Capitol Internships

graphic of the capitol

One defining feature of Willamette University is its unparalleled proximity to a state capitol. Legislative internships offer students of all majors the ability to immerse themselves in political processes that affect their respective professions through laws and policies. The legislative knowledge, professional skills, and powerful networks legislative interns gain will serve to propel graduates towards their vocational goals, regardless of their occupational field.

This webpage guide offers an outline as to how to best seek legislative internships that respect your particular vocational goals. If you have any further questions, we invite you to sign-up for an appointment with our Internship Coordinator, Francesca Scotese, through Handshake or stop by our drop-in hours Monday through Friday 3:00-5:00, Thursday 11:30-2:00, and Friday 3:00-5:00 in the E&E. 

Application Timeline

The time during which the Oregon State Legislature is in business is known as a the legislative session. Oregon operates on a biennial session system, which means that the duration of a legislative session depends on the calendar year:

Regular Sessions (Odd Years): Last week of January-First week of July*

Short Sessions (Even Years): Last week of January-First week of March*

*these are tentative dates; refer to the Legislature’s calendar for specific dates.

Upcoming: Oregon’s 81st Legislative Session (2/3/20-3/7/20)

If you want to earn academic credit for your capitol internship, you must secure an internship and register for IDS 194/195 before the add/drop deadline.

Upcoming: Spring 2020 Add/Drop Deadline (2/3/20)

With respect to the timelines above, it is strongly recommended that you begin your research of legislative offices by no later than November. Moreover, you should have final drafts of your resume and cover letters ready for distribution by New Year’s Day. This allows you to send your materials to offices the first business week in January, when legislative offices will be anticipating applications.

Start Office Research: November

Complete Cover Letters/Resumes: By New Year's Day

Complete and Submit the Legislature's Intern Application Form: By New Year’s Day

Distribute Resumes/Cover Letters via Email: First Business Week in January

Register for IDS 194/195: By the Add/Drop Deadline (Spring 2020: 02/3/2020)

Researching Offices

Finding an internship with an office that assigns work you're interested in can help you get the most out of your internship experience. Moreover, your tailored, deliberate applications to particular offices will be respected by the offices you are applying to.

Below are five factors to consider when researching offices:

Perhaps the most crucial thing to research when considering offices you want to apply to is which committees the legislator sits on. This research will allow you to hone in on offices that specialize in policy topics that align with your academic major.

Committee chairs and members have a lot of power over bills within their policy focus. If you’re passionate about a particular field of policy, make sure you consider legislators who sit in committees of interest.

You can search legislators by committees on the Oregon State Legislature’s "Committees" webpage

The second factor to consider is whether you would prefer to work in the House or the Senate.

The House of Representatives: is a fast-paced, crowded chamber with 60 members that serve two-year terms. The quick cycling of legislators creates a less experienced staffing pool, which can translate to more substantial job duties for interns. All revenue bills originate in the House.

The Senate: is a more deliberate, smaller chamber with 30 members that serve four-year terms. Staff in the Senate tend to have served more time in the legislature.

To explore legislators by chamber, visit the Oregon State Legislature’s website.

The third factor to consider is whether you want to work for a Democrat or Republican. Although party platforms do not perfectly align with those of individual legislators, they certainly provide a general idea of a legislator’s political ideology. Refer to the Democrat and Republican Parties of Oregon’s websites to read these platforms to see which party you most closely identify with.

Working for a party you identify with is a better decision if:

  • You need to personally believe in the political work you’re supporting.
  • You are considering a career in politics with a specific political party.
  • You are considering a career with a partisan policy think-tank or lobby.

Working with a party you do not identify with is a better decision if:

  • You do not strongly identify with either political party.
  • You are considering a career in non-biased policy analysis or advocacy in the future.

When researching different offices, it’s also important to consider whether the characteristics of a legislator’s constituency aligns with your interests.

Some things to note include:

  • Is the constituency urban, suburban, or rural?
  • Is the constituency a swing district or strongly red or blue?
  • Are there particular industries or interest groups that are concentrated in this constituency?

A great resource for researching legislators by consistencies is the "Legislator Lookup" page on the Legislature's website. 

The fifth and final factor to consider in your research of offices is the biography and past legislation of the legislator. It may be the case that the legislator holds a narrative, an identity, or a policy record that you resonate with. Moreover, almost all legislators hold jobs or have retired from jobs in a variety of fields (doctors, lawyers, teachers, scientists, etc.). Legislator biographies can be found on their individual sites on the Oregon State Legislature website.

To see the legislator’s most recently passed bills, refer to the Oregon Legislative Information System (OLIS). Select a session of interest under the calendar decal button, then search for bills by legislator.

Application Process

*Mandatory Step*

Fill out the Legislature's Intern Application and email, fax, or hand-deliver to:

Employee Services
900 Court St. NE, Room 140-B
Salem, Oregon 97301
Phone: 503-986-1373
Fax: 503-986-1684

Once you have submitted this application, your information will be held in a database which legislative offices will have access to. You may receive emails and phone calls from offices interested in you on a rolling basis.

By the first business week in January, you should send professional emails to offices you have chosen (via research) to express your interest in working with them as a Legislative Intern. Be sure to attach your cover letter and resume.

Here is a general guide to formatting this email:

1st Sentence: State your name, state your class standing, state your major, and explain that you’re writing to solicit their office for the opportunity to join them as a Legislative Intern for the upcoming session.

2nd Sentence: State that you've attached your cover letter and resume to this email for their convenience and kindly ask for their every consideration.

3rd Sentence: State that you look forward to future contact via phone or email.

***Do not forget to attach your cover letter and resume!***

If you recieve no response after one week, you should consider calling the offices during business hours to introduce yourself, express your interest, and refer them to your email.

Here are some tips to prepare you for this call:

  1. After sending the email, look up the legislator’s phone number and office staff directory. Take note of the names of the legislator’s Chief of Staff and Legislative Assistant.
  2. Write up a draft of what you’re going to say. Include a warm introduction of your name, your class/major at Willamette, and your interest in working with this particular office as a legislative intern for the upcoming session. Refer to the email you had sent.
  3. Be prepared to offer times of availability to meet for an interview.

Career Development Resources

You can find templates for resumes and cover letters in Optimal Resume.

If you would like some help with edits, feel free to make an appointment with a Career Advisor through Handshake, or consider drop in hours (Monday-Friday 3pm-5pm, Thursday 11:30am-2pm, and Friday 3pm-5pm in the E&E)

You can find resources on how to best dress and prepare for interviews on Career Development's Interviewing Page.

If you would like some help with interview coaching, feel free to make an appointment with a Career Advisor through Handshake or stop by our drop-in hours.