Founded by the late U.S. Congressman Mickey Leland, the Mickey Leland Congressional Internship Program (MLCIP) was created to provide students a first-hand experience in our nation’s legislature. Over 200 students from the University of Houston (UH), Texas Southern University (TSU), and the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) have served as interns in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
Historically, economically disadvantaged minority students could rarely pursue employment opportunities as congressional staff members due to the reality that internships — the primary recruitment avenue — are available only to those who can financially afford to live in Washington, D.C. These expenses, plus loss of income from a local job, place this opportunity beyond the reach of many students. The Leland program provides a monthly stipend and round-trip airfare, as well as paid housing at Boston University's Washington Center. Upon successful completion of the program, interns earn 3-12 academic credit hours (the hours are dependent on their degree plan at the respective universities).
The program was coordinated through the UH Hobby Center for Public Policy (HCPP). Intern selections are made by Renee Cross, HCPP associate director (and director of the Leland program), Jew Don Boney, associate director of the Mickey Leland Center on World Peace & Hunger at TSU, Dr Adolfo Santos, chair of the social sciences department at UHD, and HCPP advisory board member Keith Wade. The interns' placement, academic work, and performance evaluations are supervised by Renee Cross. Renee Mayo, the program's Washington instructor, conducts weekly seminars and coordinates guest speakers and field trips.
UH, TSU and UHD juniors and seniors are eligible to apply (transfer students are not eligible until after one year at one of the three universities). The application period begins in August. The interviewing process, including selection and notification, occurs in October. A panel representing each coordinating entity selects the interns based on their program application, personal interviews and leadership potential. The selected interns register for 3-12 academic hours for the spring semester and attend an orientation session in December.
Once in Washington, the interns attend orientation sessions at the Washington Center and on Capitol Hill. They are then immediately involved in the action of the U.S. Congress. They assist in research and the drafting of legislation. The interns also attend committee hearings, work on special projects, and assist in general office operations.
After four months of Capitol activity, seminars, and written assignments, the interns return to Houston. The grade earned for the credit hours is based upon an internship evaluation and written assignments including a daily journal. Most importantly, the interns return with a broader global perspective which can affect their future career plans and ultimately their lives.
Benefits & Results
The Leland internship program offers many benefits:
- Creates a "real world" working environment for students interested in public service
- Develops valuable job skills
- Enhances interpersonal abilities
- Provides opportunities to meet professionals involved in government and related areas
- Presents networking and mentorship opportunities
- Promotes ties between the academic community with the public sector
The MLCIP has earned the reputation for providing the interns with a real-world experience often leading to careers in professions such as law, political science, communications, psychology, and education. Currently, the alumni roster includes lawyers, educators, government staff, media specialists, social workers, and other successful professionals.
The Mickey Leland Congressional Internship Program is now known as the Leland Fellows program. Visit here for more information.