Maryland General Assembly Writing Internship
The Maryland General Assembly (MGA) Program places up to 15 students in a six credit spring internship with legislators in Annapolis during the 90-day spring legislative session, which begins in early January and ends in early April.
Students are prepared for this internship in the fall semester through a writing seminar (three credits of ENGL381 or HONR368A).
About the Internship
The Maryland General Assembly Program, limited to 15 students, places interns with legislators in Annapolis during the 90 day spring legislative session which begins in early January and ends in early April (six credits of ENGL 388M/HONR 379W). Students are prepared for this internship in the fall in a writing seminar (three credits of ENGL 381/HONR 368A).
This program has the following goals:
- To prepare students for a highly politicized professional environment
- To enhance professional writing and oral communication skills
- To teach analysis of public policy
- To provide opportunities for students to learn about government, politics, democratic processes, public administration, the making of public policy, the nature of power, etc.
- To provide professional development for students
- To provide public servants with highly valued aides during the hectic legislative session
- To provide important service learning for students
- To enhance the University's relationship to the legislature through skilled and well-prepared interns
- Minimum 3.0 G.P.A.
- Junior standing (minimum of 60 credits) by the end of the Fall 2021 semester
- A grade of B- or better in your writing courses
- Attending University of Maryland in both Fall 2021 and Spring 2022
Most interns work with bills, at least collecting, filing, and tracking them. However, what interns do depends on the nature of the intern's placement. The following are additional typical tasks:
- Answering phones
- Summarizing bills
- Attending hearings and other meetings
- Lobbying other legislators for support for bills
- Responding to constituents
- Researching bills or constituent concerns
- Maintaining legislator's schedule
- Organizing the support for a bill hearing
- Testifying before a committee on a bill
- Although what you do depends on the placement, what you learn is not limited to what you do as an intern. You will learn as much in Annapolis from observing the process as you will from intern tasks.
Interns are placed in the fall semester. As the first assignment of the writing seminar in the fall, students will complete an application for the Assembly. Students will research placements and direct these materials towards the kind of placement desired. The intern coordinator in Annapolis matches these materials with the legislators' requests for interns and makes a referral. Students and legislators will then interview one another regarding their needs and expectations. Each has the right of refusal. If either one refuses the placement, each will be given another referral.
- The single most important difference in placements depends on the specific needs and character of the legislator's office.
- Also important are the legislator's committee assignments, legislative interests, the nature of the district and constituents served in the office, the political party of the legislator, the legislator's role in the Assembly.
- Finally, the mix of personalities in the office.
The preparatory writing seminar, ENGL 381/HONR 368A, is designed on an experiential learning and technical/business writing model. The class is designed to rehearse typical intern writing tasks, to develop professional communication skills (oral, written, and collaborative), and to teach legislative processes and issues. Students will be encouraged to take charge of the learning in the seminar through student-led workshops, peer response to drafts, a collaborative research project, and a midterm and final evaluation of their learning.
Assignments also include the application for the placement in Annapolis with resume, cover letter, and personal essay; a bill summary and research questions; constituent letters, a press release, a policy analysis (a collaborative research project), and testimony on the project. All assignments are revised and presented in a portfolio at the end of the semester.
The writing seminar, ENGL 381/HONR 368A, is a regular class, and you will be graded on your written assignments, group project, class presentation, and participation.
During the internship, you will be evaluated both by your supervisor at the MGA and by the course instructor. Each evaluation will count for half of your grade. As part of the course, you will write several assignments, and these will be graded as writing assignments. At the internship, your supervisor will likely evaluate you based on your timeliness, dependability, ability to self-start on projects, initiative to take on new responsibilities, and your overall attitude and willingness to work as part of an office team.
Interns work a total of twenty hours each week, usually over two and a half days, from early January to early April, through spring break. The usual schedule is all day Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a half day Wednesday. Other schedules are possible, but a M.W.F. schedule is not effective because the legislators go home early on Friday and return late Monday for an evening session. If you cannot work at least part of Tuesday and Thursday, you will not have a good chance at placement.
As an intern, you do biweekly assignments which include a job description, a memo of understanding to your field supervisor in which you contract your mutual expectations, a proposal for your policy analysis on a bill you are following, a progress report on the internship, a progress report on your policy analysis, a final evaluation and a policy analysis.
Unfortunately there is no public transportation. But many student interns do drive and arranging carpools is typical and easy.
Interns often tell me this program is one of their best collegiate learning experiences. Students learn experientially about writing in the workplace, about their own competencies and interests, and about the nature of government, politics, and the making of public policy. However, it is not for everyone.
Those who like the program usually:
Like to write
Have an interest in government
Work hard and accept responsibility easily
Those who don't like the program usually:
Don't like to write
Have little interest in government
Need total structure to their learning
Cannot deal with the unexpected
Don't like work or responsibility
This is what some past participants have had to say about their experience with the MGA Internship Program:
"Interning at the MGA has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my college career. My Delegate has been extremely welcoming and given me many opportunities to write in real-world political contexts. She allowed me to write the testimony for four of her bills, which she distributed to all of the delegates on that committee. As someone who wants to write for politics, it is extremely rewarding to know that my words have been read by numerous delegates. Because of the experience I have gained through this internship, I have been able to gain more political opportunities post-graduation. I would highly recommend this program to anyone interested in politics and writing." -2017-2018 Participant
"The MGA Internship Program has easily provided me one of the best experiences of my college career. The work I received from both Professor Lowderbaugh and my host office kept me engaged and kept me learning throughout the year. Through this program I've grown as a writer, a professional and a citizen of Maryland, and I feel better prepared for a future in any career path." -2017-2018 Participant
"My experience at the Maryland General Assembly was the best way to put my writing abilities to work in a field that I connected to very personally. As a Journalism major and Law and Society minor, I used writing as a means of discovering the importance of Maryland's legal system and becoming part of the process by which bills become laws. This internship allowed me to experience firsthand the stages that address matters of particular social exigence at the state's capital. The fall and spring English classes that accompanied this internship program were vital in making my experience at the General Assembly a success." -2017-2018 Participant
"The MGA Internship program helped me find direction for my future. I made connections I could not have made elsewhere and learned about opportunities I never knew existed. Even as an intern, I felt fully invested in the process; the work I did mattered. I would not have been as successful without the class that prepared me for this experience. My Legislative Assistant was extremely grateful that I was so well prepared." -2017-2018 Participant