January 29, 2007

Internships offer students experience, contacts

by Sun Min

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Seven Southern Illinois University Carbondale students are serving as interns this semester at various agencies in Springfield as part of a program offered by SIUC's Department of Political Science.

"This is the sixth year we have sent students from the program to Springfield. It is also our largest group ever," said Christy A. Stewart, academic adviser.

The participants, each a senior majoring in political science, are: Sarah E. Frye of Jacksonville, with the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce; Courtney M. Goodman of Waterloo, with the American Association of Retired Persons; Sumantra Lahiri of Naperville, with the Illinois State Board of Education; Tywana M. Lee of Chicago (10000 block of South Parnell), with Illinois Government Affairs; Katie M. Pennell of Cave-In-Rock, with the Laborers' International Union; Vijay J. Rajagopal of Champaign with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; and Sarah M. Stanfill of Vienna, also with AFSCME.

The interns will work the entire spring semester, which coincides with the legislative session in Springfield. They will track legislation, conduct research and attend hearings concerning relevant legislation.

Upperclassmen majoring in political science with strong academic credentials are chosen for the program. The department places the selected students with lobbying firms, which provide them a stipend of $1,000 to $1,500 per month.

"I think this program is a wonderful opportunity for students to take what they have learned in their courses and apply it to real world situations," Stewart said. "So often experience is what students lack when they graduate, and this program gives our students who participate a huge advantage as they enter the job market. Several of our students have been so successful in the program that they were offered full-time jobs upon graduation."

One of those success stories involves DeJuan A. Kea of Redford, Mich.. The 2006 SIUC graduate credits the program with helping him to land a prestigious job with Springfield-based Illinois Principals Association. As the governmental relations coordinator for the association, Kea handles daily lobbying efforts and interacts with legislative committees.

"I love my job," said Kea. "It's exciting because I learn something new everyday."

Just a year ago, Kea was interning with the Illinois State Board of Education. He is grateful for the SIUC internship program that prepared him to enter the real world. "I made connections in Springfield and I learned about who to talk to about certain issues."

Although Kea is already making his mark in the political arena, he will never forget the people he has met along the way. The former Saluki football player is quick to recognize those who mean the most to him.

"I thank God, my parents, my mentors in Michigan and SIU football coach Jerry Kill for motivating me to reach for my goals," Kea said.