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Political Science Student Selected as 2009 Panetta Fellow in Washington D.C.

August 4, 2009

By Valerie Orleans

While participating in Cal State Fullerton's DC Internship Program, Ronald Berdugo hears and meets former President Bill Clinton.

Cal State Fullerton political science major Ronald Berdugo of La Puente, is becoming quite familiar with Washington, D.C. He is spending this summer working as an intern for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute through the CSUF-D.C. Summer Internship Program.

In the fall, he’ll be back on Capitol Hill as Cal State Fullerton’s student representative in the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy Internship Program.

As a Panetta fellow, Berdugo will spend two weeks at Cal State Monterey Bay — where the Panetta Institute is based. While there, he will learn more about public policy, what his responsibilities as a congressional intern will include, what he can expect from his internship and what lectures and programs he will be required to attend while serving his internship. His fellow interns include representatives from each of the other 22 California State University 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.

Representative Grace Napolitano (D-Santa Fe Springs) is involved with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus where Berdugo is serving his internship this summer.

Politics is not new to Berdugo. He has been serving as an education commissioner for the city of La Puente, as well as worked as an intern in Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Office of Homeland Security (grants department) and as a Sacramento-based intern for Sen. Jenny Oropeza (D - Long Beach).

“I decided to apply for the Panetta Fellowship so I could meld policy-making at all levels of our governmental system,” Berdugo said. “Since I now have internship experience at the state and local levels, I want to add national policy work to my body of experience. They are all unique but dependent on each other.”

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

“I hope to learn about the behind-the-scenes politics in DC and what shapes public policy at the national level,” Berdugo said. “My ultimate goal is to give back to my community in La Puente. I figure that you cannot expect to fix the world if you cannot fix your own home.”

Berdugo also would like to work in El Salvador for a few years to better understand and help the country that has sharply influenced his family’s political interests, as well as his own.

Following his expected graduation in January, Berdugo plans to apply to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus fellowship program in D.C. He also plans on applying to similar programs in Sacramento, as well as to graduate schools that offer programs in public policy, such as UCLA, UC Berkeley, Stanford, USC, Harvard and others.

“I appreciate this opportunity and am grateful to Cal State Fullerton,” he said. “The faculty pointed me toward wonderful programs for political science majors on campus: the Sacramento semester, Model United Nations, Cal State D.C. Scholars and many more. The guidance, support and opportunities provided to me have demonstrated that there is no limit to what one can do with a degree in political science.”

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