Middlesex Students Begin Legislative Internships

Feb. 6, 2024 — Each year, Middlesex political science professor Tad Lincoln recruits eligible students to serve as interns for a state senator or representative in Hartford. Middlesex is fortunate to have on average more students in the program than is typical for other colleges in Connecticut, large or small.

For the Spring 2024 semester, six Middlesex students have been selected as legislative interns, John Morin, Venishia Nakandala, Ayesha Naru, Trajan Sanchez, Katherine Tocto-Quituisaca and Andrew Whittle.

To receive academic credits, the students enroll in two political science courses, Connecticut Legislature Studies and Connecticut Legislative Internship, each carrying three credits. These courses provide students with an intensive introduction to workings of the Connecticut General Assembly, covering the legislative process, research methods, legislative monitoring techniques, and constituent casework. They are assigned to legislators to assist in bill analysis and tracking, drafting news releases and speeches, among other duties.

Part-time interns work two full days each week. However, for the first time, English major Ayesha Naru is working as a full-time intern—for State Senator Jeff Gordon (35th Senate District)—earning 12 course credits. A unique accomplishment, Naru is one of only two full-time interns in the state.

Two Middlesex interns are working for state senators. In addition to Naru, Tocto-Quituisaca, business administration, is assigned to State Senator Gary Winfield (10th Senate District).

“That is amazing, since there are not many senators, and they generally have their pick from among seniors from schools like UConn or Yale,” said Professor Lincoln, who has been the campus liaison for the program since 2008. The internship program began in 1969.

To be eligible for the General Assembly internship, students must have earned 20 course credits, be 18 years old, and maintain at least a 2.7 GPA. In addition, CT State Middlesex specifies the importance of excellent writing skills and a minimum 2.9 GPA.

“So far, my internship experience has been quite positive. This professional environment is entirely new to me, and I find everything intriguing and diverse. Observing the legislative process and hearing diverse opinions has been undeniably fascinating,” added Tocto-Quituisaca. “I look forward to the valuable learning opportunity that the upcoming session will offer, and I consider my primary goal for this internship is to acquire knowledge and gain a new perspective on the professional world.”

Another first for Middlesex is that Andrew Whittle, digital media production major, is working for the Communication and Outreach Department of the Connecticut House Democrats. He will focus on marketing and communications for various legislators.

“I am interested in law and need an internship for my degree,” said Whittle, who just completed two days of orientation. “I haven’t done much yet but I enjoy feeling important!”

Morin (criminology) is also working for a group of legislators in the office of the Connecticut House Republicans. Other assignments include Nakandala (English) assisting State Representative Christine Palm (36th House District) and Sanchez (computer science) working for Representative Anthony Nolan (39th House District).

“Roughly 100 to 120 students apply for the Legislative Internship Program each October. They are from most colleges and universities in Connecticut, but only around 60 to 65 become interns. However, Middlesex applicants almost always get into the program,” added Professor Lincoln. “They are competing with juniors and seniors from some of the best colleges in Connecticut, so if I have determined that a student will be a good intern, I will do everything I can to make sure they get the opportunity. Some say the experience is life changing.”

Nakandala said she applied after taking a tour of the state capitol building.

“This made me want to become an intern and see how it feels like to be working in the state capitol. When I did my research, I heard from various past interns how interesting their internship was and also what a great opportunity it was for their career growth as well as their personal growth,” said Nakandala, who is originally from Sri Lanka.

Professor Lincoln said a couple of former interns have attempted to run for a local office. Others have gone on to work full time at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford or work with political campaigns and lobbying groups.

Overall, Middlesex’s strong representation in legislative internships, coupled with unique achievements and diverse placements, highlights the college’s dedication to providing students with valuable learning opportunities within state government.