One of the most effective ways for students in the Department of Political Science at Western Michigan University to get experience while in college is to intern in an office where people practice politics, policy making, law or international development. Internships provide valuable, hands-on experience that both give you an insight into a career path and provide you with an experiential component for your portfolio. In some cases, the Department of Political Science can assist you in finding an internship; in many others, you will have to do the investigative work yourself. In most cases, academic credit can be arranged (this must be arranged in advance). Acceptance to an internship is by no means automatic; in many ways, it's like applying for a job. Many internships require good academic performance and references.
Review internship information and requirements for an internship through our department.
Internships in Michigan
Our most extensive internship programs are in southwest Michigan and in Lansing. The latter, the Capital Internship program, has been underway for over a decade and has placed qualified interns in offices throughout the executive and legislative branches of Michigan government, as well as in the lobbying and non-profit sectors. In southwest Michigan, interns regularly serve in city and village managers' offices, in other local agencies, and in business development and nonprofit organizations.
These internships are very popular with students and the department has sponsored interns for more than 30 years. Some students are able to directly convert an internship into a job upon graduation, while others are able to continue in their internships throughout the summer. Internships are always a very good experience in regard to networking and on-the-job training.
Capital and local internship programs
An internship experience can be a highlight of your undergraduate education. The Department of Political Science sponsors two different internship programs in Michigan.
The Capital Intern Program (in Lansing)
Examples of placements in Lansing have included work with elected officials in the House, the Senate, Governor’s Office, Supreme Court; departments including Attorney General, Civil Rights, Consumer and Industry Services, Education, Corrections, Community Health, National Resources, Treasury; some legislative placements have included House Democratic Policy Staff, House Republican Programs and Research, Legislative Research Division of the Legislative Service Bureau, Senate Majority Policy Office, House Fiscal Agency; lobbying firms such as Capitol Services Inc., Governmental Consultant Services Inc., Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan Education Association, Michigan Association of School Boards, Wiener Associates; research organizations such as the Citizen's Research Council of Michigan; consultants such as Sterling Corporation and Rossman Martin & Associates; and a number of nonprofit organizations.
A local intern program that is primarily based in southwestern Michigan
Examples of local placements have included more than 400 different internships in 59 geographical locations, mostly in southwestern Michigan. The types of these internships can be categorized as placement with general management (38 cities and counties), elected officials, health and human services, administration of justice, offices at Western Michigan University, and miscellaneous local Kalamazoo internships such as the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, Housing Resources Incorporated, the Independent Business Association, the Kalamazoo Center for Independent Living, Planned Parenthood, United Auto Workers and the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
Kalamazoo and surrounding area
Placements include positions with city managers in 13 different cities, as well as various internships in assessment, personnel, planning and county development, purchasing, recreation, zoning and 23 other areas. There are also internships at the village, township, and county levels of government. You may also consider interning with an elected official, on a campaign, or in health and human services, or judicial placements.
These internships are based in Lansing. Many internships are available with state representatives and state senators; with all departments of state government including the departments of Civil Rights, Community Health, and Education; internships in the Governor's Office; in the judicial area; with legislative organizations including the House Democratic Policy staff, House Republicans Programs and Research, the House and Senate Fiscal Agencies, the Legislative Service Bureau, the Senate Majority Policy Office, and the Senate Democratic Caucus. A number of other state-level internships are available in the areas of lobbying, research, consultants and nonprofits.
Internships in Washington, D.C.
The Department of Political Science and the Lee Honors College are working very hard to place students in internships in Washington, D.C. There are more than 1,000 WMU graduates living and working in the Washington, D.C., area. The Western Herald provides profiles on a number of these former students. It is suggested that these profiles be consulted to get an idea of the great variety of possible internships and jobs in the D.C. area.
The Washington Center may be useful in informing you about different types of internships and jobs in Washington, D.C.
In Washington, D.C., WMU’s political science students have interned with the lobbying firm Kinghorn, Hillbert and Associates; National Milk Producers Association; U.S. representatives including Reps. Conyers, Ford, Hoekstra, Knollenberg, Levin, Siljander, Wolpe, and Wirth; and U.S. senators including Sens. Levin and Riegel.
Graduates of our political science program have worked for: Defenders of Wildlife; Office of the Inspector General; House Commerce Committee; Congressman Tom Feeney, of Florida, as chief of staff; SCM Associates, a fundraising consulting firm; AFL-CIO, the Association of Flight Attendants; Computer Sciences Corporation Federal Sector, on an FCC programming services contract; Berkshire Mortgage Finance, as vice president and loan originator; Department of State, as foreign service officer; Congressman Buck McKeon; Senator Christopher Dodd; and the American Jewish Committee.
Although not always easy to arrange, international internships are a rewarding and effective way to get international experience. International internships fall into two categories:
- Those that take place in another country.
- Those that take place with an organization devoted to some aspect of international affairs but which are based in the U.S. There are many of these.
Students have served in internships in the German Bundestag, German state parliaments and development NGOs in India and South Africa.
Dr. David Houghton has been directing our internship programs since 1978 and has mentored and placed over 1,000 interns, many of whom are working for prominent figures in government, law and business.
Houghton has always been an advocate of experiential learning. Early in his teaching career at WMU, he saw the value of giving students the opportunity to experience the inner workings of a government office firsthand.
"The experience prepares students for their future careers more than anything can. They get to see how an office works, but the big thing is self-confidence. A lot of students start off and they're intidimated like crazy—everyone's wearing a suit, everyone knows exactly where they're going. By the time the internship is finished, the students feel like they can walk in and interview for a job and they have a lot more accomplished," says Houghton.
David G. Houghton Internship Endowment
The David G. Houghton Internship Endowment has been established to support the current internship program and expand its scope.
Contact Dr. David Houghton with questions about our internship programs.