Amanda de Souza '25 (right) and Mena Feleke '25 (left) are two Mac students with internships at the Minnesota State Capitol this semester.

By Talia Bank ’23

This semester, a cohort of Macalester students are learning the ins and outs of government and policymaking with Minnesota Capitol Pathways. The program aims to support BIPOC college students with legislative and career training along with hands-on internship experiences with organizations, corporations, nonprofits, and other stakeholders. Participants are encouraged to build relationships in and around the state capitol and participate directly in the policymaking process. Since 2016, Capitol Pathways has invested in BIPOC students with the broader mission of increasing access to public service and policy and making the government more representative of the diverse communities it serves. 

We asked Mena Feleke ’25 and Amanda de Souza ’25, two Capitol Pathways participants, about their experiences with the program so far: 

Mena Feleke ’25
Internship placement: Working with the government affairs team at Target

What kind of work are you doing?

I’m learning about the legislative process, but from the perspective of a private entity and corporation. I was really attracted to them because the work that they do is technically lobbying. When you think of lobbying, you think of Big Pharma, the NRA (National Rifle Association), but now I get the perspective of a well-established and well-liked brand. 

I never saw myself working for a corporation, but I think a lot of Target’s priorities aligned with my interests and so it was an easy choice to be partnered with them.

I do bill tracking—specifically I’ve been tracking the paid family leave bill—and I watch committee hearings. I have also helped plan their Day at the Capitol events in Minnesota and in Texas. I connected legislators to the team members that they were going to be meeting with, so it was something that I could do virtually. 

What motivated you to participate in the Capitol Pathways program? 

I really want to do public policy work, and it was a great opportunity to get started on that while I’m still in school. There aren’t a ton of opportunities to get involved in public policy and this seemed like a great way to do it. And it also had another component of a cohort and so it offered an opportunity to connect with other like-minded individuals who share similar identities.

What are the most rewarding aspects of this experience for you? 

I am a firm believer that issues are best solved by those who actually experience them. As someone who shares multiple marginalized identities, I bring in a unique perspective on how specific issues actually affect communities. I also want to be part of what that change looks like. Being involved in that process, even if Target is a corporation and isn’t directly impacting communities of color or other marginalized communities, still impacts their workers, who belong to the working class. 

I think one of the biggest parts of the experience has been networking and being exposed to people who work on the state and local level. Being a first-generation student, I’m not exposed to all the professions that are out there, so I’m making those connections now. You don’t know what you don’t know.

Amanda de Souza ’25
Internship placement: The Great Plains Institute 

What kind of work are you doing?

The Great Plains Institute is an organization involved with environmental policy. I watch committee hearings and take notes, I track bills related to the work of two coalitions (the Drive Electric Minnesota and Bioeconomy), and I go to the capitol and watch hearings there because my organization testifies in many of them. I also had the opportunity to shadow my supervisors in a meeting with Senator D. Scott Dibble, which was amazing. It was my first time having that connection, so it was really fun seeing a senator outside of a hearing and further understanding the long process a bill has to go through to become a law in the US legislative system.

Recently, I have also begun to work on literature reviews, researching topics such as the effects of biofuels in air quality and the benefits of electric school and transit buses. 

What motivated you to participate in the Capitol Pathways program? 

I decided to participate in the Capitol Pathways Program to gain more knowledge on the US legislative system and create connections with other BIPOC undergraduate students who are also passionate about policy-making. 

This is such a powerful, incredible moment to be at the capitol now that it’s a trifecta. Even if it’s little by little, being in this moment of history and seeing changes happening is just amazing by itself. 

I’m from Brazil and I plan on going back there or working internationally. It’s great to know how  places of decision making work and how these policies are going to affect not only Minnesota or the national level, but everywhere in the world. I’m learning a lot, and I’m thinking that in the future, I might be the one more involved in that in my home country.

March 28 2023

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