By | Tess Van Schepen '16
Health Policy Intern, Office of Senator Al Franken

During the fall semester, I interned at Senator Al Franken’s St. Paul office and was grateful to do so to gain further experience in government-related work. After numerous classroom and internship experiences, I developed an interest in health policy and knew that interning at Senator Franken’s office would allow me to be working alongside those who value health policies that promote equitable and accessible care. Given Minnesotans' deep respect for Senator Franken, I also looked forward to seeing the ways in which both the senator and his staff serve their constituents to maintain this relationship.

Through my internship, I unexpectedly became part of a community. Although most interns at the office only stay for a maximum of four months, each staff member intentionally welcomed me and took time to get to know each of the interns individually. It was wonderful getting to know the intelligent and hardworking staff through working on projects together, attending events, or talking in the office. The staff members are dedicated to serving the people of Minnesota, and because of this I was constantly learning from their work. Alongside their interest in my professional development, they also took time to ask about my plans for the future, give me advice, and even help in my job search.

In order to focus on a particular issue area, I worked primarily with one of the senator’s field representatives who serves as the senator’s point person on issues regarding health in the state of Minnesota. She often assigned me to do research on a particularly relevant topic or look into the legislative history of an issue: what bills have been introduced on the topic, who supported them, and what may be occurring now. Alongside these tasks, I also learned how to manage the senator’s schedule from his state scheduler. When the senator was in town, I was lucky enough to attend a few meetings and events with him and the staff, and I was thoroughly impressed by the way in which he considers each individual’s concerns and takes appropriate action to help when he is able.

At the office, I interacted with constituents daily, which gave me an understanding of issues that are relevant to Minnesotans, how federal policies affect their lives,  and what the senator's office can do to help. I loved being able to speak to a constituent, record the situation, and pass on the information to the appropriate representative in the office. A few days later, I could ask the staff member about the constituent and hear how they evaluated the situation and were able to help the the person by referring them to a community organization the constituent didn't know of, sending an inquiry to a federal agency, or answering questions about Medicaid. The moments where I observed staff members’ ability to help constituents were some of the most rewarding.

June 14 2016

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