Bianca Cruz


Bianca Smiling

Panetta Institute Congressional Internship

Degree: Bachelor of Arts, in History, with a minor in Sociology: Law and Society
College: Natural and Social Sciences
Class of 2022

Name of the Internship/Opportunity (and its benefits):

The Panetta Congressional Internship: One student, out of a pool of Cal State LA student nominees, is selected to represent the university through an all-expenses-paid three-month internship in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the Panetta Institute at CSU Monterey Bay. Students gain first-hand experience and work in the office of a congressperson within the U.S. House of Representatives. The intern takes part in how Congress operates, as well as seeing what happens in a congressperson's office.

What are your future career goals?

In the near future, I plan on attending Law school, where I hope to concentrate on immigration and civil rights. My long-term goals are to open a foundation where I can use all my life’s experience to help out my community and create positive change.

What motivated you to apply, and what were some of the challenges while using it?

In light of what was currently happening in our nation, most prominently the State of Minnesota v. Derek Michael Chauvin case, I wanted to better understand what “justice” looks like in our nation's legal system. Having been a sociology minor, I had for some time been learning what law looks like in real life versus what’s written on paper. My growing interest in political institutions' actions in real life due to both the influence of professors and current events was the primary motivator for my application, as well as my interest in becoming a lawyer.

Describe a typical day in your internship. What kind of skills did you learn? Memorable/challenging experiences?

What was unique about the internship was that every U.S. Representative has their own set of office policies. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many offices worked remotely; however, I had the fortune to work in person. Unlike other interns in the program, my office made me their press intern, which was a very unique yet thrilling event. As a press intern, I worked closely with the press team to research current National and global events to produce content that could better inform our office and constituents. My duties included drafting scripts for videos, award speeches, and floor speeches on legislation that Congresswoman Brownley authored or co-sponsored. In addition, I drafted social media posts and toolkits relating to key legislation or breaking news. I loved the duties I had, and I would say the most surprising aspect of working for the Congresswoman was how amazing the Brownley team was. Although every team member is a professional in their field, they were all down to earth. They truly were a great team, and I feel fortunate to have worked for them. The most memorable experience I had was being able to attend hearings on the steps of the House of Representatives. It was exciting to be 20 feet away from some of our nation's most prominent leaders, including Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Kevin McCarthy, Chuck Schumer, and Mitch McConnell.

What advice would you give to future applicants for this internship/opportunity?

I think the most important aspect of the entire application is to be your genuine self. The Panetta Institute is filled with many highly qualified professionals in their field that are extremely humble. Humility is a very important quality to have and will help any candidate go very far in the process, whether applying or working for your representative's office. Students tend to get very nervous about the entire process, and although it can seem scary, it is important to remember everyone in the process wants the best for you. There is no need to be nervous. In addition, don’t be discouraged if you are not a political science major. Although many of the applicants and selected students are poli-sci majors, this program is genuinely for anyone who wants to deepen their interest in politics and leadership.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I had the fortune to come from a really supportive family who helped me financially, which gave me the opportunity to graduate with my B.A. in just three years at the age of 20. I had applied to Cal State LA thinking I would be a Chicano/Chicana studies professor but many of the professors I had sparked a passion for a better understanding of politics. For example, I recently took an LGBTQ political history class with Professor Thomas Alvarez, and his lectures were amazing. He deepened my passion for learning more about civil rights and hopefully concentrating on civil rights as a future law student.

Any other information you would like to mention or include that wasn’t asked here:

The most important thing I took away from this experience was the friends I made in D.C. Although every aspect was super intriguing, I would advise anyone in the program to have fun and make genuine connections with others. Being away from your home for three months can be extremely challenging, and your friendships are what help you not feel homesick. In the long run, your fellow students are the ones who are going to help you out the most, and you all are going to be going through similar issues.

Contact NISFEP to find out how to apply and be considered for the Panetta Congressional Internship
More information on the program: