A senior from California State University, Bakersfield has been selected as one of 16 college students in the charter internship class of the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy. Rajinder Brar, 20, is serving in the office of U.S. Rep. Robert Matsui, D-Sacramento.
A communications major with a minor in political science, Brar handles a variety of assignments for the congressman. She does research on legislative issues and handles correspondence and responses to constituents' needs. She attends legislative committee meetings and hearings and prepares reports and briefings. Her mentor, Matsui, is a 20-year veteran legislator and serves on the House Ways & Means Committee.
"It's so great to be here," Brar said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C. "I'm so honored to have been nominated. There are so many other students who deserve to be here as well. I'm really enjoying my experience here. I am doing research on legislative issues, I also handle constituents' correspondence."
Brar said that this is an especially exciting time to be at the Capitol. With budget deliberations in full swing, the tempo is fast-paced and hectic.
"Last week we met with House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt," Brar said. "He was telling us about budget negotiations, and while we were meeting with him, his secretary came in and said the president is on the line!"
Brar expressed enthusiasm about elective office too. "It's definitely been a wonderful experience. It's definitely an option," she said, referring to the possibility of running for office herself one day. And that, she said, is the point of the Panetta Institute and the internship.
Before they traveled to Washington, D.C., the young interns took part in an orientation program at the Panetta Institute at CSU Monterey Bay, which included two weeks of seminars and training where interns learned about the structure and processes of the federal government and heard from expert lecturers, including former congressmen, political advisers and consultants, and political reporters.
"We got a chance to meet every day with Mr. Panetta," Brar said. "He talked about why he started the institute and the internship program. He's trying to influence young people to go into public policy and public service. We discussed why young people are turned off about politics, how they think it's all about personal power and self interest, why half of them don't even want to vote.
"I used to think that politics was degrading," Brar said. "But Mr. Panetta and his wife, Sylvia, talked to us [about their lives in public service] and it made you think about it, about why we should care about public policy and politics. It's probably one of the greatest lessons I've learned from Mr. Panetta."
The interns will work at their congressional assignments during the fall term, returning to their home campuses in mid-December. In addition to their congressional assignments, interns will get to meet with Cabinet members and members of Congress to discuss issues ranging from agriculture to the environment and foreign affairs.
Brar was nominated to the internship by CSUB Political Science Department chair Stanley E. Clark. According to Clark, "(Brar's) paper in my course was a superior analysis of developments in the relationship between federalism and regulation. (CSUB School of Arts and Sciences Dean Ray Geigle) says that her work (in his international politics class) was comparable. She is on track to be admitted to a first rate law school.
"Outside the classroom, Raj has also been a champion debater and active in other campus activities," Clark said. "She works part time in order to pay for her education. She (brings) to the internship program intelligence, energy, and an outstanding ability to express her ideas."
Brar also credits her participation in the intercollegiate debate program. "I've learned more (participating in debate) than in any other class. You have to do so much research and organize your thoughts in order to prepare for debate. It's excellent training."
Brar expects to graduate in June 2000 and she plans to attend law school. She graduated in 1996 from Highland High School in Bakersfield, earning her high school diploma in three years. Her parents are Amar Singh and Davinder Kaur Brar, and she has two sisters and a brother.
Established in 1998 on the campus of CSU Monterey Bay, the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy seeks to enhance public policy and to attract thoughtful men and women to public service in politics, inspiring them to a high standard of conduct and preparing them with practical skills of self government. Founded by the veteran congressman and former budget director, who also served as White House chief of staff and adviser to President Clinton, the institute developed the program to help students understand how the federal government works and how they can contribute to public service efforts.
For more information about the internship and the institute, call 831/582-4200. To contact Matsui's office, call 202/225-7163.
Public Affairs Offices/Campus News