On the Hill

Student works for Congressman as part of Panetta Institute internship

October 1, 2007

By Mimi Ko Cruz


Raisa Orleans is on Capitol Hill, gaining experience as Cal State Fullerton's student representative taking part in the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy internship program.

The 21-year-old political science and American studies major, chosen to participate in the program by President Milton A. Gordon, is working for Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. She will continue working in his Washington D.C. office through Dec. 9.

“I'm hoping to gain a little more insight into the legislative actions of congressional members,” said Orleans, of Anaheim Hills. “I have pretty broad policy interests at the moment and I'd really like to find a specific area to focus on. At the moment, I really can’t tell whether I’m more interested in domestic or international policy issues, and working on the hill really has the potential to teach me the legislative arena I'd like to work in later.”

As part of the internship, Orleans spent two weeks in September taking a political science class at Cal State Monterey Bay, where the Panetta Institute is based. Her fellow interns include one from each of the other CSU campuses, as well as from Santa Clara University and Dominican University of California.

The internship is geared toward providing an opportunity for university students to get an inside look at the workings of Congress and Washington politics.

“Direct exposure to our democracy is the best chance at inspiring young people to become active participants in our government,” Panetta noted. “At a time when our nation faces so many challenges, it is vital that we prepare the next generation for responsible leadership.”

Offered during the fall semester, the Panetta Institute hosts students selected by the president of each participating university. The students live in the Washington, D.C. area and the institute covers all costs, including travel and housing. Interns also receive monthly stipends to help cover other expenses.

Orleans said the knowledge she gained through Cal State Fullerton’s DC internship program in the summer of 2006 and a subsequent internship with Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana) prepared her for the Panetta internship.

She said she plans to attend graduate school after receiving her bachelor’s degree next spring, and, eventually, she’d like to work in government, perhaps with a member of Congress or as a legislative director or adviser.

Orleans said she finds the legislative process “too interesting” not to pursue a career in it.

“Every time people ask me what I want to do after I get out of school and I tell them I want to work for the government, they always say something about how frustrating or dirty politics is,” she said. “I don’t think that they get that 'the dirty work' is sometimes what makes it so interesting. Soap operas can’t come up with some of this stuff. There's always negotiating and give-and-take. Spending the summer in D.C. in the summer of 2006 taught me that, and my classes have just fueled the fire.”

Orleans participated in a Semester at Sea program last semester, where she traveled the globe and refined her views on major international issues.

“I had a class where we were given the onerous task of asking people in each country what they thought of Americans, and most people were happy to share their opinions,” she said. “People talk about the repercussions of our foreign policy blunders on the global stage and they don’t really understand fully what that means. I was able to see firsthand how Agent Orange still haunts the Vietnamese, and see how the Japanese have dedicated the city of Hiroshima to total disarmament.

“America is undoubtedly the hegemonic power of our time, and international humanity rests in our hands. The destructive power it’s given us breaks my heart but it also pushes me, because I know that despite the pain we have caused, we are capable of an unlimited amount of good,” said Orleans. “So, I want to work in government. I want to have the opportunity to make things right, both domestically and abroad.”

Raisa Orleans
Raisa Orleans
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