneficial.
To ensure a climate conducive to productivity and support, an intern's first day should include introduction to staff members and discussion of internship goals as perceived by the intern and the sponsor. It should be apparent after the first few days on the job in which ways a mutually satisfying service-learning experience can be achieved.
3. CAMPUS COORDINATORS/ACADEMIC ADVISORS: The academic adviser is the first to see and interview the student seeking an internship. The adviser should be able to determine the student's interest in, and basic knowledge of the legislative process and structure.
a. Screening and Matching:
1. All interns must complete an application form prescribed by the academic institution.
2. Each academic institution must screen any applicants for the program for academic credentials and interpersonal skills. Each academic institution should develop its own internal review process.
3. The Legislative Intern Coordinator will provide faculty with lists of legislators, committees and other interested work units as they become available.
4. Legislators and/or their offices will send preliminary information to the Capitol's Intern Coordinator.
5. If legislators and other offices choose to interview students personally prior to placement, the Intern Coordinator will ask the academic advisors to contact the offices directly.
6. If legislators and other offices do not want to interview students prior to placement, academic advisors will be asked to contact the Capitol's Intern Coordinator for interviews and placement.
b. Student Prodigal: The student should be informed that regular attendance during the established working hours is mandatory and that repeated unexcused absences may be cause for dismissal from the program. The student should be aware that many differing opinions and philosophies will be encountered during the internship. Part of the student's learning experience will be the ability to observe and absorb the variety of ideas and come to conclusions based on thoughtful analysis. The student should also be reminded of the responsibility for confidentiality of matters relating to the work performed for the sponsor.
Advisers should meet with the interns periodically, if at all possible, to determine progress made and to identify any problems. Occasional meetings also provide the opportunity to analyze, evaluate and plan for the balance of the program.
Prior to the end of the program, the adviser will evaluate the interns in order to determine a letter grade, pass/fail or credit/no-credit. The evaluation process is complex and encompasses not only the work performed for the sponsor, but also the completion of academic requirements and, perhaps most importantly, the personal growth of the student. The adviser should try to emphasize the value of insights gained by the student even it they appear to be negative. The student and the adviser should responsibly evaluate the "success" of having assisted the legislative sponsor in day-to-day work as well as satisfactory completion of an in-depth or ongoing project. In addition, the "success" of recognizing the limitations of government should also be carefully considered.