The Sam Houston Austin Internship Program kicks off each session with “Speaker Series,” and this week’s session placed double duty on the word “Speaker.” On Friday, the nine Austin Interns heard from three members of the House Speaker’s staff: Margo Cardwell (Counsel), Sydney Watts (Chief of Staff), and Cassi Pollock (Press/Media).
With lunch from Alonti’s (thanks to Malu Gonzales from TSUS for the recommendation), the students got two-hour overview of running a leadership office–as well as invaluable career advice.
Margo Cardwell emphasized the importance of discretion in the workplace, offering discussions of both office culture and the legal requirements of reporting office communications. She also explored the protections the Texas House offers against sexual harassment, and she offered the nine young women resources for addressing that issue, should they need resources. Cardwell then discussed her own career path, which involved an undergraduate degree in Washington, DC, law school at the University of Texas, and a series of legal/political jobs.
Without a master strategic plan to end up as Legal Counsel for the Speaker of the House, the jobs she chose made her both qualified and ideal for such a position. With six of the nine interns wanting to be attorneys, her advice was well received.
After serving as a reporter for several years for the Texas Tribune, Cassi Pollock now works as Press Secretary for Speaker Phelan. Pollock’s years covering politics and ability to write and communicate serve her well in her current role.
She emphasized the importance of writing skill for any office-legal-political job, a point echoed by Margo Cardwell. Pollock also underscored the need to stay true to your moral compass.
As a political reporter, she did her best to remain neutral and report the facts as she learned them and not to be swayed by her own–or others’–political leanings.
Sydney Watts has worked for two speakers, Bonnen and now Phelan, serving as the latter’s “Director of Administration.” She discussed basic management, tips for professional settings, tips for interns, and navigating the capitol.
One point she made was that no job is beneath any staffer. In fact, she pointed out that Margo might be “stocking the refrigerator” on one day, and the next she might be representing the Texas House in the court system. She highlighted the fact that the Texas House is one of the best places in the country for young people to work and to make a difference. In addition, she encouraged the interns to ask questions, particularly if (1) they were uncertain about something, (2) if they were curious, or (3) if they needed assistance with prioritizing tasks. For students in their first professional jobs with real responsibility, the advice was needed.
The students also had a chance to chime in, discussing what they’ve learned about things in the legislature, their biggest challenges, and aspects of Austin or the Texas Legislature they’ve found most interesting. Jessica Cuevas discussed the challenges of being an introvert and asserting oneself, Amor Sheffield discussed the challenges of being semi-introverted and having to speak to so many people in the Capitol all day long…
…and Breanna Demyers commented on the diversity of people from Texas’s 254 counties.
After the rewarding visit, we were able to take a photo in the House Gallery, with Ms. Cardwell and Ms. Watt (Ms. Pollock was, by this time, in a meeting).
It was a rewarding day for all of us, occurring in the midst of what is shaping up to be the most rewarding semester in our college careers.
Continuing our pursuit of understanding Texas history and politics, we embarked on Tuesday, January 17 to the Texas Capitol to experience the gubernatorial inauguration. We arrived on the north side of the capitol building at around 9:15, which allowed us to secure spots to stand.
2023 Gubernatorial Inauguration
We started the morning by taking some photos and enjoying the view of the capitol building from our vantage point.
Meanwhile, Jessica Cuevas took photos from a closer vantage point, and Professor Yawn was perched in the media gallery.
There was, understandably, a heavy police presence for the event. There were State Troopers, police dogs, and even snipers viewing the inauguration atop an adjacent building.
At 11, the inauguration promptly began with the pledge of allegiance and the singing of The National Anthem by the two-time Grammy Award winner: Tanya Tucker, followed by introductions of such notables as Lee Majors.
Preluding the event, the nationally recognized Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band performed several songs including “Noble Men of Kyle,” and “Patton Theme.” The Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band is a military-style marching band and is the largest of its kind in the nation.
After an impressive introduction, we witnessed the inauguration of both Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Governor Greg Abbott. Following this, each addressed the crowd with a speech that outlined each politician’s agenda for the upcoming legislative session.
Although there were notable differences in their speeches, both the Lieutenant Governor and Governor expressed their shared intentions to lower taxes, increase border security, and boost the Texas economy.
