381/388M MGA

Maryland General Assembly Writing Internship with Prof. Tom Lowderbaugh

The Maryland General Assembly (MGA) Program places up to 15 students in a six credit spring internship with legislators in Annapolis during the 90-day spring legislative session, which begins in early January and ends in early April. Students are prepared for this internship in the fall semester through a writing seminar (three credits of ENGL381 or HONR368A).

The deadline to apply for the MGA Internship for the 2018-2019 Academic Year is April 6, 2018. After the deadline, applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis only if space is available.

Click here to access the application for the MGA Internship.

1. What is the Maryland General Assembly Writing Internship Program?
2. What are the qualifications for this internship?
3. What do interns do?
4. Will I have a say in my placement?
5. What characterizes the differences in placements?
6. How will I be prepared for the internship?
7. How will I be graded in the writing seminar?
8. What will be my time commitment in Annapolis?
9. What are the academic requirements of the internship?
10. What if I don't have transportation to Annapolis?
11. Why should I do this internship?
12. How and when do I apply for this internship?

1. What is the Maryland General Assembly Writing Internship Program?

The Maryland General Assembly Program, limited to 15 students, places interns with legislators in Annapolis during the 90 day spring legislative session which begins in early January and ends in early April (six credits of ENGL 388M/HONR 379W). Students are prepared for this internship in the fall in a writing seminar (three credits of ENGL 381/HONR 368A). 

This program has the following goals:

  • To prepare students for a highly politicized professional environment
  • To enhance professional writing and oral communication skills
  • To teach analysis of public policy
  • To provide opportunities for students to learn about government, politics, democratic processes, public administration, the making of public policy, the nature of power, etc.
  • To provide professional development for students
  • To provide public servants with highly valued aides during the hectic legislative session
  • To provide important service learning for students
  • To enhance the University's relationship to the legislature through skilled and well-prepared interns

2. What are the qualifications for this internship?

  • Minimum 3.0 G.P.A.
  • Junior standing by the end of the Fall 2018 semester
  • A grade of B- or better in your writing courses
  • Attending University of Maryland in both Fall 2018 and Spring 2019

3. What do interns do?

Most interns work with bills, at least collecting, filing, and tracking them. However, what interns do depends on the nature of the intern's placement. The following are additional typical tasks:

  • Answering phones
  • Summarizing bills
  • Attending hearings and other meetings
  • Lobbying other legislators for support for bills
  • Responding to constituents
  • Researching bills or constituent concerns
  • Maintaining legislator's schedule
  • Organizing the support for a bill hearing
  • Testifying before a committee on a bill
  • Although what you do depends on the placement, what you learn is not limited to what you do as an intern. You will learn as much in Annapolis from observing the process as you will from intern tasks.

4. Will I have a say in my placement?

Interns are placed in the fall semester. As the first assignment of the writing seminar in the fall, students will complete an application for the Assembly. Students will research placements and direct these materials towards the kind of placement desired. The intern coordinator in Annapolis matches these materials with the legislators' requests for interns and makes a referral. Students and legislators will then interview one another regarding their needs and expectations. Each has the right of refusal. If either one refuses the placement, each will be given another referral.

5. What characterizes the differences in placements?

  • The single most important difference in placements depends on the specific needs and character of the legislator's office.
  • Also important are the legislator's committee assignments, legislative interests, the nature of the district and constituents served in the office, the political party of the legislator, the legislator's role in the Assembly.
  • Finally, the mix of personalities in the office.

6. How will I be prepared for the internship?

The preparatory writing seminar, ENGL 381/HONR 368A, is designed on an experiential learning and technical/business writing model. The class is designed to rehearse typical intern writing tasks, to develop professional communication skills (oral, written, and collaborative), and to teach legislative processes and issues. Students will be encouraged to take charge of the learning in the seminar through student-led workshops, peer response to drafts, a collaborative research project, and a midterm and final evaluation of their learning.

Assignments also include the application for the placement in Annapolis with resume, cover letter, and personal essay; a bill summary and research questions; constituent letters, a press release, a policy analysis (a collaborative research project), and testimony on the project. All assignments are revised and presented in a portfolio at the end of the semester.

7. How will I be graded?

  • The writing seminar, ENGL 381/HONR 368A, is a regular class, and you will be graded on your written assignments, group project, class presentation, and participation.
  • During the internship, you will be evaluated both by your supervisor at the MGA and by the course instructor. Each evaluation will count for half of your grade. As part of the course, you will write several assignments, and these will be graded as writing assignments. At the internship, your supervisor will likely evaluate you based on your timeliness, dependability, ability to self-start on projects, initiative to take on new responsibilities, and your overall attitude and willingness to work as part of an office team.

8. What will be my time commitment in Annapolis?

Interns work a total of twenty hours each week, usually over two and a half days, from early January to early April, through spring break. The usual schedule is all day Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a half day Wednesday. Other schedules are possible, but a M.W.F. schedule is not effective because the legislators go home early on Friday and return late Monday for an evening session. If you cannot work at least part of Tuesday and Thursday, you will not have a good chance at placement.

9. What are the academic requirements of the internship?

As an intern, you do biweekly assignments which include a job description, a memo of understanding to your field supervisor in which you contract your mutual expectations, a proposal for your policy analysis on a bill you are following, a progress report on the internship, a progress report on your policy analysis, a final evaluation and a policy analysis.

10. What if I don't have transportation to Annapolis?

Unfortunately there is no public transportation. But many student interns do drive and arranging carpools is typical and easy.

11. Why should I do this internship?

Interns often tell me this program is one of their best collegiate learning experiences. Students learn experientially about writing in the workplace, about their own competencies and interests, and about the nature of government, politics, and the making of public policy. However, it is not for everyone.

   Those who like the program usually:

  • Like to write
  • Have an interest in government
  • Learn experientially
  • Are adaptable
  • Work hard and accept responsibility easily  

   Those who don't like the program usually:

  • Don't like to write
  • Have little interest in government
  • Need total structure to their learning
  • Cannot deal with the unexpected
  • Don't like work or responsibility

This is what some past participants have had to say about their experience with the MGA Internship Program:

  • “The MGA program taught me writing skills essential for any fast-paced office environment, not simply the legislative office we are prepared to excel in.  Interning with the Maryland General Assembly offers students an unparalleled opportunity to witness historic legislative battles and become an integral part of your office, managing your own projects and composing important documents under deadline. I highly recommend the experience!” -2011-2012 Participant
  • “Working at the General Assembly was the best training for job placement. As a senior, I was able to network for employment and learned a lot about Annapolis politics.” -2012-2013 Participant

  • "Applying for the MGA Internship Program was the best decision of my college career. I learned so many useful skills about writing. Specifically, how to create a professional resume, cover letter, and overall tips to prepare me for working at the Maryland General Assembly.  The internship was always interesting and gave me a hands-on experience for what it's like to be a Delegate in Maryland. Overall, both the class and internship challenged me and gave me experience that I will never forget." - 2012-2013 Participant
  • "The MGA internship invited and required complete immersion in the legislative culture at the Maryland General Assembly and allowed interns to collaboratively work with state officials to make a real difference in our state, an intimate experience that no other internship could replicate."-2012-2013 Participant

12. How and when do I apply for this internship?

  • Click on the link above to download an application or pick one up from 1128 Tawes Hall.
  • The deadline for applying for the 2018-2019 academic year is April 6, 2018.
  • Questions can be directed to Karen Lewis, Internship Coordinator, at 301-405-3825 or lewiske@umd.edu, or the instructor, Dr. Lowderbaugh, at tlowderb@umd.edu.