Capitol Time: Indiana State student, graduate learn from interning with Indiana Legislature

May 17, 2011

Shortly after Michael Scott Jr. graduated from Indiana State University last December, the aspiring teacher eagerly looked forward to his job in Indianapolis. Only his new position wasn't to teach, but to learn.

Scott and ISU student Aurora Dreyling interned with the Indiana Legislature from January to early May which included the session earlier this year. Scott interned with the Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus, while Dreyling interned with the Indiana House of Representatives Republican Caucus. Though they interned with different political parties in different chambers of the Indiana Legislature, Dreyling and Scott both received an opportunity to work directly with elected officials while learning more about the political process.

"What I wanted to really gain was a more insider's perspective on how the General Assembly worked," Scott said. "I was well knowledgeable of politics in general."

Many elements of the interns' experience were the same. Scott worked with Indiana Sens. Earline Rogers, D-3rd, and Richard Young, D-47th. Dreyling partnered with a legislative assistant in the Republican caucus who worked with Reps. Ron Bacon, R-75th, Jim Baird, R-44th, and Mark Messmer, R-63rd.

Scott and Dreyling worked to ensure that the respective elected officials they worked with were prepared every day the Legislature was in session. They also worked with constituents who called the elected leaders' offices about issues with state agencies.

In one instance, Dreyling helped a person with an issue he was having with the Indiana Department of Revenue, which processes state taxes.

It's "just one of those things where they never managed to communicate with the right people in the right way," Dreyling said of working with constituents, "and being able to help them out in that way, on such a personal level, was something that makes your whole day better."

Dreyling and Scott received different benefits from their internships. Since the GOP controlled both chambers of the General Assembly and the governor's office, politicians in the party were able to control the scheduling of legislation.

Dreyling enjoyed watching when the Indiana House of Representatives was in session. She took time her first few days to witness the House of Representatives when it was in session. Though she wasn't able to always watch the sessions as her internship continued, she tried to listen to it to learn more about what was going on.

"We hear in the media when an issue is coming up, but we don't really look at the details," she said, "and I think some of that makes a lot of difference in what the actual issues mean and how they are going to impact society."

Scott had the opportunity to work with several committees in the Indiana Senate. As he graduated with a degree in education, he felt particularly suited to witness the kinds of education reform that was proposed. He pointed out four major issues that were brought up: collective bargaining for teachers, merit pay for teachers, expansion of charter schools and vouchers.

He also had a front-row seat to protests that occurred at the state capitol complex, which he said lasted for six weeks.

Regardless of whether "you agree with the protest or supported their opinions, you have to respect the fact that it was democracy at its best, with the daily protests, the rallies that occurred," Scott said, "and so I really think that that part will always stay with me, because you don't see that often."

Scott's educational background also came in handy in his dealings with Rogers, who is the ranking minority member of the education and career development committee. Scott was able to provide additional perspectives to her that she might not have otherwise considered.

She also has noticed that there is a difference in Indiana State students who intern with the Indiana Legislature.

"I don't know whether there's a whittling process that's done at Indiana State or whether or not it's our staff that does the separation, who we decide to bring on," Rogers said, "but like I said, when I know that my intern comes from Indiana State, then I have high expectations for their performance here."

For the interns, who both encourage others to apply for the internship, their experience has reinforced their career goals. Scott will teach social studies at a high school in Dallas, Tex., as part of Teach for America, though he ultimately plans to return to Indiana. The former student body president at ISU was already motivated to get involved in politics; his internship strengthened that resolve.

Dreyling, who still has a year left at Indiana State, had already planned to be involved with politics before her internship. Still, she at first thought she would work in a not-for-profit; now, after her internship, she envisions herself becoming more actively involved, such as working as a legislative assistant and helping elected officials in their daily work.

Regardless of what happens, it has helped give Dreyling a newfound appreciation for the political process.

"I think a lot of times we take politics for granted, and don't really think about what exactly is going on and how all that happens, but in seeing it you realize that it's a very complex process, and a lot of people are involved," Dreyling said. "It takes a lot to make all of the things happen, and it really makes you appreciate politics."

Photo: http://www.in.gov/legislative/senate_democrats/images/Interns/InternswithSenators/Rogers_Young_Scott.JPG (Courtesy of Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus)
Indiana Sen. Earline Rogers, D-3rd, Indiana State University graduate Michael Scott Jr., and Indiana Sen. Richard Young, D-47th. Scott worked with Sens. Rogers and Young during his internship this past spring with the Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-LWZtDjt/0/L/i-LWZtDjt-L.jpg (Courtesy of Indiana House of Representatives Republican Caucus)
Indiana Rep. Ron Bacon, R-75th, Indiana State University student Aurora Dreyling, and Indiana Reps. Jim Baird, R-44th, and Mark Messmer, R-63rd. Dreyling worked with Reps. Bacon, Baird and Messmer during her internship last spring with the Indiana House Republican Caucus.

Media Contact and Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu.

Story Highlights

Indiana State University graduate Michael Scott Jr. and student Aurora Dreyling interned with the Indiana Legislature earlier this year. They received an opportunity to work directly with elected officials while learning more about the political process.

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