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NEWS RELEASE

Office of External Communications

Houston, TX 77204-5017 Fax: 713.743.8199

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 15, 2007

Contact: Marisa Ramirez
713.743.8152 (office)
713.204.9798 (cell)
mrcannon@uh.edu

IN SESSION: UH GRAD STUDENTS HEAD TO AUSTIN FOR HANDS-ON LESSON IN POLITICS
Participants Hail from Graduate College of Social Work’s Legislative Internship Program

HOUSTON, Feb. 15, 2007—The political futures of several Houston graduate students begin during the current session of the Texas Legislature. The 11 students were selected from a pool of nearly four dozen to participate in the 2007 Legislative Internship Program at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW).

“This is a really great opportunity for people who are interested in policy or concerned about human issues in general,” said Anne Casimir, a student of the GCSW and a legislative intern in the Legislative Study Group. “This internship will allow me to be vocal about certain issues that are dear to my heart and will guide me to the path I need to be on so that I can one day be an advocate on human trafficking and immigration issues.”

The Legislative Study Group is chaired by Rep. Garnet Coleman.

The 15-year-old GCSW program matches students with lawmakers for one semester. This year coincides with the 80th Texas Legislative Session. The 11 interns in the program are pursuing master’s degrees in various social work fields.

“The GCSW Legislative Internship Program offers our students a unique opportunity to work with the state legislature, gain a more in-depth understanding of the political process and learn the role social workers have in that process,” said Ira Colby, dean of the GCSW.

As part of their daily duties, legislative interns research policy issues, meet with lobbyists and constituents and work closely with a state senator or representative and his staff. It’s a challenging routine that regularly goes far beyond the traditional 9-to-5 workday, but is met with eagerness and determination.

“This experience is helping me become more civic-minded,” said Benjamin Pratt, a UH legislative intern in
Sen. Mario Gallegos Jr.’s office. “This internship is making me pay more attention to the channels through which important decisions are made. It’s an empowering program.”

Pratt has been focusing on researching health and human services issues with Gallegos. His research efforts may lead to policy language and, eventually, changes that will have an impact on those in need.

“I thoroughly enjoy working in the senator’s office,” Pratt said. “It’s better than what I had imagined. This internship is providing me with important legislative experience that will prepare me to teach social work policy.”

Only a handful of social work colleges in the country offer legislative internships. In previous years, UH students have interned in Washington D.C. congressional offices as well. Students must apply for the legislative internships and commit to staying in Austin for the duration of the legislative session on a full-time basis. They attend classes online and stay in touch with their professors through weekly webcasts and online discussions. Many students go on to pursue careers in political social work.

“Following their political internships, the vast majority of GCSW students are hired into significant state and national legislative positions,” Colby said. “Alumni of the GCSW Legislative Internship Program have served as chiefs of staff of state committees, legislative directors in representatives’ offices, as well as governmental relations staff for a variety of interest groups and organizations.”

The UH Graduate College of Social Work was founded in 1967 and is the only college of social work in Houston. Political Social Work is one of the five Master of Social Work specializations offered. The others are Children and Families, Gerontological Social Work, Health Care and Mental Health.

For more information on the UH Graduate College of Social Work, please visit www.sw.uh.edu.

About the University of Houston

The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.

About the UH Graduate College of Social Work

The mission of the Graduate College of Social Work is to promote social, economic and political justice and to advance knowledge for competent, ethical practice and leadership with diverse populations. Established by the Texas State Legislature in 1967, the College includes 24 full-time faculty, including a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. The College offers a Master of Social Work, and Ph.D. with emphasis on political social work, children and families, gerontological social work, health care and mental health.

For more information about UH visit the university’s ‘Newsroom’ at www.uh.edu/admin/media/newsroom.