Internships open government doors

Emily Johns

For University junior Drew Koepsell, an internship at the Secret Service provides the perfect stepping stone to a career in law enforcement.

Koepsell, a political science and sociology double major, has been working for the Secret Service since June.

Koepsell is one of more than 60 students with political science department internships this spring. The internships offer opportunities in all levels of government.

On a daily basis, Koepsell analyzes counterfeit money, helps agents with financial fraud cases to identifying theft cases and maintains agents’ undercover vehicles.

“There are better-paying private jobs but there is more going on, and more important issues are dealt with in the government,” Koepsell said.

“It’s basically public service,” he said. “This is my foot in the door for my future career.”

Political science department internship director Paul Soper said public-sector internships provide an opportunity for students to find out what it is like to pursue a public service career.

“We want our students to bring their classroom knowledge to the real world and see whether the theories that they learn hold up or not,” Soper said.

More than 20 students usually participate in summer political science internships, Soper said, and 30 participate in the fall semester due to the election schedule. He said depending on when the Legislature is in session, another 40 students to 60 students participate in the spring.

The political science department works directly with students to help set up some of the internships with Minnesota politicians like Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democratic U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo, Soper said.

Students set up other internships on their own, then consult Soper about getting credit for them. Internships are available to all University students, but most are unpaid, Soper said.

He said students can get from three credits to 12 credits for internships, depending on how often they work.

“It’s kind of the tradition with internships, for better or worse,” Soper said. “It’s mostly an opportunity for the students to bring their classroom knowledge to bear on a real-world work environment.”

Political science internships, Soper said, include working with lobbying firms at the State Capitol, for human rights advocates and with state lawmakers. He said there also are a limited number of legal internships and Secret Service jobs.

Soper said some students work in public service abroad, like a student who worked for the U.S. Embassy in Dublin, Ireland.

“As long as it’s got a component of public service, politics or government, it’s OK,” he said.

Koepsell, who works almost 22 hours per week at Minneapolis’ Secret Service office in the federal courthouse, said even though having a government internship is time consuming, it is worth the effort.

“I can balance out college and school and my fraternity within my job,” Koepsell said.

“I eventually want to move on to other jobs in the federal government,” Koepsell said, “but what appealed to me is how flexible it is. My boss always reminds me that there are better-paying private jobs, but there’s more going on in the government.”