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PA Capital Semester Alumni Profiles

Mark Dinich

Mark DinichI obtained my bachelor’s degree from Temple University in political science in May 2014.

I participated in the PA Capital Semester in Fall 2013 where I was placed in an internship at Wanner Associates, a management and lobbying firm placed right in the heart of Harrisburg. After three years of sitting in lecture halls, I was excited by the possibility of gaining practical experience in a private firm for a semester. My mentor, Ms. Linda Rhinehart, was a tremendous asset for me at that point in my life and helped to give me the tools to shape my future. In my first week alone, I was monitoring legislative developments and building relationships through both our client networks and the political environment. What made this experience even more satisfying was how multi-faceted it was. I worked for both domestic and international clients on a wide array of issues ranging from education to infrastructure to global supply networks. Not only was I tasked with preparing our internal research for our clients, but I was also tasked with keeping up-to-date on all the latest legislative developments happening in the Capitol building.

It was an exciting feeling knowing how my work at Wanner Associates connected the private and public sphere. Beyond the professional skill set I obtained from my time at Wanner Associates, I also was able to grow as a person due to the high amount of professionalism I witnessed each day in the office and how my colleagues conducted themselves.

Our classroom seminars were a lot of fun. Luckily for me, Wanner Associates was focused on property tax reform at the time so I was able to use my knowledge from the firm in the classroom. I gained a better understanding of the workings in the Capitol area through our seminars. They also provided good food for the students after work which is always a plus!

Beyond the networking and skill set I developed over those months, it was also a lot fun. The people that I met during this time, both inside and outside of the program, were great and we still keep in contact nearly 4 years later!

After the PA Capital Semester program, I decided to continue on with my studies abroad. In October 2016, I obtained my master’s degree from Bremen University & Jacobs University in international relations with a specialization in global governance and social theory in Bremen, Germany. Since then, I have moved to Berlin and have been building up my contact network which is a skill that I directly learned from my time in Harrisburg. Beyond that, my close work with policy development at Wanner Associates influenced me to now seek similar opportunities abroad in Europe.

I am very thankful that I was afforded the opportunity to learn, study, and live in Harrisburg and fully recommend it to anyone who is interested. 

Damien Bower

Damien PhotoI graduated cum laude from Temple’s College of Liberal Arts in May 2016 with a degree in political science, a minor in Spanish, and a certificate in Latin American studies.

I participated in the PA Capital Semester program in spring 2015 and was placed in the Democratic House Education Committee under Chairman Rep. James Roebuck. I was fortunate enough to be interning with the committee during a period where a new governor had placed education as his top priority. As a result, I was able to work on a variety of exciting projects! On a daily basis, I was responsible for compiling data on charter schools throughout the state, conducting comparative analyses on education throughout the nation, attending Democratic Caucus meetings, and writing summaries to pieces of legislation. My project for the semester consisted of familiarizing myself with anti-bullying laws across the country to identify points where PA law was sufficient and ineffective in addressing the issue of bullying.

In large part due to the connections I made from the bountiful networking opportunities during the program, I was extremely fortunate to be offered a job in Governor Tom Wolf’s brand new Office of Constituent Services immediately after graduation.

The PA Capital Semester program opened my eyes to the kind of work that is done at the state level and just how impactful it is to the lives of everyday citizens. It gave me an entirely new understanding, respect, and appreciation for the legislative process. The lessons I learned there helped to shape my professional and academic career.

In large part due to the connections I made from the bountiful networking opportunities during the program, I was extremely fortunate to be offered a job in Governor Tom Wolf’s brand new Office of Constituent Services immediately after graduation. The office was established in February of 2016 with the intent of streamlining constituent services, expanding the transparency of the Executive Branch, and further connecting the governor with the people he serves.

I was offered this job because of the experience I gained in previous internships, a familiarity with Harrisburg, and knowledge of the public policy process. None of it would have been possible without the experiences gained in the PA Capital Semester program. The first time I walked into the rotunda of the PA Capitol Building, I knew that this was the place I needed to be. It is such a humbling experience to be able to walk into that building five days a week knowing that the work I do there is important and it is something that I am proud to do.

Damien Bower, Executive Support Specialist
Office of Governor Tom Wolf

Ryan Lim
 

I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. I minored in Philosophy.

I participated in the PA Capital Semester in the Spring of 2014. I was placed in the House Human Services Committee with the Democratic Caucus. My duties consisted of conducting research for legislative policies, drafting bill analyses, attending hearings, and responding to constituent concerns. During my time there I gained valuable knowledge of the legislative process, built professional relationships, and gained a deep appreciation for the democratic process.