One thing that I personally enjoyed about the event was the diverse religious representation within the program. In all, we heard from three different religious figures: a Jewish rabbi, a Catholic bishop, and a Christian pastor.
After the ceremony, we were serenaded with more musical performances from the Texas A&M Singing Cadets and the University of Texas Longhorn Band who performed a beautiful rendition of “Yellow Rose of Texas”.
Following the formal inauguration, we gathered with the SHAIP interns, some alumni who are now in staff positions (including three Chiefs of Staffs), and even the President of Sam Houston State University!
All in all, attending this event allowed me to enrich my conceptual understanding of governmental proceedings by adding an experiential aspect to my knowledge. The richness of the environment, with drones, helicopters, protests of sorts, and similar scenes were unlike anything I had ever seen.
Although I have learned so much in the classroom, nothing can replace participation in events such as these.
Event: Media Relations
There is nothing like a surprise call from the media to concentrate a student’s mind. So, when Professor Yawn told us that KBTX had called and wanted to do a Zoom call, we were a bit nervous. What would we say? How should we sit? What questions would they ask us?
We soon found out. Tyler Hoskins from KBTX led the interview, and Lexi Gonzalez, Chief of Staff for Rep. Hubert Vo, was gracious enough to let us use her office for the interview!
The interview helped us reflect on the unique experience we have had, and also teach us a thing or two about speaking in complete thoughts short enough to be used on television. You can watch the whole video here
Event: Taste of Texas
Following the gubernatorial inauguration, LEAP students attended A Taste of Texas Lunch on Capitol grounds, where multiple restaurants from across the state showcase some of their most popular (and Texas-themed) dishes to inauguration attendees. Upon arrival at the event, we were immediately overwhelmed at the options available.
To get the most out of the experience, we split up to try different dishes.
Elaine and I headed straight to the Western Sky Steakhouse booth, where we were met with a delicious plate of steak and potatoes.
Other entrees we tried were the Country Line sausage and potato salad plate which Andrew described as a good mixture of “sweet and salty… with a little kick.” Olivia on the other hand had a Mongolian pork sausage with a side of potato salad. She described it as a “very fresh and light” dish.
While eating, the University of Houston Mariachi Band caught the crowd’s attention with their vibrant set. Cinthia Villareal and I appreciated the liveliness of the performance on such a formal event, and even got swept into a Conga Line!
This was a great way for the LEAP students to expand their palate and get a taste of Texas!
Event: Supreme Court Building
After attending the Taste of Texas, we walked over to the Clark Building, which houses the Supreme Court of Texas, to receive a tour from Justice Boyd. Upon arriving, we were greeted by the Director of Public Affairs, Amy Starnes, who gave insight into the history of the building. One of the things she shared with us was that the Supreme Court consisted of only 3 Justices until the people voted to expand the court to 9 Justices in 1945. She also pointed out former Justice Ruby Sondock’s portrait, the first permanent female Justice.
Upon Justice Boyd’s arrival, he reminisced about visiting the Sam Houston campus in 2017 and stated that LEAP is the “model program” for civic engagement in the State of Texas. He then shared some background to his life, first revealing that he got his undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies and was a youth minister in his young adult life.
While some may assume this degree isn’t beneficial to a law student, it was quite the opposite. Working to interpret scripture and applying it to the kids he was teaching every Sunday morning proved to help in interpreting the law and applying it to the cases he was working on. So, when his college roommate called and encouraged him to take an LSAT with him based on a conversation they had during their freshman year, he was well prepared.
In this same spirit, he gave us a piece of advice: Take the LSAT. Prepare as best you can, which is tough because the LSAT tests how you think, not what you know. Even if you are not sure you are interested in becoming a lawyer, you should just take it. You may bomb it, but at least you will know.
In fact, when he took his LSAT, he only told his wife, so that if he did in fact bomb it, only she would know. Then, he went further to say, to be noticed by those in power, “Be known from the beginning and every day thereafter as a problem solver.”
