Department of Political Science | Mar. 12, 2013 | Spotlight

Capital Fellow experiences the legislative process first-hand

CSULA’s political science alumna selected as a State Assembly intern

Pictured: Samantha Contreras.

For her passion and commitment to public service, Cal State L.A. alumna Samantha Contreras was recently named a 2012-13 Capital Fellow by the Center for California Studies at Sacramento State University. Contreras, along with 63 other college graduates, are being offered unique experiences in policy-making and development with California state government.

As a Capital Fellow, Contreras is assigned to work as an intern full-time for 11 months, from Oct. 2012 to Sept. 2013, in the Office of Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) through the prestigious Jesse M. Unruh Assembly Fellowship Program.

“Samantha Contreras will be a great ambassador for Cal State L.A. in Sacramento, and we’ll have to get her to visit when she’s in Los Angeles to let our undergrads know that this great resource is available to them,” said Greg Andranovich, professor of political science at CSULA. “Samantha is an outstanding political science graduate whose interests in community affairs and public policy make her the ideal candidate for the Capital Fellows Programs.”

The State Assembly program is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious legislative fellowship programs. This opportunity provides individuals of all ages and backgrounds to directly participate in the legislative process.

“As a fellow, I am a legislative aid responsible for guiding bills through the legislative process and staffing for the Assemblyman in one of the committee he sits in,” explained Contreras, who earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from CSULA in June 2012. “I brief the Assemblymembers before a committee hearing, work with committee consultants, and meet with stakeholders on a variety of issues important to Californians.”

Contreras previously worked for a local non-profit organization, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, while a full-time student at CSULA. She also volunteered as a mentor for Young People For (YP4), which is part of the People for the American Way Foundation. She was a member of the CSULA Salsa Club. In 2011, Contreras received the Edward and Judith Malecki Scholarship Award.

In addition to the work in the State Capitol, Contreras is currently enrolled in Sacramento State University attending weekly graduate seminars while submitting research papers.

Pictured: 2012-13 Capital Fellows. (source: Center for California Studies)

2012-13 Capital Fellows

“I am also invited to attend various networking events and fundraisers with some of the state’s top leaders and tireless staff members,” said Contreras. “I am tasked to learn a variety of issues, such as public safety, education, elections, environment, among other topics, and make a recommendation that will impact millions of Californians.”

Her passion and commitment to public service, she shared, are grounded in a deep conviction to ensure that the American values are reflected in the laws that are signed and enforced.

“As a nation, we hold dear the values of freedom, equality and opportunity; yet every year there are countless bills introduced and enacted that counter such values,” said Contreras. “Government must take a proactive role in repairing the relationship between its people by acknowledging that public service is a complete dedication to its citizens with full recognition that every human being is entitled to courtesy and consideration.”

Overall her experience has strengthened her belief in democracy and the importance of ordinary citizens getting involved and being patient with the gradual change they wish to see in the government.

“My background, experience, and the training I received with the fellowship program will allow me the opportunity to learn and improve the quality of life for Californians,” said Contreras. “After my fellowship I hope to continue working in the Capitol to solidify my public policy experience. Then, I will further my education by obtaining a Master in Public Policy.”

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