Giving tours of the U.S. Capitol, having movie nights with an Oregon senator and attending Senate hearings is a unique opportunity for students who want to spend a summer learning how a state-elected politician operates at a national level. Pacific students such as senior Laurel Zimmer have participated in internships with Senator Jeff Merkley in Washington D.C. and have received work experience that directly relates to their major.

Zimmer was part of the summer 2013 internship program and traveled to Washington D.C. to work in Senator Merkley’s office. Her main job was drafting constituent mail for all of the letters and emails received at the office. Yet, she discussed the many other jobs she was assigned during her time there. She did research on current bills, gave tours of the Capitol, worked on organizing and distributing the press releases when Proposition 8, legalizing marriage for same sex couples, was passed and had shadowing days with the senator where she was allowed to sit in on meetings and see what a day in the life of a senator is about.

“We were given a lot of opportunities,” said Zimmer.

While the Washington D.C. internship is the most desirable, State Operations Director Scott Maguire also discussed the opportunities for interns in Oregon. Students can be assigned as field staffers who cover an area of Oregon.

“The senator can’t attend every event,” said Maguire. “That’s where representatives come in.”

Students who work in Oregon for Senator Merkley will also help draft letters to directors of Federal agencies nationally and globally.

In case the summer is not as desirable of a time to attend an internship, there are also fall, winter and spring internships available. Locations include Washington D.C. and various cities in Oregon such as Bend, Eugene, Medford, Pendleton, Portland and Salem.

Within the internship program students are paired with legislative staff or a communications team based on their interests and experience. Some of the past pairings have been in energy, environment and agriculture; banking, trade and finance; health care and education; labor, immigration, LGBTQ and women’s issues; small business, commerce and transportation; press and communications; and many others.

The internships are unpaid, although Pacific has a small scholarship fund through the political science department. Students can also receive college credit for the internship.

For more information go to or contact Jules Boykoff at


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