The History and Political Science Department offers a wide variety of internships which give students the opportunity to "try out" a field of interest before committing to a job. They can also be an opportunity to travel. The department has placed students from Montana to Canada to Washington, D.C., working with state supreme court judges, United States congressmen, and political science entities such as Project Vote Smart. (See below.) Closer to home, students have worked with local attorneys, and civil works and city planning departments in nearby cities. Internships can also go through other universities. One student interned at the American Political Science Association through Duke University.
Here is one student's story:
Afia Donkor, Political Science major, worked at Project Vote Smart starting on May 7 in a 10-week internship the summer of 2003. Originally begun in 1992, the goal of Project Vote Smart (PVS) is to maintain a database which contains information about political candidates' voting records, issue positions, and public statements; concentrating on federal and state candidates, but also keeping a minimum of data on county and local candidates within states. Voters can access the database anytime from the Web as they decide who to vote for in an upcoming election.
Even though PVS has operated for over 10 years, they still struggle to become generally known, and Afia worked in the Ambassador Program. "Each day, we were given a list of names to call at places like the Women's Caucus, NAACP, Democratic National Convention, colleges and local clubs like Kiwanis," she explained. "Our job was to inform people of who we were and what we did, and to convince them to mention us in activities, install a link to us on their web site, in general do whatever we could to advertise ourselves. Sometimes it was difficult," she continued. "People would assume we were asking for money or calling with some kind of propaganda. I learned to handle the frustration. But it was fun when we could announce we'd brought in a new 'sponsor'."
Afia also created spreadsheets to organize the information about candidates. "I liked bringing order to the chaos," she said.
In spite of the isolation-PVS is operated at a camp 45 minutes from Philipsburg in west central Montana with a dirt-rock "driveway" 30 minutes long-and the long hours, Afia had a lot of fun. She went horseback riding for the first time, discovering that horses will ignore you if you don't know what you're doing, and took a trip to Vancouver, Canada, with three friends over Fourth of July Weekend. "We saw the fish market and fireworks in Seattle," she said, "then went up to Vancouver and Stanley Island. Our car window was broken the first night we stayed there, but nothing was stolen. We got the window fixed and had a wonderful time."
"I learned so much while I worked at PVS," Afia added. "This was my first time working in a completely secular environment. Sometimes the different lifestyles were shocking for me, but I learned how to relate to people and made some good friends. I liked the exposure to different attitudes about issues and the different outlooks on life. PVS was an exciting place to work, all the people there were very passionate about getting Americans involved in informed voting.
"I also learned that it can snow in June and be COLD!"
Anyone interested in taking an internship should contact Jane Sabes.