By Douglas Esser
Special to the Reporter
University of Washington Bothell students who serve as legislative interns in Olympia gain an inside look at politics and an inside track to public policy careers.
This winter the UW Bothell sent two students, Shelby Lubchuk and Aysha Raza, to the marbled halls of the Capitol for the 2017 regular session of the 65th Washington Legislature. Lubchuk for Sen. Randi Becker of Eatonville, the powerful chair of the majority caucus. Raza for Sen. Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens, who serves as the top Democrat on the Transportation Committee.
Lubchuk, a senior in media and communications studies, dreams of being a university president. Raza, a junior in law, economics and public policy, hopes to become a human rights lawyer.
Two former UW Bothell internsClaira Rolfson (law, economics and public policy ’16) and Jared Mead (global studies ’14), are working deeper in the legislative system. Rolfson was an intern with Sen. Karen Keiser of Kent last year. This year Rolfson is Keiser’s session aide. Rolfson is applying to law schools with the idea of working where she can help set policies.
Mead interned with Hobbs in 2014. Mead could have come back as a session aide, but worked instead for a year at a bank until he realized “I was ready to do something that meant more.”
Mead ran Sen. Guy Palumbo’s successful campaign to win the seat of retiring Rosemary McAuliffe in the district that includes UW Bothell. Now he’s Palumbo’s legislative aide. Mead is also on the city of Mill Creek Planning Commission.
“When senators are in session these halls get very crowded, very busy, very noisy,“ said Lubchuk from Becker’s office just off the Senate floor.
Lubchuk researched arguments Becker used in the debate about authorized drug injection sites in Seattle.
“It was probably the most effective thing I’ve had an intern do,” Becker said.
Lubchuk could see herself in politics in the future. And her dream of becoming a college president was amplified by the opportunity to meet University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce during the internship.
“It’s like nothing else – one of the most meaningful experiences in my education career,” Lubchuk, a Running Start student graduating from the University at the age of 19, said. “You learn so much.”
Raza expected as an intern she’d be limited to clerical tasks, such as answering the phone and copying documents. Instead she’s part of Sen. Hobbs’ team, preparing for hearings and responsible for writing requests to push legislation through committees.
As she considers law school or perhaps grad school, “my eye are more open to different career paths.”
UW Bothell interns are the best, said Hobbs who has had at least six because a former legislative aide was an alum who steered them his way.
“The interns have been an invaluable tool for this office, especially during session when you’re swamped with constituent email, requests,” he said.
One year after her internship, Rolfson is an insider who uses insider jargon. She’s a session aide or S-A in Keiser’s office in the JAC (John A. Cherberg building). Rolfson worked on legislation regarding how soon a landlord can enter a home after the resident dies or is hospitalized. She is applying to law schools and says she’d like to return to Olympia one day.
“I’ve always been more of a behind-the-scenes person,” she said. “I think it would be cool to work for a committee as policy staff.”
Working as an L-A or legislative aide is “so much fun,” says Mead, because, unlike his old job at a bank, “it’s different every day.” Among other things, Mead manages the schedule for Palumbo and researches bills. Interning was his start.
“Doing the internship helped me get the concrete for the foundation of my career,” he said from Palumbo’s office where a UW Bothell flag is displayed. “Working down here helped me realize this is something I do want to be involved in the rest of my life.”
A legislative internship is a rare chance, he said.
“You’re down in Olympia doing something not a lot of people don’t get to do,” Mead said. “As an intern your opportunities are so vast.”
The University of Washington Bothell has sent 53 legislative interns to Olympia since joining the program in 1998. As part of the experience, interns take BIS 497, Political Internship in State Government. They write papers and take part in seminars and a mock session. More information about the program is available through the career services office in the UW Bothell Student Success Center.
Douglas Esser is with the University of Washington Bothell.