Panetta Institute | Spotlight

Congressional intern gets insider’s look at national politics

CSULA’s business student selected for Panetta Institute internship program

Reflections by
Angelica Sagum:

“One event that I would like to highlight was the night I was invited to have dinner at the ranch of Secretary Leon Panetta and his wife, Sylvia Panetta. Secretary Panetta had told us the story of his life growing up at the ranch.

He was a child of immigrant parents and felt that he had a strong duty and obligation to serve our country. Starting at an early age, he dedicated his life to a life of public service: Congressman of the 16th and 17th Districts, White House Chief of Staff for the Clinton Administration, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and now, Secretary of Defense.

Through his many years of advancement and success, he reminded us that it doesn’t matter where you came from or where you went to school. Much of life’s success is based on taking advantage of life’s opportunities and doing each job and task greater and better than anyone else.

Being able to take risks is an essential part of being a leader. It’s about setting goals, then reaching even higher than what you had originally intended.

Being a leader means understanding that we are called to make difficult decisions that impact the lives of millions.

When making such decisions, we should always focus on making our country a better place for future generations; for in essence, that is what our nation’s government is called to do.

Through this experience, I realized that I would like to live a life of public service. I have been blessed with many talents and abilities, yet what makes life so fulfilling is when we use our gifts to be able to help and serve others.

America is a wonderful nation and in order to restore its growth and move towards advancement, we must have young leaders, such as myself, embody the same spirit that Secretary Panetta spoke of—the passion and drive to make each generation better than the last.”

Picture of Angelica Sagum in front of the U.S. Capitol.
CSULA business management major Angelica Sagum in front of the U.S. Capitol, where she is interning for the fall.

While other students returned to the classroom this fall, Cal State L.A. business management major Angelica Sagum headed to Washington, D.C., to gain first-hand experience in American politics as an intern for the office of Congressman Joe Baca (CA-43rd District).

Sagum is one of 23 college students selected to participate in the Panetta Institute’s Congressional Internship Program based on exemplary scholastic achievements and interest in politics and public policy. She, along with the others, received an intensive two-week training session before proceeding to the nation’s capital to work alongside members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

As a Panetta Institute intern, Sagum helps publish tri-weekly online newsletters that are sent to Congressman Baca’s constituents to bring about more awareness of current issues, improvements, and legislation that Representative Baca is currently working on. She also serves as a liaison—corresponding between the congressman and his constituents by reading, researching, and addressing issues presented by the people.

“I research projects and write reports on various issues that my chief of staff would like to know more about,” said Sagum. “My latest report was written on Transforming Wartime Contracting in Afghanistan and Iraq, focusing on bringing awareness to Congress of the amount of waste, fraud, and abuse occurring overseas; and informing them of the recommendations for improvements set forth by the Commission for Wartime Contracting.”

Picture of Angelica Sagum with Congressman Baca.
Pictured: (l-r) CSULA student Angelica Sagum and Congressman Joe Baca.

Sagum’s duties include assisting office legislative assistants by attending hearings and briefings in the Senate, House and Capitol. She shared, “Prior to attending these briefings, I do preliminary background research, attend and take notes of the meeting, ask any questions that may be of use to my congressman and staff, and thereafter, compose a memo addressing the significance, improvements, current status, and foreseeable future of the issue.”

As part of the internship program, she also attends seminars and workshops with key administration personnel on such topics as “Concensus Building,” “The Floor of the House,” “Federal Funding for Minority-Serving Institutions,” and “How Washington Works from a Lobbyist’s Perspective.”

Sagum, who is also an Honors College student, plans to complete her bachelor’s degree and continue with a master’s degree in Health Care Management after the internship. She said, “I would like to implement new and improved standards of patient care, help in creating a system that allows for greater accessibility to healthcare insurance, implement educational health wellness programs for our nation’s schools, study the growth of the aging population, and work to establish a sustainable approach for our nation’s healthcare provisions to the elderly.”

She added, “With a background degree in business and healthcare, as well as a love for education and people, I hope to use my communication and leadership skills to continue to serve and work to improve our nation’s health on all levels.”

Founded in 1997 by Leon and Sylvia Panetta, the Panetta Institute serves the entire CSU system plus several other schools. It provides a variety of study opportunities in government, politics and public policy, and sponsors a range of other activities to benefit the surrounding communities. The Panetta Institute covers the cost of the internship program, including transportation and housing, and offers a small stipend and 20 academic credits.

“There is no substitute for this kind of first-hand experience to promote public service,” said Panetta Institute’s Director Sylvia M. Panetta. “Our interns finish the program informed and inspired and ready to continue a life of active citizenship in their future education and professional careers.”

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