Sometimes all it takes is the encouragement of one person to point you in the direction you always meant to go.
While many college students wait until their senior year to pursue an internship, University of Northwestern history major and Pine City High School graduate Luke LeBrun chose to apply for a very selective, paid internship position at the Minnesota Senate during the fall of his junior year.
It was UNW history professor and department chair, Dr. Jonathan Loopstra, who presented LeBrun with the idea of interning at the Capitol.
“The Minnesota legislative internship provides students the opportunity to observe and participate in the legislative process,” Loopstra said. “For students at Northwestern, this offers them the opportunity to apply the skills they’re learning in history and political science.”
“I intended to be a communications major,” LeBrun said, “but I changed to history even before beginning my freshman year. I thought that with a history major I could go into law or politics.”
When Dr. Loopstra, LeBrun’s advisor, told him about the senate internship opening, LeBrun knew working at the Minnesota Capitol would be a “really good, hands-on experience and opportunity.”
LeBrun will work with a senator one-on-one in a senatorial office, explained Dr. Loopstra. He’ll gain a detailed understanding of the Legislature, including policy and procedure, rules and regulations, political behavior, and law. Luke will also get first-hand experience in writing letters, memos, and reports; scheduling meetings and taking notes; and researching a bill or issue.
Learning how to use resources and facilities available to Legislators—including journals, session laws and statutes, index departments, research offices, and the Secretary of the Senate’s office—comes with the role as well.
If LeBrun is nervous, it doesn’t show. “As history majors, we have to think critically about the past,” LeBrun said. “We have to read well and write well. These are things I’ll be doing in my internship at the Capitol, whether writing for a senator, writing to constituents, or interacting with different senators at the Capitol.”
LeBrun’s confidence in the training he’s received and skills he’s developed at Northwestern—in the classroom and on the football field—likely worked in his favor as he walked through the rigorous interview process. After submitting his application, LeBrun was first invited to participate in a phone interview. Having been successful in that first interview, LeBrun was then invited to interview in person. That in-person interview, he admits, was nerve-wracking. “It was five-on-one.”
When asked about his major at Northwestern, LeBrun is quick to point out is that history isn’t just for history majors. “There’s a lot you can do with a history major,” he added. “A lot of people you see on TV—news anchors, reporters, politicians—were history majors as well.”
In a letter outlining the application process for this Minnesota State Senate internship, John Trombley, Intern Coordinator, writes, “for more than 40 years, college students have taken their first steps toward careers in public service as Minnesota Senate interns.”
That sounds like a perfect place for a young man that has his sights set on Washington—and in the not-so-distant future. “One thing I am looking to do, perhaps as a senior, is to go to Washington D.C. and work for a presidential campaign,” he said.
LeBrun’s internship runs from mid-February through mid-May, the duration of the 2020 Minnesota legislative session. No doubt he will use the knowledge and skills he learns in the history department at Northwestern to contribute well to those he serves, senators and constituents alike.
Reprinted with the kind permission of author Linda LaFrombois and the University of Northwestern. Learn more about UNW at unwsp.edu.