The University of Maine’s political science department is once again offering their Congressional Internship Program. Through this program, third and fourth-year students can gain college credit while working in Washington D.C. under a congressperson’s office. Additionally, this is a paid opportunity and open to any upperclassmen, regardless of major. Students are usually placed in Maine representatives’ offices, but can sometimes work with elected, out-of-state officials.
The Congressional Internship Program can be traced back to 1958, when it was founded by Dr. Edward Dow. The application process is highly competitive, with only a few students selected to live and work in the Washington area. Along with the internship, students will also attend monthly seminars, where the political process in Washington is discussed and high ranking government officials speak.
Lila Harakles, a fourth-year political science and philosophy student, was selected for this program and still currently works under the office of Susan Collins. She completed her internship in the spring of 2020 and is one of the most recent alumni of the program. In the spring 2021 semester, the Congressional Internship Program was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Harakles has found this internship to be well worth her time and a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the field of political science.
“What I have enjoyed most about being a congressional intern is how it forces you to become more politically aware and knowledgeable about how our government is run,” said Harakles. “Seeing all the hard work that goes into running a Senate office is truly an eye opening experience. It is so easy to be pessimistic about the state of our government as a whole, but working as a congressional intern exposes you to the behind the scenes effort that staffers and representatives are putting in every day.”
Harakles feels that this internship has been a good stepping stone into the political field. She feels that there is a lot to be learned through hands-on experience with concrete examples rather than just learning about how to govern, because it’s a complex system. She learned a lot about governing through this opportunity. Originally, she was worried that she wasn’t qualified for such an opportunity, but found that her skill set as a political science and philosophy student made her a good candidate.
“I learned about the UMaine Congressional Internship Program through Dr. Brewer. If it was not for his encouragement, I would not have applied,” said Harakles. “I believed I was under-qualified for such a position. However, I have learned through working as a Senate intern for the past two years that you do not need vast work experience to be a successful intern, you just need the right attitude.”
Harakles feels that a strong work ethic and an independent attitude is the key to success in a political role. She feels that being organized and on top of deadlines is key.
“The most valuable lesson I have learned as a congressional intern is how important independence and problem solving are in a professional work environment. Interns have an opportunity to be a huge asset to their office by learning new tasks quickly and performing them independently. Being a self-starter is so valuable when Senate staff are oftentimes incredibly busy and operating under strict deadlines,” said Harakles.
Students have until Oct. 22 at noon to submit their application. To find the application, go to umaine.edu/polisci. If students have any questions regarding the application, please reach out to Dr. Richard Powell, program manager since 2002.