He then went on his path to Texas Supreme Court Justice. About 5-6 years into Justice Boyd practicing law, he became interested in becoming a judge, and in 1998, a seat had opened that the governor was going to need to fill. In a conversation with former Chief Justice John Cornyn, he told Justice Boyd:
1. If you apply, you are not going to get appointed;
2. If I am wrong, you are going to work your tail off for a year and a half and then not get re-elected, and;
3. Absolutely, you should apply because you are a young lawyer interested in public service.
Although he did not get the position in 1998, when John Cornyn was elected as Attorney General, he hired Justice Boyd as Deputy for Civil Litigation. Later, he worked on a case for Rick Perry, who hired him to do more legal work for him as well, which eventually led to him being his General Council.
Although Justice Boyd was not sure if he would enjoy working with former Governor Rick Perry, he explained that he grew to like and appreciate him. “If he walked in, you would love him,” he exclaimed. Next, he described how Rick Perry appointing him came as a shock to him, and how when he expressed his concerns about finances and politics, Rick Perry answered, “Jeff, God’s going to take care of the money, and I’m going to take care of the politics.”
Following this, Justice Boyd took us back to the robing room where all the Justices meet before Court and explained that this was a room where they talked about the weather or sports, ate breakfast, and even played pranks on their newest member from time to time.
He then showed us the closet where the robes were and explained that they were arranged by seniority.
We had the privilege to rank ourselves in seniority and march into the court…
Following this, we went to the Justice’s conference room where they discuss how they will rule on cases. While there, Director of Public Affairs, Amy Starnes explained that the walls were lined with chairs because the Justices allowed their law clerks to sit in on these conferences, which she believes makes them better lawyers. When asked why there was a portrait of former Justice Few Brewster, she smiled and said that it had been put there as a joke when Justice Devine was elected, as the two look remarkably similar.
After seeing two elected officials get inaugurated into office, it was an incredible opportunity to speak and learn from another elected official in power. As a part of our democracy tour, it is important to understand that the government is a multifaceted system in which each position plays a key role in policymaking. Thank you to Justice Boyd for the wonderful opportunity to speak with the LEAP students!
Event: Better Half
After a long day of exploring and touring the Capitol building, the LEAP students ended the day with dinner at a local restaurant, Better Half. For appetizers, we ordered some chips and queso and cauliflower tots. The chips and queso had a flavorful touch of chili powder that added an appealing look. The cauliflower tots were new to a lot of students at the table, but we enjoyed them more than we had anticipated.
For our entrees, we had a large variety of mixed flavors that included hot chicken sandwiches, chicken burgers, soba noodle soup, broiled halloumi, and crispy pork belly. Overall, the restaurant experience was great, and the food was “very robust in flavor” according to MaryBeth.
The restaurant had an impressive drink menu which piqued our interest. The lemonade, cinnamon cardamom latte, and a hibiscus tea were delicious!
With the sharing of stories and laughter at the dinner table, we ended another successful day in Austin.
We couldn’t leave Huntsville and SHSU on MLK Day without a bit of service, and so it was that at 6am, three students and Professor Yawn headed to downtown Huntsville. Our goal was to assist the Huntsville Lions Club in their flag project, the planting of approximately 250 flags across the community on major holidays.
This is a project the LEAP Center has assisted with for more than a year, but for the three students (Andrew Jeon, Elaine Morrison, and Michelle Cardenas), it was our first time to help, and it was worth it!
We had a chance to meet the Lions Club members, individuals from Veterans and Patriots, and, of course, to simply help out the community. It was a great group of people, and a great way to begin our trip to Austin, and our day.
LBJ Presidential Library
by Olivia Discon
Upon arriving in the lively city of Austin, Texas, LEAP students had the privilege to visit the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. We were provided with a brief overview of the pivotal moments in the 36th President’s career, followed by an introductory film that preceded the self-guided tour.
The special exhibit we viewed was “Lady Bird: Beyond the Wildflowers,” which depicted a holistic representation of Claudia “Lady Bird” Taylor’s life. The room had artifacts from Lady Bird life and career, items such as inaugural outfits, embroidery, and letters.
However, the First Lady’s words were some of the most impactful aspects of the exhibition.
Elaine Morrison particularly enjoyed learning about Lady Bird’s college education.
Cinthia Villareal’s favorite part of the Presidential Library was–befitting Martin Luther King Day–the Civil Rights Exhibit.
