Richmond, Va.
Friday, July 31, 2015

Virginia Capital Semester Deepens Students’ Knowledge of the Legislative Process

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Editor’s note: VCU’s Virginia Capital Semester program has provided internships at the Virginia General Assembly for college students from across the state. Some of this year’s participants reflected on their experiences in the following article, which was compiled by student participant Joseph Quesenberry.


VCU students received valuable experience this spring by serving as interns at the Virginia General Assembly through VCU’s Virginia Capital Semester program. The students worked a minimum of 20 hours per week through the assembly session while still taking a full load of VCU courses.

The  L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs in the College of Humanities and Sciences began the Virginia Capital Semester Program in 2004 with the mission to train tomorrow’s leaders by providing internships in state government.

The Capital Semester program offers interns the opportunity to work alongside Virginia’s leading policymakers, providing a hands-on environment to learn how state government works. Students were paired with senators and delegates across the state, allowing them to watch the evolution of bills and to learn what it takes to truly be a good statesman.

Students who participated in the program this spring said the experience helped them develop a better understanding of the Virginia General Assembly and a better idea of how different political leaders play a role in the policy process.

“Working with Delegate R. Steven Landes, a VCU alumnus, was an incredible learning experience in better understanding the state legislative process," said Joseph Quesenberry, a senior in the Wilder School. "I plan to take the knowledge and skills learned from the internship and apply them to my career ambitions in the government sector."

Participating in the internships allowed students to deepen the knowledge they’ve gained in classes to better understand the inner workings of the General Assembly.

"I feel that the knowledge that I have gained from this internship, paired with the classes I have taken at VCU, will keep me motivated to push myself to new levels, and achieve new goals,” said sophomore Adam Darr, who interned under Del. Thomas Rust.

In the Virginia Capital Semester program, interns receive the opportunity to learn about the various sub-committees, committees, the House and Senate sessions, committees of conference and the role of lobbyists in state government.

“My time in the General Assembly was invaluable,” said junior Elizabeth Butterfield, who interned for Sen. Richard Saslaw during the General Assembly. “Sometimes it was hard to balance school with my internship but it was definitely worth the experience.”

Students in the Virginia Capital Semester program also participated in a weekly policy seminar taught by Eric Finkbeiner, an instructor in the Wilder School and a former senior policy advisor of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. This course provides interns with the opportunity to run mock committee hearings, draft bills of their own, learn the lobbying process, all while using their time in the Virginia General Assembly as an experience for them to rely on. 

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This year’s participants of VCU’s Virginia Capital Semester program pause for a photo on the steps of the south portico at the Virginia State Capitol. Photo provided by student participant Joseph Quesenberry.