Willow Lance, a Cal Poly Pomona senior majoring in philosophy, will soon be heading to Washington, D.C., where she will spend part of the fall 2021 semester participating in the prestigious Panetta Institute Congressional Internship Program.
Lance said the Panetta internship will give her a chance to see and experience how ideas grow and develop into public policies. The insight she gains will prepare her for a future in which she plans to work on public policy designed to help people overcome barriers that keep them from registering to vote or exercising their voting rights, matters that are important to her and are critical issues in many places across the county.
“It definitely is a time when you either literally get in the fight or you stand by,” Lance said, adding she is not someone to watch from the sidelines without getting involved.
The Glendora resident, who expects to graduate in May 2022, will represent Cal Poly Pomona in the program, which includes a student from each of the 23 campuses in the California State University system.
The program begins with an intensive two-week training period at the non-partisan Panetta Institute for Public Policy based at Cal State Monterey Bay. She will then head off to Washington, D.C., to spend 11 weeks as a part of the staff of a member of Congress.
Each year Cal Poly Pomona sends one student to the program, although some years the talent of the candidates in the pool is even higher than usual and two applicants are selected for the internship, said Sara Garver, interim dean of the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences, which is home to the program at Cal Poly Pomona.
The application process for the program is competitive and regularly attracts a pool of 15 to 20 applicants. Students from all majors are welcome to apply but the program tends to draw students “interested in government work, the law and the judicial system” and majoring in political science, history, philosophy, English and occasionally communication, Garver said.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity, especially for students developing an interest in public policy or policy work,” said Claudia Garcia-Des Lauriers, interim director of the Kellogg Honors College at Cal Poly Pomona.
Students who have participated in the program have a desire to engage in the crafting of public policy as part of the staff of elected officials. Others have a goal to run for elected office in the future, Garcia-Des Lauriers said.
Many students are also interested in crafting public policy as part of their work in law, with non-profits, think tanks, community organizations and other groups, she said.
The successful applicant will become part of a Congress member’s team “and be immersed in the hands-on training” involved in drafting public policy, Garcia-Des Lauriers said.
Lance, who plans to enter law school following her graduation from Cal Poly Pomona, is active with the Kellogg Honors College and credits it and her philosophy education with preparing her for the internship.
The Kellogg Honors College has afforded Lance the chance to meet with small groups of students from various majors who she often doesn’t know “to have discourse.”
As a philosophy student she has been trained to analyze topics and “to ask questions other people might be too afraid to ask,” she said.
Through the internship, Lance also expects to meet other students with whom she will make lifelong connections and take part in discussions where there is a free-flowing exchange of ideas.
“We all sort of have the same mission. We’re all interested in the same topics,” Lance said.
Much of her education has involved academic work. The internship will permit her to “understand how the system works from the inside,” she said.
“This internship embodies the Cal Poly Pomona motto of learn by doing,” Lance said.