Each year, the political science department sends up to 25 interns to Washington, D.C., to work as interns for government agencies, congressional offices, the executive branch, and nonprofit organizations.
The students are screened and monitored by the department’s internship coordinator Paul Plavcan.
The department’s level of support for experiential education and the careful screening and monitoring of interns has earned UConn the 2006 Public University of the Year Award from The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars, a nonprofit educational organization serving hundreds of colleges around the world.
Many of UConn’s Washington placements are made through the Center, which cites Plavcan’s “wholehearted commitment to ensure access of qualified students to this significant life-changing opportunity.”
Plavcan says he looks for internship opportunities where the work is substantive, allowing students to work on such things as policy issues or court casework. Sixty to 70 percent of the Washington interns are offered future employment or are asked to contact their internship provider when they look for work.
The political science internship program places 150 to 175 interns a year, including the Washington program. This semester, 35 interns are working for the General Assembly in Hartford. Others work in the Connecticut judiciary and the criminal justice system.
Plavcan, a Ph.D. student in American politics and political theory, says the interns themselves are the ones who make the program work.
“I can help them get there,” he says, “but once they’re there, it’s up to them to take advantage of the opportunities.”