(L to R) Ramon "Tony" Chin '18, Sophie Hannauer '19 and Angelo Perez '19

“It’s one thing to write about the political process—it’s another to see it happen, to actually experience it. It’s humbling.”
—Ramon Chin

When students register for political science professor Julie Dolan’s Legislative Politics course, they know their classroom will extend far beyond the place where they meet on Wednesday nights for discussion. Legislative Politics blends a four-credit class on legislative process and public policymaking theories with a four-credit internship—often at the Minnesota State Capitol, four miles from campus. Through the semester, on and off campus, students learn how legislatures work and why legislators do what they do.

The result, Dolan explains, is an experience that’s greater than the sum of its parts, creating a deeper understanding than a standalone class or an internship. “I go to my internship, and then come back and go to class in the evening, where I have a chance to talk about things I’ve learned and observed with my classmates,” says Sophie Hannauer ’19 (Champaign, Ill.). I’m remembering concepts much better because I can apply them to what I’ve actually seen happen.”

We asked three students to reflect on their Legislative Politics experience:

 

Ramon “Tony” Chin ’18
Hometown: Missoula, Mont.
Internship: Senator Bobby Joe Champion

Senator Champion’s always on the move, which means I’m always on the move. On my first day his legislative assistant told me, “I hope you walk fast. Try your best to keep up.” I’ve been running all over the place shadowing the senator during meetings and committees, dropping off documents at different legislative offices, getting food or helping prep for events at his district. It’s one thing to write about the political process—it’s another to see it happen, to actually experience it. It’s humbling.

When I met Senator Champion for the first time, we immediately got into a discussion about his politics, his experiences as an attorney, the best places to get food around the Capitol, and of course, Macalester. He also introduced me to other Mac alums who play prominent roles in Minnesota local and state politics and other community leaders. One night a group of them was all talking about the year when they were all at Macalester. That’s a big thing with working with Mac alumni—you can relate to them pretty easily.

 

Sophie Hannauer ’19
Hometown: Champaign, Ill.
Interning with: Senator Carolyn Laine

When I think back to this internship after it’s over, I’ll remember the feeling of being right in the middle of everything, and feeling like a witness to the historic process of lawmaking. You just can’t get that kind of experience in the classroom.

I’m remembering concepts much better because I can apply them to what I’ve actually seen happen. I go to my internship and then come back and go to class in the evening, where I have a chance to talk about things I’ve learned and observed with my classmates. I really enjoy the discussions we have in class about bills going through the legislature, events in committees, and the differences in constituent communication in each district. Some of us are working for Twin Cities metro districts, and some of us are working for districts in greater Minnesota. Some of my classmates have internships with lobbying groups. There’s a breadth of experiences to discuss.

 

Angelo Perez ’19
Hometown: Chicago
Internship: Senator Patricia Torres Ray

This class was the perfect opportunity to experience Macalester’s commitment to civic engagement. I hadn’t taken a course in American politics before, so I thought that Professor Dolan’s class would be an immersive introduction that would acquaint me with the subject in the most hands-on way possible. I knew I wanted to work with a legislator of color so that I could learn from someone who has broken barriers. Senator Torres Ray has empowered marginalized communities throughout her whole career, and I thought I could draw a lot of inspiration from working in her office.

A lot of my work is centered on constituent response. Most people who write or call in just want to know how Senator Torres Ray will vote on certain bills. I make sure to include this information, as well as some facts and what the senator has done in the past concerning the issue. I like to think that we carry the voice of the senator by engaging the people in conversation. I can see this experience being a launchpad for related internships—and I’ll remember who will be reading my letters (and therefore whom to thank) when I write to legislators and other government officials in the future.

May 23 2017

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