I believe that the PA Capital Semester provides a unique opportunity for students to witness and learn from one of the larger state legislatures. Under this internship program, students are provided a first-hand opportunity to witness bills being drafted, edited, debated, voted upon, and possibly passed. Moreover, students are given the opportunity to interact with staffers, lobbyists, and elected officials. They are given the chance to interact with the very people who create the laws that govern their actions.

Under this internship program, students are provided a first-hand opportunity to witness bills being drafted, edited, debated, voted upon, and possibly passed.

I valued my time in the Human Services Committee. I felt that I was able to make a meaningful contribution not only to the work of the committee but to the wellbeing of the state. While there, I was tasked with drafting a bill analysis for a particularly salient bill. The bill proposed a change to the state code to better regulate the distribution of prescription drugs in Pennsylvania. My bill analysis, after several drafts, was used in a committee vote where elected officials considered the analysis to make their decision. My internship allowed me to contribute to the discussion and debate over legislation.

Following the internship program, I began my other internship with a congressional campaign in Philadelphia at the suggestion of a Human Services Committee staffer. The campaign internship provided me with unique insight into how campaigns and Philadelphia politics function. My time in Harrisburg proved to be very valuable in the campaign as I had gained knowledge of the local political figures and atmosphere. After the campaign, I was offered a position as a legislative assistant in a district office for State Representative Kevin Boyle. My PA Capital Semester had yet again proven to be valuable, as I was able to build upon relationships gained there and put forth the skills learned in Harrisburg.

Margaret Durkin
 Margaret Durkin

My degree from Temple University was in political science, which I received in May of 2014. I transferred to Temple from Saint Joseph’s University halfway through my junior year and the Capital Semester Program seemed like it would be a great program to be a part of with Temple.

I was placed with the House Republican Urban Affairs Committee under an awesome supervisor and mentor who was a huge asset for me throughout the semester. The flexible schedule allowed me to get the full experience of Harrisburg while letting me go home or to other places on the weekends. What I liked most about the Urban Affairs Committee was that it was strongly bipartisan. Today, we see a lot of partisanship in all facets of government; however, this committee focuses on the wellbeing of cities and its citizens. Thus, all political parties and mindsets are open to working with each other on this committee. On my second day of the internship, I attended a very lengthy meeting to go over the middle stages of the Act 47 Task Force meetings. Throughout the meeting, everyone who was present was open and receptive to others’ ideas. At the time, I did not know that there were people from all different beliefs and experiences contributing, not just one political party. This was refreshing to me because it illustrated that bipartisanship is still possible. While Urban Affairs does not have a large number of bills, the ones it has are wide in scope and take a lot of dedicated time to come to full fruition. Additionally, I was able to draft a House bill pertaining to mixed-use housing and development, with the help of my supervisor. In May of 2014, it was voted out of committee and will hopefully be introduced in the House soon!

In addition to being extremely informative and beneficial for networking, it was a lot of fun! All in all, I’d recommend this program to anyone.

Outside of the Capitol building, the most important part of my experience was the networking aspect. At first, it can be awkward but once you start talking to people, the rest follows smoothly. My best memories were going out the nights that session was happening and meeting members of the General Assembly, staffers, lobbyists, and anyone else who was there. In addition to being extremely informative and beneficial for networking, it was a lot of fun! All in all, I’d recommend this program to anyone.

After the Capital Semester internship, I interned with Duane Morris Government Strategies – a law and lobbying firm, and Philadelphia City Council with Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., Majority Leader. After graduation, I interned with the Bravo Group, a Government Relations and Public Relations firm. They have offices in Wayne, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg and are very active in all three locations. Throughout my internship, I worked with the healthcare practice lead during the busy budget season. From the moment I interviewed for the internship, I knew I wanted to work for Bravo. At the beginning of August, I was offered a full time position and will continue to work on healthcare issues, along with some others. Getting the offer with Bravo would not have been possible without the connections I gained from the Capital Semester program. It helped me seamlessly transition from Philadelphia to Harrisburg and offered an inside look at the state government process. I am extremely thankful for the program and my time spent in Harrisburg so far. 

Ryan Smoker
 Ryan Smoker web

My degree is in Political Science and Economics with a certificate in Political Economy. I received my diploma in August of 2013.

The PA Capital Semester prepared me for the real world. Not only did it broaden my horizons by putting me in a new town, with new friends and new professors, but it taught me the important skill of networking.