Seeing as LBJ passed foundational policies ending segregation, expanding voter rights, and emphasized education to impoverished students, how could you disagree? It’s astonishing to learn how committed President Lyndon B. Johnson was to creating “The Great Society”.
Many considered President Lyndon B. Johnson to be an intimidating man in conversations. To pressure others into submission, he would give his infamous “Johnson Treatment”; an invasive lean by a 6’4″ man into the victim’s personal space.
Despite this assertive nature, Elaine Morrison noted in the interactive telephone conversations that Johnson especially respected his wife’s opinion and even let her lead the discussion–a stark contrast to his conversation with Senator Richard Russell.
The students were enamored of a replica of Johnson’s Oval Office on the 10th floor. Andrew was fascinated to view the exact setting (or a replication thereof) in which Lyndon B. Johnson served as President. Michelle Cardenas, MaryBeth Rayburn, and I were in awe of an anecdote from a staff member in which LBJ would sit at his replica desk and speak with visitors about his time as president.
There were, of course, dozens of other artifacts of note. The Bible on which LBJ was sworn into the Presidency following JFK’s assassination…
…a White House entry by the artist Marc Chagall…
…an interesting portrait of LBJ by Wayne Ingram…
…and of course, all the items that shed light on the many facets of LBJ the man, husband, and political giant.
It was a fun and educational tour, and for many, it was their first time in a Presidential Library!
Kayaking in Lady Bird Lake
by Andrew Jeon After the visit to the Lyndon B Johnson Presidential Museum, and changing our clothes, we stopped at Lady Bird Lake (it was a day of connections!) to Kayak. We met up with interning seniors, Ashlyn Parker and Morgan Dawson, and a Sam Houston State University Alum, Christian Bionat. As we rented our boats, and we checked out the river. It was a wide river, and intimidatingly deep. Michelle found it especially intimidating. We each paired off with one another to start kayaking: Elaine and Michelle, Cinthia and Olivia, and MaryBeth and me.
Looking all around me, I saw beautiful scenery. Behind me was Downtown Austin with dazzling skylines. In front of me, there were modern houses on the hills, as well as animals in the river, such as turtles, ducks, herons, and egrets.
At first, MaryBeth and I had trouble synchronizing our paddling, but with practice, we soon became proficient and caught up with others (and passed some, who never really got their synchronization down). In fact, we only saw Ashlyn and Morgan once, and we aren’t really sure they ever left the immediate vicinity of the dock.
Christian, however, showed his skill by going solo, at times literally kayaking in circles around us, and generally showing off…
…causing me to pout.
It was a beautiful evening, and a great way to cap our day that began with exercise in the form of flag planting. And like the flag planting, it led to an enjoyable time and the development of friendships.
As we reached the docks, everyone was satisfied with their kayaking experience, except for one person. Michelle, who was new to the kayaking experience, said that kayaking was a “scarring” experience and that she would never return. We doubted her words, however, based on her frequent smiles throughout the trip.
We all had a great deal of fun, and we posed for a final photo to preserve the experience.
Kerbey Lane Cafe
by MaryBeth Rayburn
After a kayaking trip down the Colorado river, LEAP students met back up with Ashlyn, Morgan, and Christian for a large dinner, which Christian very generously treated us to. After a lot of exercise over the course of the day, a large meal was called for!
And that’s what we got! For appetizers, we ordered queso, brussel sprouts and hummus. The queso had guacamole and pico de gallo in it, which gave it a fresh touch. The brussel sprouts were roasted and were delicious with an undertone of sweetness. We also enjoyed the savory and smooth hummus with pita bread.
For entrees, we had a nice variety, which included a buffalo chicken sandwich, chicken and pancakes, meatloaf, cheeseburger, turkey and avocado, green chile enchiladas, fried avocado tacos, and green chile macaroni and cheese.
It was a great way for us, as new students to the LEAP Experience, to reflect on the day and to learn from interns and former LEAP students. It was also great to hear about Morgan’s and Ashlyn’s experiences interning in the legislature–a move some of us may want to make in the future!
After months of applying, interviewing, and apartment-hunting, the Austin Internship Program is getting real for nine SHSU students. These nine students, Jessica Cuevas, Morgan Robertson, Yvette Mendoza, Ingrid Cuero, Ashlyn Parker, Jayelynn Bordeaux, Morgan Dawson, Amor Sheffield, and Breanna Demyers, will be beginning their Austin internships one month from today.
