The Sam Houston Austin Internship Program (SHAIP) allows students to gain firsthand leadership experience from the capitol floor. This unique program transforms SHSU students into leaders, resulting in prestigious job opportunities.
Throughout the internship, selected high-achieving students work for Texas Representatives and Senators researching policy issues, assisting constituents, interacting with lobbyists and learning about the legislative process. The program also gives students the opportunity to witness leadership among public figures in politics, business and non-profit areas, growing their own experience and ideas of leadership.
According to Mike Yawn, director of the Center for Law, Engagement, and Politics, the program cultivates leaders and promotes the belief that challenges can be overcome.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for motivated students,” Yawn said. “The work students do in the internship cuts across policy areas such as criminal justice, law, international relations, transportation, economics, education, finance, agriculture and the arts.”
Students participating in the internship program are given a real-time view of various policy challenges facing the public. They are able to see how different policy areas, ranging from education to the environment, affect people daily.
Former internship recipient Christina Perez participated in the 85th Legislative Session and has since accepted the position of Legislative Director for Rep. Jim Murphy. Her experience with the internship changed the direction of her career and taught her that it is OK to change your mind.
“I thought I wanted to be an attorney when I began the Austin internship process, then I found I had a passion for policy,” Perez said. “After passing a sex-offender bill as an intern, which then turned into a statute, I learned that when you have a passion you really have to take the chance. So, when I returned from the internship, I knew I wanted to go back to the legislature and spent my senior year focusing on making it happen.”
Student interns work full-time, giving them the opportunity to learn the legislative process, gain professional skills and maximize their exposure to a professional work environment. Additionally, SHSU provides scholarships to accepted students allowing them to focus on the experience, rather than financial stress.
While the intern program provides a high-level learning experience for students, it also incorporates exceptional team-building opportunities.
Throughout the first few months of the session, students join the legislative offices in several group activities such as visiting a military base, touring the capitol and learning more about the areas their legislators represent.
Acceptance into the program is based on academic performance, responsibility and professionalism, the internship’s connection to the student’s career goals, and the student’s fit with specific legislative offices.
The SHAIP is open to students from all majors who are willing to put in the hard work necessary to be successful. This program is not a consistent 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday. There are many times throughout the legislative session when work carries overnight into the next morning. Student’s dedication to their profession plays a large part in their success with the internship.
“The long nights to me were extremely motivating because that was when the most important legislation passed and the most passionate arguments were addressed,” Perez said. “For example, budget night was extremely important and I didn’t have to be talked into staying. For a college student who had only really learned about the legislature in a classroom, being able to see and experience that work first-hand was unreal.”
With the 86th legislative session starting in Jan. 2019, a new round of SHSU students will be participating in the program.
Perez’s advice to current and future students of SHAIP, “Take the opportunity even if you feel like there will be sacrifices, it is definitely worth it.”
For more information about the Sam Houston Austin Internship Program, please visit the LEAP Center website at shsu.edu/centers/leap/internships.