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A real-life civics lesson

Three CSB and SJU students learn how Congress really works

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August 25, 2015

By Mike Killeen

From left: Edwin Torres, Mai Tong Yang and Andrew Morley participated in the Stennis Program for Congressional Interns, a bipartisan, bicameral leadership development program.

Three students from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University got a real-life, first-hand civics lesson this summer.

The three — CSB senior Mai Tong Yang and SJU seniors Edwin Torres and Andrew Morley - participated in the Stennis Program for Congressional Interns. Thirty students took part in the six-week program for the 114th Congress.

The Stennis Congressional Intern Program is a bipartisan, bicameral leadership development program for summer interns of the U.S. Congress. The program, which concluded July 29, promotes congressional public service and seeks to enhance the experience of summer interns on Capitol Hill through networking with other interns and interactions with senior congressional staff.

Yang, Torres and Morley are all political science majors at CSB and SJU, and already had a strong knowledge of how Congress works.

"Once you go through this program, there is a whole new perspective to add on to your knowledge," said Yang, from St. Paul, Minnesota.

"The program also inspired me to learn more about the federal budget and understand the appropriations process. Without understanding the budget system, it would be hard to truly know how and why Congress works the way it does right now," Yang added.

"We've been able to go beyond the civic versions of how Congress functions and hear first-hand experiences from senior congressional staff on various aspects of the workings of Congress and how the other branches of government interact," said Torres, from San Pedro, California.

"Being a political science major, this experience has been invaluable, especially since this is a bicameral and bipartisan program, we hear various aspects from both the Senate and House, as well as from congressional staffers on both sides of the aisle. This program has enriched my understanding of Congress, and I have come out as a better political science student," Torres said.

"The Stennis program has clarified the legislative process by illustrating the intricacies of procedure, budget, separation of powers and the media," said Morley, from Cambridge, Minnesota. "The program has also provided a strong network of fellow Stennis interns and professionals alike."  

All three students were in the nation's capital as part of the Washington, D.C., Summer Study Program. This was the 36th year of the program, designed and operated by CSB/SJU faculty and staff in the political science department.

Yang served as an intern for Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, Torres served as an intern for California Rep. Janice Hahn and Morley served as an intern for Minnesota Rep. Erik Paulsen.