To prepare, they received an orientation from two top-notch employees of SHSU: Ms. Julie Schwab and Dean Shani Robinson. With moderation by Intern Director Mike Yawn, Robinson and Schwab discussed tips for navigating office politics, dressing for success, defusing conflict, and making a first impression.
In the latter case, Dean Robinson noted that people’s first impressions are often made in seven seconds, while also complimenting the students on their first impression–students stood up, walked forward, extended their hands, introduced themselves, and welcomed the presenters.
Ms. Schwab brought some swag, including padfolios to help the students on their road to professionalism and a Brene Brown book (“Imperfect”). Professor Yawn also provided students with business cards, a book (“How Important People Act,” by Ambassador Chase Untermeyer), and a business card holder.
With finals still before the students, the meeting was kept short, but the participants lingered as new advice was thought of and new questions were asked. Robinson and Schwab were generously supportive of the students, and despite the short length of the meeting, there was some bonding involved–leaving the students with some additional supporters and a larger professional network.
Following an eventful first day of interviews and new connections, the LEAP Ambassadors were excited to hit the ground running with the 2022 Texas Tribune Festival!
Texas State Capitol
Our Friday morning began with a trip to the Texas Capitol, where we met with the Chief of Staff for Senator Bryan Hughes, Cody Terry. (Senator Hughes represents the Tyler area, where Morgan is from!) During our time with Mr. Terry, we got a surprise visit from Senator Charles Schwertner’s former Chief of Staff, Tom Holloway. We were also lucky enough to meet Caroline Harris, who, after winning the primary (congratulations!), will compete in the general election for her own seat!
Between welcomed and insightful interruptions, Mr. Terry shared a few words of wisdom regarding internships applicable to any office.
He advised us to find something we are interested in and run with it.
We also met with Scott Jenkines, Chief of Staff for Representative Armando “Mando” Martinez who represents the Valley (District 39). Mr. Jenkines gave us a more technical overview of the innerworkings of the Texas House.
From both chiefs we learned about how different offices and committees work, and what members look for and expect from interns. We were grateful to have been able to sneak some questions in, and we are very thankful for the opportunity to have met with them and learn more about the legislative session. It was a great start for our day, which we soon followed with a trek down to the Paramount Theatre for our second Texas Tribune Festival session!
This session was actually two-pronged. We had the opportunity to experience Austin’s stunning Paramount Theatre, a historic Art Deco structure built in 1915.
The second was, of course, the session topic: a One-on-One with former Secretary of State and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, moderated by Kara Swisher!
Our main takeaway from Hillary Clinton was her stance on empowering women in politics. This was perfect for all four of us since we had just left the Capitol, where we all hope to intern in the next session..
With empowerment comes controversial issues, and in her talk, it was clear the most popular topic was her 2016 run against Donald Trump for President. He was a central topic of discussion, specifically regarding the deleted emails, predictions for future elections, and the possible criminal charges he may face.
Clinton repeatedly emphasized that she did not delete any emails and “never corresponded about classified emails.” Clinton has raised money in an interesting, but slightly self-deprecating way, by selling hats that read “But Her Emails.” [FS2] Clinton and Swisher laughed about the merch, but on a more serious note, each dollar raised from the hats is donated to the next Democratic candidate for the next presidential election.
Although she will not be running for office in the future, Clinton still contributes much to the current political officials in the Democratic party. When the question was raised if Trump is likely to run again, Clinton predicted he will run again, although this time he may also have criminal charges pending, after the search of Mar-a-Lago.
Aside from the political drama, Clinton vocalized the importance of Social Security, Medicare, and having a strong social democracy. She believes this will happen only if we continue to vote Democrats into office. But whether or not you are a Democrat or a Republican, we must vote and empower one another. Hearing from Hillary Clinton showed us that you can overcome what may seem to be impossible—an excellent takeaway!
Previewing the 88th: Part Four
TTF hosts multiple sessions about the upcoming Texas Legislative Session. Although we beelined it to Raise Your Hand Texas, where the fourth session was held, many others had the same idea, and we ended up in the SRO section. Nonetheless, it was completely worth it.
