West Virginia University graduate student Erica Rogers didn’t spend this semester attending classes.
She was busy interning at the State Capitol as this year’s Lewis McManus Fellow.
The Lewis McManus Fellowship is awarded to a full-time, second-year graduate student who is pursuing a master of arts in political administration or a master of arts in political science with an emphasis in public administration from WVU, Marshall University or a joint program through both schools.
Rogers had been very interested in state and local government during her undergraduate studies and chose to apply for the Lewis McManus Fellowship in her first year of graduate school after researching possible internship opportunities within the legislature.
In the fall of 2010, Rogers began the full academic year internship by traveling to Charleston for three-day interim sessions each month. During these interim sessions she spent most of her time getting to know the delegates on the House Judiciary Committee and researching topics and legislation that would be of importance during the regular session.
Since she was familiar with the legislative staff and material, Rogers was able to hit the ground running when the 60-day regular session began on Jan. 12. Within the first week, Rogers was researching and drafting bills, preparing abstracts and making presentations to the committee.
At first, Rogers was pushed outside of her comfort zone when given assignments she had never attempted before and she questioned her ability to perform at the level expected.
“It didn’t take long for the necessity of the job to overtake any apprehension I had about the job,” Rogers said. “After just a few weeks, I was amazed at how much I had already learned and how comfortable I had become analyzing, presenting, and even suggesting changes to proposed legislation.”
Rogers tracked about 25 bills over the course of the session. Even with her busy schedule, she was able to take advantage of an opportunity to draft and edit two bills that were near and dear to her heart –one dealing with the return of rental security deposits and one about taxicab service in Morgantown.
“I felt prepared to take on the challenge of the internship just by virtue of having been a member of the WVU community,” she said. “Because the University is large with many opportunities, I was able to grow comfortable in my own skin, to accept personal responsibility for achievement of my goals, and to find out what I was really made of during my time here.
“Knowing that I had navigated my way to success at WVU made me confident that I could handle any challenge thrown at me in the ‘real world,’ too.”
The legislative session ended in March, but Rogers’ work is still not finished. She will be working on summarizing all the bills that she was assigned, including the purpose of the bill as well as the last legislative action taken on each.
“Looking back on the session, it’s hard to believe 60 days flew by so quickly, and it’s bittersweet to have a lighter workload and a quieter office,” she said. “I’ve made notes for myself in a journal that I kept during my experience, and I’m simply amazed at how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned in the past six months.”
Finalists for this fellowship are nominated by their universities and chosen from all applications the university receives. The finalists are submitted to the House Intern Committee who will make the final selection. The student selected receives tuition and fees for one year as well as a stipend during session and per diem pay during interim sessions.
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