Coming Full Circle: Alumni Invest in the Legislative Internship Program
Development, Political Science | January 28, 2015
In the early 1970s Colorado State University political science professors Sue Furniss and current Director of the Legislative Intern Program John Straayer created the Department of Political Science’s Legislative Internship Program at the Colorado General Assembly. They created a framework that pairs CSU student interns with an individual House or Senate member in the Colorado legislature. The idea was simple, but the impact of the now 40 year old program is unparalleled. “I owe a huge debt of gratitude to John Straayer and the Legislative Internship Program,” says Patrick O’Keefe ’92, Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs at CH2MHill, “it provided a unique and direct application for my interest and studies in political science, giving me experience and connections that led to Washington, D.C. The leadership and empowerment have carried straight through to the business world.”
Since establishing the program, and as noted by Colorado House Republicans in a speech honoring Straayer at the annual aides-and-interns appreciation lunch in 2012, “Dr. Straayer has driven approximately 109, 824 miles on 1,664 separate trips between Denver and Fort Collins, he has ushered over 900 students to the State Capitol and careened over the speed bumps of “Thrill Street” 832 times. Over this time, he has also consumed over 57 gallons of coffee and eaten over 830 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the Capitol. Dr. Straayer has donated over 5,824 hours of his time, spanning 16 legislative sessions.”
Now approaching almost 50 years at CSU, Straayer and the Department of Political Science are preparing to pass the torch onto a new Director of the Legislative Internship Program. The department has also pinpointed a need to significantly expand the offerings of the program in the future. The vision is to include resources for both undergraduate and graduate students in the form of stipends that give them opportunities to participate in other civic engagement activities and research and to establish a lecture series.
“Our legislative internship program has been alive, well, and successful for almost 40 years now, and soon the number of interns who have benefited from the experience will pass 1,000. The department has ever y intention to keep the program going well into the future and, indeed, to complement it with additional public service internship options in local, national, and international governments, state executive agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and nonprofits. I will be retiring before long, but the program won’t,” said Straayer.
Numerous interns have gone onto distinguished careers in law, lobbying, and civil service across the country, and there is an overwhelming sentiment among alumni that the program served as a launching pad for their careers. Now CSU Legislative Internship alumni have come together to form a committee to develop support for an enhanced and sustainable Legislative Internship program.
“The internship program was, without question, the most meaningful part of my academic studies at CSU,” said Phil Parrott ’78, committee member and Denver-based attorney. “The program deserves to be supported and, if possible, expanded.”
For more information about you can support the Legislative Internship Program at CSU, contact Assistant Director of Development Quinha McBride at (970) 491-0227 or Quinha.McBride@colostate.edu.