The impressive panel included Senator Carol Alvarado, Senator Cesar Blanco, Senator Sarah Eckhardt, Democratic Candidate for Senate District 27 Morgan LaMantia, and moderator Matthew Watkins, Managing Editor for News and Politics at TheTexas Tribune. With the State of Texas’ budget surplus of about $30 billion, redistricting, and the Texas governor’s election, this session will definitely face new opportunities and challenges.
Abortion is a heavy topic for discussion during this session, after the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The panel didn’t suggest that any major bills will pass to restore those rights, but they would like to pass legislation to allow for certain exceptions of abortions like incest, rape, or medical complications. For example, Texas has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, so adopting legislation that will protect the mother’s life from risk of a full-term pregnancy could lower that statistic. Senator Blanco expects this upcoming governor’s election to be a “Roe-vember,” implying that many voters will vote solely driven by their beliefs or stance on abortion.
Another topic this panel expects will be up for much debate is gun regulations. Although gun regulations have been debated for decades, what makes the topic so complicated for this upcoming session is the increase in school shootings, specifically the Uvalde school shooting. Many people are fed up with turning on the news to another school shooting where innocent lives have been lost, and voters will be letting their legislators know that. The panel hopes to see stricter gun laws passed to help stop gun violence in Texas, which has a higher gun mortality rate than the national average. There was a call to action to the right to place more emphasis on the gun laws in Texas.
The panel also mentioned plans to focus on other issues that were “not just political stunts,” such as lowering property taxes and fixing the worker shortage, specifically for teachers and nurses.
One topic the panel did consider a political stunt wasthe border wall. The panel understands Republicans’ concern, but they do not like the way the Republican party goes about it. They would like to focus on improving the treatment of the immigrants coming in and not just throwing them into state camps or foster care. We were informed by the panel that some of these kids being thrown under state custody are dying due to the living conditions they are being put under at the border camps. Right now, the quality of care is improving due to neighboring border city communities that take kids in and provide them with better conditions, so the senators would like to see a change in that sector.
With (hopefully) our internships for this upcoming session, we found this discussion impactful and inspiring. We always enjoy getting to hear different points of views, so it will be great to ponder on these ideas until January!
Following a busy day, we met up with SHSU alumna (and former LEAP Center student worker), Annie Jamarik, Chief of Staff for Representative Hugh Shine. Annie recommended a great local pizza joint, called 40 North.
Considering Annie’s recommendations, we ordered the Classic Pepperoni (a bit spicy), the Margherita Di Bufala, the Barbe, and probably (most) everyone’s favorite, the Hot Honey.
As we ate, Annie gave us sound advice, both from the perspective of an intern and as a chief. She advised us to build our networks early and joked that we have already started with her! Along with her encouraging advice, she also had some practical advice, too. We asked about wardrobe and best places to shop, and even what kinds of shoes to wear every day.
We are very thankful to Annie for joining us for a great dinner and for all her advice and words of wisdom about interning in this upcoming session at the Capitol.
Every two years, the LEAP Center at SHSU places 6-12 interns in the Texas Legislature. This year, 11 SHSU students were placed in offices:
Brittany Gibson: Texas Association of Counties
Jezel Luna: Rep. Rick Miller (R)
Maggie Denena: Rep. Will Metcalf (R)
Mackenzie Smith: Rep. Four Price (R)
Anne Jamarik: Rep. Trent Ashby (R)
Ilexus Williams: Rep. Mando Martinez (D)
Karen Tinajero: Rep. Mando Martinez (D)
Jordan Davis: Rep. Chris Turner (D)
Yvana Kepnga: Rep. Eric Johnson (D)
Peyton Reed: Rep. Poncho Nevarez (D)
Monica Dike: Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D)
The students learned much this session, with many of them carrying multiple bills through to the Governor’s signature. On Friday, with help from intern Maggie Denena…
…Representative Will Metcalf…
…Rep. Chris Turner, Rep. Four Price, Rep. Trent Ashby, and Rep. Jim Murphy recognized the interns from the House floor.
The recognition capped a successful session….
…that some 20 more SHSU students and alumni working in the legislature, probably a record number. Additional students worked in the executive branches near the Capitol. Intriguingly, this cohort are all 32 or younger, suggesting that there will be quite a future presence for SHSU in the executive and legislative branches of government.
