Capitol steps: Political Science students make run for experience
By Ira Green
UofL’s Political Science faculty wanted to help their students grow in more ways than through in-classroom education. Understanding the value of real-world experience, the Frankfort Legislative Internship Program became the department’s centerpiece in providing unique opportunities.
That was in 1998.
Since then, the internship program has grown to a record-high number of UofL students participating – 51 during the spring 2019 semester. Its growth can be attributed to a few factors, including amplified support from the current administration at UofL.
“UofL actually promotes and gets behind the program and provides us the resources to do it, including connecting us with government relations,” said Jason Gainous, professor of Political Science who has led the FLIP since 2006.
The program exists at other institutions in the state. The difference at UofL, however, is that it includes an actual cohort of people.
“Other internships from other universities stem from students making a connection. We have a structure and an organization, as well as an academic component,” Gainous said. “Our program organizes speakers and has an on-site coordinator (in Frankfort).”
Through this cohort, our students are provided an abundance of opportunities to work – and learn – in a hands-on legislative environment, assisting in functions at varying levels in legislators’ offices. They’re also aided and mentored by Shannon Rickett, UofL’s assistant vice president for government relations (and a UofL alum).
Another point of differentiation for UofL’s program is that it now offers a stipend to participants. This, according to Jasmine Farrier, department chair and Political Science professor, allows for even more opportunities for students.
“It’s not a barrier; the travel, the time, getting lunch in Frankfort,” Farrier said. “We want all students to have this opportunity. Our motto in Political Science is that students build their resumes as they earn their degrees.”
The internship takes place during Kentucky’s legislative session, which is typically January through March. As part of the experience, some students have helped draft legislation, while others have participated in bill research. All of them have had the ability to forge relationships with constituents.
This experience has proven its effectiveness, as numerous former interns are now respected members of the state’s legislative system, including Senate President Pro Tempore David Givens, Senator Gerald Neal and Representative McKenzie Cantrell.
For Tialisha Lumpkin, a 2018 spring participant, the opportunity to intern in Frankfort at the State Capitol led to post-graduate opportunities. Lumpkin currently is an advocacy community organizer for the Catholic Charities of Louisville.
“As an intern, I was able to pull back the curtain on Kentucky politics and, in doing so, I gained immeasurable experience and insight on how Kentucky operates. It was hard work and also fun, from scouting support for legislation to enjoying free legislative lunches,” Lumpkin said.