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Honors Student Lands Prestigious Internship

Courtney Bennett will spend the fall semester on Capitol Hill.
SDSU University Honors Student Courtney Bennett
SDSU University Honors Student Courtney Bennett

San Diego State University student Courtney Bennett has long been an overachiever.

The University Honors Program student came to SDSU in fall 2010 with 27 units of credit thanks to Advanced Placement courses in high school.  When she finishes her second year this spring at the age of 19, Bennett will effectively be going into her senior year.

But Bennett won’t be coming back to SDSU for the fall semester because she has been selected to represent the university as the Panetta Institute Congressional Intern in Washington D.C.

Competitive program

One student from each of the California State University’s 23 campuses is chosen to participate in the highly prestigious program offered by The Panetta Institute for Public Policy.

"To be there during an election season
is very exciting."

Last month, Bennett travelled to California State University, Monterey Bay where she met with a panel from the institute. In August, she will travel to Washington D.C. to work alongside a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“This is a completely new experience for me,” said Bennett, who is paying her own way through college in part by working the front desk at SDSU’s Housing and Residential Life Office. “I’ve never been to the East Coast or Washington D.C. so to be there during an election season is very exciting.”

More about Bennett

Bennett has been interested in politics since participating in the Youth and Government program as a student at Simi Valley High School.

“In that program we modeled the California legislature, wrote legislation, led meetings and did everything that a real congressperson does,” said Bennett, who is now looking forward to participating in the real thing on a federal scale.

As part of the internship, Bennett will have the opportunity to meet Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who founded the Panetta Institute with his wife, Sylvia, who serves as its director.

Stacey Sinclair, director of SDSU’s University Honors Program said Bennett was chosen because of her strong communication and leadership skills.

“I had the personal experience of seeing Courtney’s leadership skills in action as part of our honors seminar course and was very impressed,” Sinclair said. “I am confident she will be a good ambassador for SDSU and get the most out of this experience.”

Last year's Panetta intern

SDSU political science junior Shannon Clark participated in the program last year and was paired with Congresswoman Karen Bass who represents California’s 33rd district. The Honors Program student said the experience was invaluable.

“Because the office knew I was interested in environmental policy, I got to work on a couple vote recommendations for various environmental bills coming to the House floor,” said Clark, who is an environmental studies minor. “This was especially rewarding because the congresswoman took my vote recommendation to the floor and really did vote according to it.”

Thanks to the Panetta internship, Clark now sees herself going into local politics and jump started that plan by running for a position on Associated Students. She will represent the College of Arts and Letters on the board this fall.

The Panetta Congressional Internship program is exclusively for CSU students, as well as Santa Clara University and Dominican University of California.

The Institute covers program costs including a two-week orientation at CSU Monterey Bay, air travel and housing in Washington D.C. Interns earn up to 20 semester credits as part of the experience.

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