Ethan Buss: Minnesota Valley Transit Authority Legislative Affairs Intern
How did you find this internship?
I was frequently checking for internships at governmentjobs.com, which is a great site to find something in the public sector!
What were your primary responsibilities?
My primary role was providing daily tracking of Minnesota legislature activities to those at the agency. This meant close monitoring of bills and hearings focused on transportation, and has grown into having a voice in legislative goals and strategy. I have also worked to make my work is digestible to all staff through weekly updates and have communicated with elected officials’ staff to coordinate events and set up committee testimony.
What have you learned from this internship?
I’ve learned a lot about participating in the political process in a niche role. Before this, I had experience with non-profits and working within the legislature, but this was a new experience. This is the first time I was given leverage to do what I deemed necessary, so I was able to learn a lot about other departments (public affairs, planning, operations, facilities, IT) and how they all work together within a government agency.
How has this internship prepared you for your future career?
I hope to be a transportation planner in my career, so this internship gave me a fundamental understanding of the political side of transportation. I now have in-depth knowledge of transit policy and finance, and the history of that policy within Minnesota. I hope to marry this knowledge with a technical understanding of planning so I can have a successful career that combines both the logistical and political aspects of being a real-world planner.
What have been your favorite parts of this internship?
I have really enjoyed the leverage I was given to make this role my own. So many internships are stereotypically basic and fill your time with busy work. Here, however, I feel like I had tasks that were truly valuable to the agency and I had a real seat at the table when discussing pertinent issues with high-level people at the agency. I also found the size of the agency enjoyable. It’s big enough that we provide a well-used and well-known transit service, but it’s small enough that an intern like me had access to talk with anybody at the agency, even (and especially) the CEO.
How has the course POL 3080 Internship in Politics or Government enhanced your internship experience?
Throughout the two times I have taken POL 3080 (3 credits each time), I have found it helpful because it requires you to reflect on what you are doing and experiencing on a weekly basis and combine it with the knowledge you gain from readings. The course is relatively simple and doesn’t add much stress to your life, but makes you think for a couple of hours every week about what you are learning and how to frame that to set yourself up for future opportunities.
What advice would you give to other students interested in this type of internship?
To find and get internships like this, I would say to stay vigilant and apply for whatever suits your interests when you find it. Once you get an interview and/or get the job, I recommend just trying to be yourself and be open. People want a prepared and qualified intern, but they also want people that are passionate and can fit into a workplace culture. Ultimately, don’t be afraid to show that passion in your work. It is important to be professional, but it is just as important to be personable and to really care about what you are doing.