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Office of the Provost

Kathleen Enz Finken

Panetta Congressional Internship Program

In August 2019, the Panetta Institute will begin the 21th annual Congressional Internship Program for students selected from the twenty-three campuses of the California State University along with three private universities. The program runs thirteen weeks, beginning with a two-week training session at the Panetta Institute, followed by eleven weeks in Washington, ending in November. Campuses are invited to choose an outstanding undergraduate (junior or senior) student leader to participate in an extraordinary learning experience held at the Institute and in the nation’s capital.

This program is open to students in any academic major recognized by the university, subject to the criteria stipulated below and any other criteria set forth by the president’s office. It provides an opportunity for students to enhance their educational experience by providing real-world engagement in the exploration of Congress, civil leadership, and community and public service. The cost of the program is fully funded in order to allow participation by any qualified student, independent of family income. Student benefits include academic fees and tuition, food and housing, a living stipend, a text-binder and other academic materials, along with air and ground transportation.

Application Process

Qualified applicants will be selected based on their application materials and the program requirements. Selected applicants will be contacted for a preliminary interview with the campus selection committee. During the interview, the committee will assess the applicant’s clarity of speech, overall demeanor and character, leadership potential or experience, and interest in or commitment to community and public service, among other items. Selected finalists will advance to an interview with President Armstrong, who will determine the campus nominee. All applicants will be notified of selection or non-selection.

Cal Poly’s nominee will travel to the Panetta Institute in Monterey for an interview with the Panetta Institute interview team, which includes a representative from the CSU Chancellor’s Office. During that visit, the campus nominee will also meet with the CSU Monterey Bay campus police department to begin the process for a background investigation. The Panetta Institute interview team reserves the right to reject the nominee if the student fails to meet the Panetta Institute’s standards set for participation. Students may also be rejected due to the findings of the required background investigation. The Panetta Institutes makes the final determination for all program participants.

2019 Call for Applications

All dates are tentative and will be finalized mid-January.

  • January 31, 2019, Application packets due to Office of the Provost
  • February 5-8, 2019, Tentative preliminary interviews
  • February 18, 2019, Finalist interviews with President Armstrong

Application Details

Application packets must be hand delivered to the Office of the Provost (building 01- room 305) no later than 5:00 pm, Thursday, January 31, 2019.

Do Not include cover sheet, table of contents, recommendations or other information.

Packets are to be paper clipped together, please no report covers or staples.

Packets must include the following information.

  • Panetta Institute Congressional Internship Application Information form
  • Two-page personal statement of interest
    • May be single or double spaced
    • No margin restrictions
    • Single-sided only
  • Current resume
    • Single-sided only
  • Recently graded paper
    • Minimum three pages in length
    • Must include professor’s comments and grade accompanying or written on the paper
    • May be on any subject
  • Complete higher education transcripts
    • Transcripts from other higher education institutions must be included
    • Unofficial transcripts are acceptable
    • Copy of Cal Poly Planner is acceptable
  • Incomplete or electronic applications will not be considered.


Questions may be directed to Jeanne Scott, or 756-2186.

Interested students should review the links below:


Philip “RJ” Abarquez

Philip “RJ” Abarquez– 2018

Philip “RJ” Abarquez, 21, a political science major seeking to study law is Cal Poly’s 2018 representative to the Panetta Institute for Public Policy’s Congressional Internship Program.

The junior from San Jose is among twenty-six students from around the Golden State taking part in the program. Participants were nominated by their respective campus presidents.

“Through the Panetta Institute, I hope to become better engaged and informed regarding the political process at the county, state and national levels,” he said. “I will be learning about all the jobs and positions across the political spectrum through hands-on experience in a congressional representative’s office. My hope is that this internship will shine a light on what it takes to succeed as a public employee in the political arena.”

Abarquez, who will graduate next year before pursuing a law degree, has dreamed of running for public office.

“I feel extremely fortunate to have been selected for this tremendous opportunity,” he said. “It’s not everyone who gets a first-hand look at the day-to-day activities on the ground level in Washington, D.C. I fully recognize what an honor it is to represent Cal Poly in this venture.”

This year is the 20th anniversary of the celebrated program, recognized as one of the leading internship courses in the nation because of the rigorous training it provides. “We are proud that our program has earned the reputation of being one of the finest internship programs in the nation,” said Secretary Leon E. Panetta.

Panetta, the nine-term Central Coast congressman who later served as director of the CIA and secretary of defense for former President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, said the internship offers a unique opportunity for students.

“There’s just no substitute for this firsthand experience to promote public service,” he said. “We’ve had tremendous cooperation from our members of Congress — both Republicans and Democrats — in working with our students.”

The Panetta Institute covers program costs including course registration fees, campus services during orientation, air travel and housing in Washington, D.C. By covering these expenses, the Institute can make the program available to interns from all socioeconomic levels.

The Cal Poly Panetta Congressional Intern is supported in part through
the Ed and Jan Slevin Congressional Internship Endowment.

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