Lauren Cross is a Ball State junior pursuing a major in English Studies and a minor in Creative Writing. She plans to graduate in May 2017, and then hopes to attend law school and concentrate in Social Justice. When she is not spending time with friends and family, she writes pieces for her blog and dreams of moving near a coast.
Last semester Lauren was a Legislative Intern for State Senators Lonnie Randolph and Greg Taylor. She was recently awarded the Senate’s Gudal Memorial Scholarship.
How did you land your internship? What sorts of responsibilities did you have?
I was cleaning out my inbox one day when I saw one of the internship emails from Cathy Day. I was determined to find something related to law because that is what I want to pursue after I graduate next May. Then, I came across the Democratic Caucus Senate Internship two weeks before applications, résumés, and letters of recommendation were due. I scrounged together everything I could, received a call granting me an opportunity for an interview, and then I received my congratulatory call on the last day. There were only ten Democratic senators, which meant competition was high for the thirteen available intern positions. I was assigned to Senator Randolph, Senator Taylor, and their Legislative Assistant, Andrew. I answered calls, responded to emails, met with constituents, met with people from various industries, tried to stay alive, and researched for pending and future legislation. Before this internship, I had no idea Indiana was one of only five states without penalties for bias crimes. How insane does that sound? Even so, Senator Taylor still fell short when trying to pass his bias crimes legislation simply because of his party affiliation. Needless to say, researching for bias crimes and bias-motivated crimes was my favorite responsibility, and without my research, this discussion in the Senate Chamber may not have even taken place.
What was a typical day like for you?
I had to be at my desk by 8:30 every morning, which did not sound tough until I commuted from Muncie every day during ice and snow. Once I got there, I immediately checked in with Senator Randolph, Senator Taylor, and Andrew. Typically, I ensured they all were aware of their daily meetings and committees, and I completed tasks as I was asked. Each piece of legislation is assigned to a committee before it reaches the Senate Chamber, and I was assigned to the Local Government Committee and the Criminal Law Committee. During these meetings, I took notes as bills were heard, and it was my responsibility to send them to the members of the Democratic Caucus. Then, during session days, I put together bill packets for each day’s calendar. Even though this did not seem like a huge responsibility, without these bill packets, the senators would not have each proposed piece of legislation in front of them during each vote. I was given an hour and fifteen minutes for my lunch each day, but if tasks needed to be completed in order to prevent the office from falling apart, I had to eat on the go or grab a quick meal at our favorite concession stand, The Snack Shack, in the basement near the intern offices. The end of each day slowed down a bit, and we used this time to respond to emails and phone calls before we left at 4:45. Rarely did this happen, though. We were lucky if we left on time. But even though it was tiring and demanding, I would do this internship again without hesitation.
How did your English skills help you in your internship?
As English majors, we have to enjoy reading, writing, and research, but we also have to be precise and eager to improve. Being critiqued on our writing is pretty much a daily occurrence so when Andrew edited my drafts of letters to constituents, it was easy to not take any suggestions personally. It also meant I was quick to pick up on recommendations. Most of my time was spent researching, though, which was helpful because I am used to analyzing language and literature. I did not realize how helpful this was until I was asked to find similar language from legislation in other states concerning the bias crimes legislation. While I did not possess the hard skills other majors generally have, I was eager to learn, and would like to think I picked up on what was asked of me relatively quickly.
How did you receive your scholarship? What made you stand out?
The Gudal Memorial Scholarship is awarded to an intern each year for providing a promising attitude, a willingness to work hard, a high enthusiasm, and a smile. The staff spoke fondly of Rick Gudal, and this award was basically for someone who always came to work with a good attitude, which was my goal. I was one of the youngest members with most of my fellow interns being in their mid to late twenties, and some of them had even completed graduate school. While a strong résumé and years of experience may look better to some employers, I am thankful I was able to bring a little bit of cheer to the office during some of the most grueling days of my professional life.
What has this internship done for you professionally?
Before January, I was pretty quiet in professional settings. I am someone who would rather talk one-on-one with someone or with a small group, but I found this internship gave me more confidence than I ever could have imagined. It seems as though people in politics are viewed as crooks by most, but it was relieving to see these members come to work and put everything they had into trying to help their constituents. I was a witness to a true underdog moment every day in the Chamber, and there were days we streamed sessions from the intern office for the sole purpose of cheering on our employers. I also found my need to help others grew stronger along the way, and I am grateful as I near the day in which I begin applying to law schools.
Any last advice for #bsuenglish majors?
Enhance your résumé, but being stellar in your profession will not make an impact nearly as much if you cannot make people feel comfortable around you or if your coworkers think you would rather be anywhere else but your job. Wear a smile, and you will see the way it affects those who work with you. I promise.
Visit our Jobs & Internships page for the most up-to-date opportunities for English majors.