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Sunday, January 16, 2022

Academics & Research

Cougars conquer state capitol


From left to right: Jose Guzman, Charles Prothro, Estefani Jimenez, Isabel Soto, Sarah Aimadeddine, Hazel Thakkar, Krystafer Redden and Matthew Conner // Courtesy of Hobby Center for Public Policy.

Eight students will work on policy analysis and research, write briefs and attend meetings with constituents and lobbyists in Austin through the University’s inaugural Hobby Fellows legislative internship program.

The program was designed to allow undergraduate students the opportunity to work alongside legislators during the legislative session, which is held within 140 days in odd-numbered years, said Renée Cross, associate director of Hobby Center for Public Policy.

“The goal for the Hobby Fellows is to allow the students the chance to gain a better sense of the governmental process and public service. There is so much about government that cannot be taught in the classroom,” Cross said.

She is the director of the program — overseeing the program fundraising, recruitment and selection of the interns, and she assigns them to the individual legislative offices. As the instructor of record, she develops the curriculum and provides guidance with all academic assignments.

Political science and history senior Krystafer Redden was chosen to work alongside state Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-148).

“The program is named for longtime public servant and former Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby. Both he and his family have a long and storied history of philanthropy and service to the greater good of our nation, of Texas and of Houston,” Redden said.

“I joined the program to gain experience in the legislative and public policy process. Having previously served on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and worked at a non-profit in Washington, D.C., I felt this would complement my educational background while offering further education in good governance and immersion in the policy-making process.”

The Hobby Fellows program launched as the 83rd Texas legislative session began, giving UH students the opportunity to receive the full experience of how politics and the legislative system works.

“I would like to find a way to bridge theory and practice, and by doing so, enact sound policy. But regardless, the experience of working in a fast-paced legislative environment offers myriad benefits beyond simple utility,” Redden said.

“I hope and plan to gain a greater understanding of the intricacies involved in the legislative process and experience the ways in which constituent work — the concerns of the citizens whom we represent — influence or govern the legislative agenda and policy-making process. I also intend to further develop my knowledge of education policy and gain experience in the policy areas of public health and defense.”

Students went through a series of steps before being selected and assigned to representatives.

“Initially, I applied to the program through a paper application that included a supplemental writing sample and multiple letters of recommendation. After review, I was invited to interview with professor Renée Cross and program manager Isaiah Warner, both of HCPP. Finally, I was invited to a boardroom-style panel interview with faculty, staff and community leaders. I was notified of my selection shortly thereafter,” Redden said.

Acceptance into the program is based on merit: a combination of grades, experience and writing ability.  Additionally, candidates must have a demonstrated record of public service, either in other government internships, with community groups or on neighborhood projects. Students can earn up to 12 hours of credit in political science.

The internship is five months, beginning on Jan. 3 and ending May 27.

Environmental science and political science senior Estefani Jimenez joined the program to gain real world experience in politics, she said.

“I had previously interned for the late Sen. Mario Gallegos and decided that I wanted to know more about how the process works. Gallegos helped out many people, specifically Hispanics, and that was also a reason why I joined: I want to help out people in general as well,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez wants to attend law school and pursue a career in environmental law. She is assisting state Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna this semester.

“I’m excited to be assigned to Hernandez’s office,” Jimenez said. “She’s an alum and went to the same high school as I did.”

HCPP has a history of creating public service professionals. Harris County District Court Judge Al Bennett and state Rep. Armando Walle were introduced to the public realm when working as government interns at UH.

Key staff leaders at all levels of government in Houston, Austin and Washington, D.C. have emerged from the HCPP programs. Cross believes the Hobby Fellows program will help to develop the skills needed to be a leader in the world of politics.

“In Texas, the name Hobby is synonymous with public service,” Cross said. “We hope to add just a little to the long-term legacy of the Hobby family through the achievements of the exceptional students at UH.”

Students interested in the program can find more information at www.uh.edu/hcpp/hobbyfellows.htm.

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