Recently, seven second-year Master of Public Service and Administration (MPSA) students from The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University relocated to Austin, Texas, to complete their Capstone project, a final requirement for all graduating Bush School students. Tapping into the flourishing Bush School Former Student Network, current students worked closely with alumni to secure jobs during the 83rd Texas Legislative Session.
“The Bush School graduates were quite helpful to students hoping to land positions in the legislature,” said Dr. Ann Bowman, advisor for the Texas Legislative Capstone. Bush School alums met with current students, gave them advice, circulated job postings, distributed students’ resumes to interested offices, and provided additional contacts.
“There were many opportunities to work with Bush School alumni to secure positions in Austin; and they were a constant source of support, advice, and job opportunities,” said Daniel Bernhard, who is currently a committee intern for the Senate Finance Committee.
The Texas Legislative Capstone students networked throughout the fall semester with Bush School alumni working in the capital city at various House, Senate, committee, and executive offices. Ultimately, three Bush School alums hired Capstone students for their offices, including Matt Lamon ’07, current chief of staff for Representative J.M. Lozano. “At Dr. Bowman’s request, I met with the Capstone students last fall about what it’s like to work for the legislature; and as a result, I hired two Bush School students,” Lamon said.
Lamon is pleased with the work the students have done thus far, saying he hired from the Bush School because he “…knew that the training was perfect for what we do at the legislature. I knew these students would have the skill set and personality to thrive here.” The two students in Representative Lozano’s office are currently working on substantive policy research.
Fernando Trevino was one of the two legislative aides from the Bush School hired by Lamon. “Everyone that we have met in passing or from offices around ours is either from the Bush School or knows someone from the Bush School, which I wasn’t expecting,” Trevino said, adding that this made working his first session much easier.
Thus far, Trevino has worked with constituents as well as helped to research, draft, and file a dozen bills. “This Capstone is a clear application of our policy-based classes at the Bush School, as well as an experience in learning how to make differences of opinions come together and work for our district. It’s one thing to read about the legislature and another thing to work from very early until very late to get things done,” he added.
Both current and former students similarly highlight how the Texas Legislative Capstone has added something unique to their educational experiences. “Those of us who graduated from the Bush School need to pay it forward,” Lamon said. “It’s what we’re called to do as public servants, and it really enhances the value of our degree to have another class of well-qualified public servants come after us.” Lamon urged all former students to consider hiring students, even as interns or project-based staff.
From the current-student perspective, Bernhard says the Capstone provides practical experience that enhances classroom learning and discussion from his previous three semesters at the Bush School. “There is a lot of discussion in class about decision making and politically driven policy development, but this Capstone allows on-the-ground insight into how these ideas work. The Bush School is much more policy focused than politically focused, and it’s refreshing to see both in action.”
Students in the Texas Legislative Capstone must also complete a research report. This year’s report will focus on the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund, commonly referred to as the Rainy Day Fund, which Bowman says is a crucial issue for the legislature this session. Students will analyze costs and benefits of various plans for the fund’s use. Bowman expects the report will be of interest to a subset of legislative committees; Texas think tanks; and potentially, the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In addition to help from Bush School alumni, Bowman also highlighted the help of several current students with previous Texas legislative experience as well as Bush School Dean Andrew Card and Dr. Matthew Upton, director of Career, Student, and Alumni Services.