By Zachary Nelson
While most students are in class winter quarter, two University of Washington Bothell students are in Olympia instead, working with lawmakers as legislative interns. The interns are conducting legislative research, working in public relations, tracking legislation and corresponding with constituents as well as state agencies.
“The legislative internship is a front-row seat to the legislative session, the process of making and negotiating policy, and engaging with legislators' constituents to resolve issues. This is an experience that inspires true political engagement,” said Kelly Snyder, assistant vice chancellor of government and community relations.
Eli Nicholson, who is majoring in law, economics and public policy, is grateful for the experience he is gaining in Washington’s capital. Working with Sen. Brad Hawkins from the 12th district, which includes the city of Wenatchee, Nicholson focuses on communicating with constituents. He answers the phone when they call, returns emails and does other follow-up on the senator’s behalf.
“My favorite part is connecting with people from all walks of life who have so much wisdom to share,” Nicholson said. “Everyone I meet is so incredibly passionate about different political topics. When I hear from people who have been through the hardest challenges — who have turned strife into success — it inspires me to continue on this path. This internship is the real deal. I was given meaningful work that will actually impact people’s lives in a positive way.”
Avi Socha, another law, economics and public policy major, said he is impressed by the inclusive nature of Olympia and by how both political parties support students. He primarily works with Sen. Jamie Pederson, whose district covers a large part of Seattle, including the University of Washington.
“The Washington state legislature’s effectiveness gives me hope for Washington, D.C.,” Socha said. “Everyone is respectful towards each other and is trying to help others. What you see in the news is the dramatized version of things. Politics are usually calm and respectful.”
The interns are allowed “high access” inside the Capitol building because of their nonpartisan status, which means they can “look behind the scenes” for both political parties. This gives interns a completely immersive experience that isn’t determined by their political party.
“You get to know legislators as people instead of just political figures or headlines. It really is cool to walk down the hallway and bump into a senator who knows you on a first-name basis,” Socha said.
Students work in Olympia during business hours, fulfilling real staffing needs that lawmakers have. These students aren’t only there to gain experience, the politicians rely on them to accomplish tasks and keep the workflow in progress.
For Socha that led to a personal reference letter from Sen. Pederson, commending him on his work. Socha was also able to use his internship to meet new people he plans to keep in his network after graduation.
“For anybody considering taking this internship on, just apply already,” Socha said. “No matter what your major, they can find a role for you here. UW Bothell has really done an excellent job putting this program together. I will remember my time here for the rest of my life, and I am grateful that I was able to participate in such a major way.”