The PA Capital Semester was a great experience. I lived in Harrisburg at the International House and took two night classes at the local Temple campus. I worked anywhere from 30-40 hours per week on assignments ranging from constituent responses to legislative drafting. I attended meetings, met with Representatives, and prepared reports. It flexed my communication skills while also forcing me out of my own comfort zone. The night classes were pertinent to the work that was done at the Capitol. Even though I was kept busy, most weekends I was still able to travel to Philadelphia or home to Lancaster, or even enjoy the Harrisburg night life. One story I always like to tell people is this: I met and talked with the last three elected PA governors directly through the internship program. Governor Corbett in his office at the Capitol, Governor Ridge at an event held at his consulting firm’s headquarters, and Governor Rendell at a class here at Temple after being invited by a fellow intern.

The PA Capital Semester prepared me for the real world. Not only did it broaden my horizons by putting me in a new town, with new friends and new professors, but it taught me the important skill of networking. Networking, in my opinion, is the single most important skill for Liberal Arts students to obtain. The PA Capital Semester put me in situations to meet professionals who have sway in PA politics and business. Through the internship, I was able to utilize the skills to make an impression on people with whom I was put in contact. From that, I was lucky enough to obtain a job with the Agriculture Committee working under Executive Director Kerry Golden and Representative John Maher. If it wasn’t for the PA Capital Semester, I would not have been given this opportunity.

Tim Keller
Tim Keller web

I graduated May 2013 with a degree in journalism and a minor in political science.

I worked on the House Education Committee under Chairman James Roebuck. My daily tasks were compiling reports on press activity around the state, researching and analyzing legislation, and reporting to the Chairman and Executive Director of legislative developments in other Committees. I was given a long-term project to research and produce an analysis of the higher education system in Pennsylvania for the Democratic Caucus.  I was even given the chance to contain an entire section of my opinions and recommendations based on my findings. The PA Capital Semester program allowed me to work alongside legislators and contribute to our government. I was able to experience the side of politics and public policy you do not see on television or read in a textbook. Most importantly though, this program made me realize exactly what I wanted to do with my life and where I wanted to be.

Most importantly though, this program made me realize exactly what I wanted to do with my life and where I wanted to be.

I was able to meet my future boss in Harrisburg during the program.  Representative Sims and his Chief of Staff Mason Lane (Temple Law alum) were visiting before the general election.  Without this program I doubt I would have had the confidence to approach them and introduce myself.  My internship ended on December 15, and less than two weeks later, I was offered the position of District Coordinator for the 182nd legislative district.   I had some aspects that were definitely not working in my favor: I was the youngest interviewed, I still had 6 months of college to go through, and all the other applicants had graduated and been in the workforce for several years.  When offered the position I was told two things allowed me to be chosen: persistence and my experience. I was the youngest and still in school but the experience I gained in the PA Capital Semester through working within the legislature and understanding and being a part of the legislative process was invaluable and essential for a freshman legislator. Nothing can really equate to getting up in the morning, putting your House of Representative ID on, hearing your footsteps echo throughout the Main Rotunda, and realizing you are doing what you love.

Tim Keller, District Coordinator

Office of State Rep. Brian Sims

Alyssa Weinhold
 Alyssa Weinhold

I graduated from Temple University’s College of Liberal Arts in January 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (cum laude). I minored in Criminal Justice.

I participated in the PA Capital Semester in Fall 2012 where I was placed with the House Judiciary Committee under Democratic Chairman, Thomas R. Caltagirone. Having an interest in both state and local politics as well as criminal justice, I was incredibly excited about the committee in which I was placed. During my internship I attended meetings and hearings on an expansive list of judiciary related topics. I composed a large number of personalized briefs to prepare the chairman for upcoming hearings, debates, and events. I even wrote legislative co-sponsorship memorandums, as well as resolutions and amendments that have been signed into law. Like the other staff members in the office, I also helped provide responses to constituent inquiries.

Many of the skills that I learned and many of the connections that I made during my internship are extremely relevant and helpful in carrying out my current job duties.

The PA Capital Semester was my final semester at Temple University. When my internship expired in the beginning of December 2012, the Chairman graciously offered to make arrangements with the Democratic Caucus to extend my internship with pay. I used those next couple of months to continue learning and networking while looking for employment. Finally, in February 2013, I accepted a position with the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General as a Government Affairs Liaison.

