This month, students with an interest in state government are applying to intern during the next session of the Virginia General Assembly, the oldest continuous body of representative government in the New World.

Each year, approximately twenty students are placed with various political actors involved in the state legislative process, including legislators, lobbyists, agency officials, and statewide political figures.

Their community-based learning placements are made through Dr. Dan Palazzolo, professor of political science and associate dean of the School of Arts & Sciences. Palazzolo inherited the program in 2012 from John Whelan, professor of political science, who he credits for building the experience over many years.

"The students have the unique opportunity to perform a public service and to learn, first hand, about the intricacies of the legislative process, the value of representative government, the influence of interest groups, political parties, and leaders, and the role of citizen legislators," Palazzolo said.

Students also are able to visit UR's Richmond on Broad Cafe at UR Downtown during their lunch hour and catch up with Professor Palazzolo.

To put their field experiences in academic perspective students are assigned readings, required to keep a journal, and submit a major report at the end of the session.

The semester program has proven to be a transformative experience for participants.

"Many go on to work as legislative aides, policy analysts, administrators, advocates, and elected officials," Palazzolo said. "Indeed, the Assembly is filled with UR alumni serving as delegates, senators, staff, and lobbyists."

Virginia State Senator Jennifer McClellan, ’94, was an intern participant working in the Governor’s policy office.

"University of Richmond interns work shoulder to shoulder with delegates and senators during the legislative session," McClellan said.

Today, McClellan mentors UR student interns coming through the same program.

"Judging by impressions the supervisors, delegates, senators, lobbyists, and agency officials the students intern with, the University is an incredible resource of talented young people who make a difference in Virginia government," Palazzolo said.

Virginia General Assembly Interns
Former Virginia General Assembly interns with Virginia State Senator Jennifer McClellan, ’94.