UT interns help behind the scenes of the 84th Legislative session

Eleanor Dearman

Hundreds of UT students will work alongside state lawmakers in the 84th Texas Legislature to craft policies the lawmakers will propose during the 140-day legislative session. 

“Have you ever seen the movie ‘The Devil Wears Prada?’” said Dan Luiton, history freshman and intern for Rep. Mary González (D—Soccorro), when describing his first day on the job. “I felt like Anne Hathaway my first day. People walk inside assuming that you know who they are, but you don’t know, and you have to know.”

For the next four-and-a-half months, lawmakers will fill the House and Senate chambers and work to shape Texas law while, in the background, student interns help keep administrative work at bay.

Genevieve Cato, legislative director for González, said interns are vital to the success of the session and the administrative offices need all the help they can get.

“There’s only 140 days to get everything done here,” Cato said.  

Finance senior Anna Hiran, an intern for Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) said Whitmire encourages hands-on work, something she appreciates in an internship.

“He provides us with tasks where he believes that we can learn as much as possible, and it’s not menial things like making copies and hole punching,” Hiran said.

Hiran said she learns more by working in a real-world environment than she would in a classroom. 

“The benefit of it is getting to observe all of it on a firsthand basis,” she said. “There’s only so much you can learn in a classroom, and I feel like this internship is very hands-on. I feel that I have been given a lot of responsibilities, and I’m learning a ton.”

Cato said an intern’s job description often changes day-to-day. 

“Things happen so quickly, and things come up so fast that a lot of times, like other staffers, interns are doing everything from answering phones to researching bills to talking to constituents,” Cato said.

According to John Falke, a finance sophomore interning for Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), legislative internships require students to master time management skills.

“There’s less time in the day to do the things that I want to do, but it also keeps me focused on my schoolwork,” Falke said.

Cato said students interested in government and public policy are most likely to apply for internships during the legislative session.

“There are people who are [political science] or government majors,” Cato said. “They’re interested in getting law degrees and running for office. They want to get into working on policy or government, so this is their first step to that goal. Then there are other people who are interesting in policy issue areas.”

Luiton said he hopes to become the first Hispanic president of the United States and believes his internship is a means to reaching that goal. 

“My parents are like, ‘Why are you doing it if they don’t even pay you?’ but I love it,” Luiton said. “It’s going to help me know people inside. It’s going to help me achieve my goal.”