I am currently supervised by the Director of Government Affairs and am the office’s only Government Affairs Liaison. I am responsible for working with the Attorney General and appropriate senior level staff members to ensure that the Office’s position on various legislative and policy matters are clearly established within the legislature. This sometimes requires me to initiate or write legislation or amendments. From time to time, I also compile briefing memorandums to prepare the Attorney General for meetings and events. Many of the skills that I learned and many of the connections that I made during my internship are extremely relevant and helpful in carrying out my current job duties. I honestly believe that had I not participated in the PA Capital Semester and received a placement so well aligned with my interests, I would not be in the position I am today.

Alyssa Weinhold, Government Affairs Liaison

Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General 

Van Huynh
 Van Huynh web

I graduated May 2011 with a BA in Political Science (magna cum laude).

I really enjoyed my experience with the Capital Semester program. I interned with the House Urban Affairs Committee, under Representative W. Curtis Thomas who was Chairman at the time. I did a lot of research dealing with blighted properties and economic development. At the end of the internship, I drafted a proposal to establish art districts in PA that would grant tax exemptions to property owners. I felt that this was a solution to the problem of abandoned properties by offering incentives to buyers while helping to revive communities through the arts. During this time, I learned to utilize the resources around me because I was conveniently located in the Capitol and had access to different governmental agencies. I was able to attend conferences with local politicians throughout PA to address the issue of blighted properties and get a feel for what worked. I sat in on House sessions and tracked the movement of Committee bills. I was allowed access to important strategic meetings with the Democratic Caucus during controversial bills, such as the stand-your-ground law. I wrote reports on issues going on in the Philadelphia area, such as the scandal with the Philadelphia Housing Authority at the time.

The internship allowed me to be creative, while also being aware of the many obstacles that these laws must go through in order to be properly vetted. Not only did I have to address budgetary issues with some of the policies dealing with economic development, but I became aware of the political culture inside the Capitol. There were many times when I felt frustrated with the system but any accomplishments felt like huge milestones. While I was there, the Housing Urban Affairs Committee was able to pass legislation for house inspectors to be certified and to offer more protections for mobile home owners.

My time at the Capitol really helped me to understand what it was that captured the interest of politicians.

After my internship, I maintained good relationships with Representative Thomas, the Executive Director of the Committee, and some of the staff members there. Even upon my graduation at Temple a year later, one of the staff members informed me of a position opening up with the Committee. I remain so grateful for the relationship I’ve built with the people I’ve met. Even to this day, I can call anyone in the Committee for a recommendation letter or to just grab lunch and catch up. Most importantly, I met many brilliant and passionate individuals working towards different causes. This lesson was something I tried to express to many people once I came back to Temple University, to reassure them there were many earnest folks working to protect the interests of the people.

Shortly after, I continued my work with a nonprofit organization providing employment placement and legal services to immigrants in the Philadelphia and Upper Darby area. I was a program assistant under the supervision of the Director of Operations and Outreach. I wrote a lot of reports on the successes of our placements, as well as advocacy pieces on the positive economic impacts that immigrants have on the city. This was in response to the anti-immigration atmosphere felt in the city, as well as all around the US. I helped gather data for grant proposals. My time at the Capitol really helped me to understand what it was that captured the interest of politicians. I had to assess what data would be most relevant because I understood what it was politicians looked to in deciding how to allocate funding.

After dealing with the frustrations of public services, I went to work for the private sector, a risk management company dealing with life insurance policy. The independence I had during parts of my internship gave me the opportunity to be a critical thinker to navigate past the hurdles I faced, which helped me with this new job. I learned how to think for myself, which allowed me to figure out how to deal with the problems that came with this new venture that I had no experience in whatsoever. I was not so quick to run to my manager when a problem came up. Within a month with the company, I garnered the attention of management and was assigned more responsibilities, such as training 30 new people for the expanding company.

Now I am currently in law school and I’m able to appreciate my internship with the Capital Semester program more than ever. In this sink-or-swim environment, I got a head-start from my colleagues by being familiar with simple tasks, like reading statutes and looking up regulations. All of these skills would have taken me awhile to grasp, if it had not been for the full-time training I had already gotten when I was still able to trip and fall many times over during my internship. These are only a few of the numerous ways the internship has helped me in my career and future endeavors.

