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Alumni Internship Award: Opening Doors

— By Rosa Elena López

As a rising political science senior, I have learned to value the Learn by Doing philosophy at Cal Poly. The department encourages students to partake in the model — whether it be participating in Model United Nations, Mock Trial, the recently created California Bill Project course, or working on Paideia, the department’s journal. Internships are another way in which students can get hands-on experience in the professional workplace.

Rosa Elena Lopez
Rosa Elena López

However, there is a caveat to many of the internship opportunities offered for political science majors: most of them are unpaid. This is especially true of non-profit and public service internships, which interest me most. For this very reason, I doubted if I would ever be able to acquire the professional experience I desired. Financial barriers kept me from taking advantage of an amazing opportunity in my major. While I was working 20 hours a week at an on-campus job to financially support myself, my peers were working at courthouses, interning with Congressmen/women, and working at non-profits. I wondered if not being able to take on an unpaid internship would put me at a disadvantage against my peers who were gaining relevant work experience.

When the department announced that they would be offering the Political Science Alumni Internship Award, I was ecstatic. I knew that if selected, I could gain experience in a field of interest (particularly law and public interest work) to see if it is what I truly want to do, while also learning more about it in a real-world context. This exposure would be integral to building my resume and helping me learn from professionals in the field.

I was honored to learn that I was selected by the department to receive one of these awards. I was able to accept an unpaid internship with California Rural Legal Assistance this summer, working for a mission I am incredibly passionate about. CRLA is a non-profit that provides free representation and legal advice to low-income people throughout California. I know that this experience will serve me well as I consider applying to law school in the next year.

To the alumni who contributed to this scholarship, thank you. I do not have words to express the gratitude I feel. Without your generosity, I would not be able to financially support myself while I engage in the Learn by Doing experience! This award will open up doors for me that otherwise would have stayed shut. I cannot wait to enjoy every moment of this internship and see where it takes me.

With sincerest appreciation,

Rosa Elena López
Political Science, ’20

Funded by POLS alumni, the Alumni Internship award allowed Rosa Elena López to take an unpaid internship, which gave her an outstanding Learn by Doing experience, providing legal service to low income clients like farm workers. Learn how you can support students like López.

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