Four Lamar University students recently completed participation in the Texas Legislative Internship Program during the latest legislative session that ended June 1.

 Morris Williams of Arlington, Curtis Smith of Beaumont, Melinda Griffith of Bridge City and Dimetrius Holland of Longview were awarded stipends to participate in Texas’ premier internship program and received academic credit from Lamar’s political science department.

 The students moved to Austin in January and were immediately immersed in the complexities of the legislative process for the next five months, said Dominic Beggan, assistant professor of political science.

 The Beaumont Foundation of American provided $35,000 to enable the Lamar students to participate.  The university and the foundation’s executive director Frank Newton are committed to involving Lamar students in this ongoing internship program, Beggan said.

 Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis sponsors the internship program, which began in 1990.  The program is administered by the Mickey Leland Center on World Hunger and Peace at Texas Southern University and provides opportunities for undergraduate, graduate and law students to serve as interns in the Texas Legislature and state agencies.

The program develops future leaders and provides an opportunity for exceptional undergraduate and graduate students to serve as paid interns in the Texas Legislature, various state agencies, and local government, Beggan said.  The program combines academic study, research and supervised public policy experience. This was the first year this program was offered to Lamar students.

 Beggan visited the interns during the session and witnessed the great experiences they were exposed to on a daily basis. “Not only did the Lamar students gain a unique and valuable experience of how the political system works, but this program also benefited all parties concerned in many ways,” Beggan said. “The interns were able to make valuable contacts with legislators and their staff. The legislators involved had access to the talents of some of the brightest minds Lamar has to offer.”

 The internships also acted as a valuable student recruitment tools for the university while greatly enhancing Lamar’s visibility and reputation with legislators in Austin, Beggan said.

 Melinda Griffith interned with Representative Norma Chavez, of House District 76 representing a large part of El Paso.

 “This was her seventh term, and she was a great mentor to me,” Griffith said. “I worked on a variety of different projects such as dealing with constituents, writing bill analyses, bill reports and talking points. I also attended committee hearings and legislative receptions and conducted research.

 “The experience that I had was quite rigorous,” Griffith said. “There are so many different things and tasks that you deal with everyday that you cannot put it all on paper. You do what is necessary in order to see your representative’s bills made into law, whether it be making phone calls, meeting with people or changing the language on an actual bill. It was truly a wonderful experience.

 “As a result of this internship, I was able to obtain a job with the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas where I can continue to take part in the legislative process. I plan to continue my education while staying involved with the Legislature,” Griffith said.

 “The political science department would like to thank Sen. Rodney Ellis for inviting Lamar to be a part of this great experience and the Beaumont Foundation of America for funding this noble endeavor,” Beggan said. “The political science department also thanks the four legislators — Rep. Homer, Rep. Turner, Rep. Ortiz and Rep. Chavez — for hosting and providing an invaluable experience to our students.”   

 The political science department will be looking for five highly motivated Lamar students to be a part of the internship program in the spring semester 2011. Applications will be accepted by the department during the fall semester 2010.