It was six months ago that Monica Dike went to Austin to interview for a job. She may have been a little starstruck by the capitol building.
She was the first–of what would eventually be 11 SHSU interns–to get a job. She was hired by Rep. Senfronia Thompson to work for the 86th legislative session. We had them go through a series of orientations to help them get their legs under them.
And she soon started getting comfortable in the Capitol.
And after a few months, she began branching out, and on one of those excursions, she had a chance to meet Beto O’Rourke, as can be noted on this video clip.
Another of the many reasons the Austin Internship Program is a rewarding opportunity for students!
With a month of our internships under our belts, interns from the Sam Houston Austin Internship Program were more than happy to be able to volunteer at the 4th biennial Texas State University System Foundation Gala. The Texas State University Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides the Texas State University System and the member institutions with financial support.
At the request of Mike Wintemute, the Director of the TSUS Foundation, the SHAIP interns happily assisted with the event by greeting guests and helping them check in at the entrance. Among the guests were legislators, Regents, and faculty/administrators from TSUS’s seven institutions. We were glad to be able to meet the individuals who play such an impactful role in making sure that our Universities are operating efficiently and providing every student the opportunity to be successful.
Following the greeting period, we were invited into the ballroom, while we awaited the arrival of former President George W. Bush and mingled with the attendees. The interns met the Chancellor of the Texas State University System, Dr. Brian McCall…
…and other TSUS administrators…
…SHSU Administrators and faculty…
…and TSUS regents…
… and Texas State Representative Ernest Bailes.
Moments before the event started, the interns were able to introduce themselves to the newest Speaker of the House, Dennis Bonnen.
Then, after a full day of anticipation, we began our “evening with former President George W. Bush.” As President Bush entered the stage, every person in the room stood on their feet and erupted in applause for the former president. The discussion first began with President Bush giving his appreciation to a Texas leader that he holds in high esteem: General Sam Houston. As students at Sam Houston State University, it gives us great pride to know that the man we represent is honored by many, including a former President. The moderator of the conversation, Mark Updegrove, moved the topic to a more sensitive subject. With the recent passing of both his mother and father, President Bush was asked about his most memorable moments of his parents.
Bush recalled the final words his father said to him, which were “I love you.” President Bush said that his father’s words were very faint, but that he understood what his father was saying. Bush replied, “I love you, too, Dad.” Bush recalled that his dad, “set an example, and he set priorities.” The priorities included family, but it also included public service, and that set an example to his children, particularly for Jeb and George, both of whom went into politics.
Interestingly, his last conversation with his mother was also the one he described as most memorable. And, according to him, his mother also said, “I love you,” but Bush playfully added that she described him as her “favorite child.”
Then, the conversation swerved sharply into politics. As a man who has once served as the President of the United States, he was asked to give his opinion on the current President, Donald Trump. President Bush deferred from giving his view on President Trump because he does not like to speak about the decisions a current president makes while they are in office. He knows what it is like to have everyone scrutinize every decision you make. However, President Bush did add wistfully that the President’s speech and behavior “set the tone for the nation.”
President Bush reminisced about his presidential term, recalling the horrific day of September 11, 2001. The former President recalled receiving the news, and acknowledging that “things we can’t anticipate or control happen and how we react will matter for a long time to come.” The SHAIP interns found this to be good advice, not only for our careers, but also for life, reminding us that how we react to adversity will similarly shape our lives.
After holding one of the most challenging positions in America, President Bush noted that he was still learning–and he mentioned that he was now attempting to refine his work as an artist. He indicated that he is currently “specializing in puppy portrait painting.”
Following the discussion with President Bush, dinner was served. Our Entrèe included Grilled Beef Tenderloin & Seared Redfish with pimiento Cheese-Potato Puree, Chive Bearnaise, and seasonal vegetables. For dessert, we had a Flourless Chocolate Cake with Kahlua Ganache and Bailey’s Cream.
The Sam Houston Interns would like to thank Mike Wintemute for giving us the chance to attend the TSUS Foundation Gala. It was an honor to be able to represent Sam Houston State University.
We realize that not many people are afforded opportunities like this, and we will forever be grateful.