Hannah Binder
hanah (2)

I received a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in Economics in 2013. My PA Capital Semester experience was truly amazing. I was able to work on the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee for the House Republicans, where I was given a lot of responsibility. In my first week I had written my first resolution, and by the end of the semester I had drafted more resolutions, bills, memorandums, constituent letters, and reports. The committee I worked on was amazing, as they had plenty of experience with interns and pushed me to do as much as possible in my time there. I formed a wonderful bond with the committee, and learned so much from them. Some of the projects I worked on was drafting legislation to amend the tax code to include volunteer firefighters under workers compensation, and I also helped our team put together a Medal of Honor ceremony for a Vietnam soldier.

I am very proud of my time spent in Harrisburg, and will use the experience, knowledge, and skills from my time there for the rest of my career.

I was always busy at work and looked forward to waking up each morning to go into the State Capitol. I also really enjoyed the two classes, as they gave us tools and knowledge to better equip my time in the House. Overall, I was very happy with my placement, and keep in touch with many of the representatives and staff that I worked with. I would say that this experience has helped me prepare for my career in numerous ways. Not only did I learn the art of networking, but now have these connections that I built during my time there. I was handed multiple letters of recommendations when I left, and have a very unique and prestigious internship on my resume. As much of my work involved writing and editing, I would say my skills in writing have increased tremendously, as well as my research skills. This internship definitely showed me that I want a career as a research analyst. I am very proud of my time spent in Harrisburg, and will use the experience, knowledge, and skills from my time there for the rest of my career.

Adam Maguire
Adam Maguire

I double majored in Social Work and Political Science. I graduated in May of 2012.

The Capital Semester experience was the most valuable internship I completed at Temple University and one of the most valuable experiences of my professional life. The Capital Semester program allowed me to work full-time as a paid legislative intern with the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. The Capital Semester provided me opportunities outside of the classroom to professionally network, personally speak with elected officials, and learn about the culture of Harrisburg. No other internship program I have completed was able to give extensive field learning, flexible seminar hours, fair reimbursement of course credits, and offer the interns the ability to be compensated.

The Capital Semester experience was the most valuable internship I completed at Temple University and one of the most valuable experiences of my professional life.

My specific internship experience at the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO exposed me to the importance of public policy and political action components of the labor movement across the Commonwealth. Under the supervision of Bethany Evans, a proud Temple University graduate, I learned how to monitor and analyze legislation,  lobby elected officials, and  conduct myself as a professional.

After completing the Capital Semester in 2010 I was able to continue working as an intern with the United Food and Commercial Worker’s Local 1776. My experiences with the PA AFL-CIO prepared me to help the UFCW 1776 battle liquor privatization. In 2012 before I graduated I was hired as a state coordinator for the CLEAR Coalition (Coalition for Labor Engagement and Accountable Revenues). Upon graduation I was hired as a Political Action and Legislative Advocate for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees International Union. I was assigned to Northwest Ohio for presidential election campaigning and engaging membership. In May 2013 I was hired on as a Staff Representative for AFSCME Ohio Council 8 the home council for AFSCME in Ohio. I am one of the youngest staff representatives in the organization and in the country. I am doing what I love and it would not have been possible without the opportunities from the PA Capital Semester.

Julie Carr
 Julie Carr web

I graduated from Temple University in May 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. I minored in Economics.

I participated in the PA Capital Semester in Fall 2011. I also received a placement in the House of Representatives Legislative Fellowship program as one of six paid interns from around the state. I feel that I had a complete and satisfying experience from the two internships combined. I worked on the Urban Affairs Committee during an unexpectedly exciting time. Harrisburg tried to file for bankruptcy! I attended several hearings on municipal bankruptcy while Governor Corbett appointed a receiver to force city action in repaying its debt. As a Legislative Fellow, I participated in bipartisan workshops with members and staff to discuss the committee system, legislative drafting procedures, lobbying, etc. The experience is certainly what you make of it. I enjoyed my committee work, but I used any free time to attend any hearings or votes that were of interest to me.

The ability to work under strict deadlines and my varied writing experiences have helped me succeed in my current position as a community organizer.

I moved to Washington, D.C. last fall to work in nonprofit event management at the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. While my current position is relatively non-political, I plan to pursue policy research and advocacy within the next year and begin graduate studies. I’ve kept in touch with many of my contacts from the House and joined the Pennsylvania Society of D.C. to continue networking and make career plans. The ability to work under strict deadlines and my varied writing experiences have helped me succeed in my current position as a community organizer. Many of the organizations I hope to work for in the future desire government experience and knowledge of specific policy issues. My time in Harrisburg for the Capital Semester will likely make me a stronger candidate for the graduate programs I apply to as well as future employment in the nation’s capital.