Austin Legislative Internship Program - University of Houston
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Austin Legislative Internship Program

Program Description

The Graduate College of Social Work selects graduate interns to intern at the Texas Legislature during its legislative session every two years. This internship is a block placement, open to both Clinical and Macro students, and academic credit is provided. It requires relocation to Austin for the entire Texas legislative session (Odd years: early January - end of May), and offers an excellent opportunity to experience first-hand how policy is made in Texas. Student interns work as full-time staffers in the Legislature, either as policy analysts with the Legislative Study Group, a Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives, or in legislators’ offices.

Program Benefits

The Austin Legislative Internship is one of very few opportunities nationally for social work students to participate full-time in the legislative policy-making process. Both Clinical and Macro students report that this is an incredible and useful learning experience, one that often changes their life. Clinical interns often find that they better understand how policy impacts practice and feel more equipped to support their agencies in advocating for policies to meet clients’ needs. Macro students gain valuable insight into the policy-making process and are competitive for policy advocacy jobs requiring prior legislative experience.

Since becoming formalized in 2005, 74 GCSW students have successfully participated in the GCSW Austin Legislative Internship Program. Alumni are engaged in both clinical and macro practice professionally, and continue to take an active role in influencing policy in their personal and professional lives. Many alumni hold positions where they actively influence policy; a small selection of the current policy-oriented positions held by program alumni includes:

  • Executive Director, Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity
  • Senior Director of Public Policy, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas
  • Director, Public Affairs & Development, the Harris Center for Mental Health & IDD
  • Lobbyist, Mignon McGarry & Associates
  • Candidate, Texas House of Representatives
  • Director, Field Engagement, Prosperity Now
  • Program Analyst, Office of the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (Presidential Management Fellow)
  • Program Analyst, U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Nutrition Service, Child Nutrition Programs (Presidential Management Fellow)
  • Director, Bank on Houston
  • Immigrant Justice Organizer, Colorado People’s Alliance
  • Policy Fellow, Coalition of Texans with Disabilities

Eligibility Requirements

The internship has a competitive application and interview process. Strong candidates will possess a commitment to successfully represent the College and the University of Houston, an ability to work well under pressure, and a commitment to continuous learning during the course of the internship. No prior policy knowledge is needed beyond the introductory graduate social work course content students take at the GCSW prior to the legislative session. Interns enroll in a Legislative Seminar, which provides additional training and preparation for the internship.

Students enrolled in any degree plan (Macro or Clinical), and in all program modalities (face-to-face, hybrid, and online) are eligible to apply. All participating students must first complete the core foundation coursework.

Interns must be able to commit to moving to Austin for the entire legislative session and to working long hours and weekend hours as needed during the course of the session.

Instructions for How to Apply

Interested students must attend an Information Session. Interviews will only be offered to students who attend this session. If attendance at the Information Session is not possible, interested students must contact Dr. Pritzker, the Internship Coordinator, prior to the Information Session to discuss alternate arrangements.

There are two information sessions offered during the year prior to each legislative session (the legislature meets in odd-numbered years, e.g., 2019, 2021). One information session is offered in the Spring prior to each legislative session for advanced curriculum students in all degree plans. A second information session is offered in the Fall prior to each legislative session for Foundation students in the face-to-face program as well as advanced curriculum students in the Advanced Standing, hybrid, or online programs. 

Contact Information

Please contact Dr. Suzanne Pritzker, Director of the GCSW Austin Legislative Internship Program, with any questions or to discuss your interest: spritzker@uh.eduor 713-743-8114.