Students spend part of semester in state Capitol
3 mins read

Students spend part of semester in state Capitol

Senior Clay Hoffman didn’t originally consider interning outside of Vermillion during his final semester as an undergraduate at the University of South Dakota.

Then senior Tyler Tordsen, Student Government Association president, informed Hoffman of possible opportunities in Pierre during the state’s legislative session. Tordsen was convincing enough for Hoffman, who decided it would be an opportunity to step in the door of South Dakota politics and learn on the fly.

“I didn’t fully consider applying for the State Legislative internship until Mary Pat Bierle recommended that I apply,” Hoffman said. “Now, here I am interning with the senate Democrats in our state Capitol.”

Hoffman is one of seven interns representing USD at the 2015 legislative session. The students are participating in two different internship opportunities.

Five students — Hoffman, senior Chad Peterson, sophomore Curstie Visser, senior Michael Burke and sophomore Jalatama Omar — are working within the legislature.

Meanwhile, senior Rachelle Norberg and sophomore Chelsea Gilbertson are carrying out lobbying internships in Pierre during the session for Tieszen Law Firm.

There are specific qualifications Pierre interns must meet. Students do not have to be political science majors. However, political science majors have an advantage with resources such as professor Mary Pat Bierle, who has connections and seeks to fit political science majors with internships in politics.

“They work directly with me — we identify where they’d like to work,” Bierle said. “I also help them draft a resume and identify their career goals.”

Once given the opportunity for an internship, students select their party affiliation and are usually assigned to work for that party.

The legislative internship program runs from Jan. 13 to March 13 inclusive and veto day, March 30.

The students said the jobs can be demanding and many of the jobs they are carrying out are different from what the expected.

Visser is interning with Rep. Steve Westra, R-S.D., assistant majority leader, and does whatever he asks.

“My job includes keeping Rep. Westra on track with his scheduling and bills,” Visser said. “I also attend committee meetings each week and take notes to keep Rep. Westra up to speed on what is happening.”

Visser hopes this internship allows her to prepare for her future career, whether in politics or other areas of government.

“I hope to be able to further myself toward a future career by learning as much as I possibly can during this opportunity,” she said.

Working for a lobbying company is a little different. Gilbertson is interning for Tieszen Law Office and said one of her tasks during the day is to prepare agendas at session meetings.

“We attend either the House or Senate session to watch for action taken on legislation,” Gilbertson said. “When session is over, we return to the office to prepare and print committee agendas and their respective bill.”

Hoffman said he has been assigned to a new task during his internship.

“I moderate the Democratic leadership press conference at the end of the week,” Hoffman said. “That is a fun assignment.”

(Clay Hoffman is spending part of his semester in Pierre working for the Senate Democrats. Hoffman, middle, assisted the Legislators on Jan. 30 during the democratic leadership’s press conference. Megan Card / The Volante)