Taylor Longhitano is a junior studying Law and Public Policy in the O’Neill School with a minor in Spanish. She plans to complete her undergraduate degree and a Master of Public Affairs through the O’Neill Accelerated Master’s Program. Last summer she interned in the district office of the Illinois House Representative for District 50. Much of her work was centered around constituent outreach and helping them navigate state bureaucracy to solve personal and local problems. See what she has to say about her time working for the state legislature:

1. Why were you interested in interning in local/state government?

I was exploring career pathways, and felt that this position was a good jumping off point because it required a lot of contact with local and state level government agencies. This internship gave me a sense of the issues that were being dealt with in each of the agencies I worked with, but even more valuable was learning how different levels and branches of government interact with each other. Additionally O’Neill School coursework has given me a foundational understanding of the processes of government policymaking, but only a few have talked in-depth about the influence politics has in those processes. I wanted to watch policymaking happen first-hand to gain a more holistic perspective of lawmaking.

2. What is your interest in policymaking at the state level?

I think state government is somewhat unique because it is targeted enough for its decisions to have big impacts on people’s daily lives, but still broad enough to include constituents with vastly different interests and political views. I have always been interested in the balancing act that happens when creating policy that will apply to a diverse constituency, so I wanted to see that in action. It was also interesting to see that legislators in the minority party were still able to influence policy outcomes when the other party had a supermajority. You might expect for them to be outvoted on everything, and that does happen. But sometimes moderates from both parties are able to come to an agreement that they prefer over working with the extremists within their own party.

3. How did your internship prepare you for future career plans?

Through my work supporting constituents, this internship helped me to realize how much I enjoy problem-solving. Constantly facing new challenges means that each day is a little (or a lot) different than the day before, which keeps the work interesting. It is also rewarding to know that you were able to help someone, and either forge a new relationship or strengthen an existing one. After this experience, I am looking into public sector consulting as a way to work with clients and make problem-solving a prominent part of my career.

4. How did you go about finding and applying for the internship?

I contacted my parents’ friend from college who works in state government to ask whether he knew of any state legislators in my area who were looking for interns. He suggested reaching out to the office of Representative Keith Wheeler in District 50, so I contacted his District Director and sent my resume. I also met interns from other districts through shared projects, and many of them applied for their internship through their state representative’s website.