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APSU political science students intern with Tennessee General Assembly

By: Victoria Godinez April 17, 2024

From left: Dr. Bednarczuk, Dustin Malone, Carly Barnes, and Sharita Wysinger.
From left: Dr. Bednarczuk, Dustin Malone, Carly Barnes, and Sharita Wysinger.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - This semester, five students from Austin Peay State University’s Department of Political Science and Public Management interned in various legislative offices with the Tennessee General Assembly. These students immersed themselves in a hands-on legislative environment, gaining valuable experience and contributing to the workings of the assembly.

Throughout their internships, the students were involved in various activities, including assisting with constituent concerns and working to advance their members' legislative agendas. This unique opportunity allowed them to learn firsthand about the legislative process and to make a meaningful impact within their members’ districts.

The internship program is open to junior and senior students with a minimum GPA of 3.0. It allows them to engage with real-world policymaking and gain practical skills in a professional setting. Internship participants are eager to utilize their knowledge and passion for public service to contribute to the legislative process and make a difference in their communities.

Read the experiences of the internship participants below.

Sharita WysingerSharita Wysinger, junior political science major

Sharita Wysinger, a junior political science major and pre-law minor, interned with the Office of State Sen. Edward Jackson from District 25. Jackson represents the Tennessee counties of Crockett, Decatur, Dyer, Henderson, Lake, Madison and Perry.

As a legislative intern, Wysinger assisted with legislative tasks, public relations, legal document preparation, correspondence, event planning, research and more.

Wysinger pursued the internship to gain practical experience in government operations, network with political professionals, enhance her existing skills and develop new ones, such as leadership and critical thinking. She said the internship has been a crucial stepping stone towards her future career, allowing her to serve the residents of Tennessee while bolstering her resume and personal growth.

Other highlights of Wysinger’s experience included the impact of the supportive office staff and the invaluable knowledge she gained from serving on intern committees. She credited her professors, Director of the Tennessee Legislative Internship Program Shirley A. Frierson and others for the opportunity and said gaining hands-on experience in the legislative process was invaluable.  

Dustin MaloneDustin Malone, junior history major and political science minor

Dustin Malone worked in the office of State Rep. Darren Jernigan from District 60. Jernigan represents a portion of Davidson County that includes the neighborhoods of Donelson, Hermitage and Old Hickory.

As an intern, Malone carried out a variety of tasks, including researching bills assigned to to Jernigan’s committees, answering phone calls, running legislation and amendments to the clerk's filing office and any other responsibilities delegated to him.

Malone’s passion for politics, particularly at the state level, drove him to apply for the Tennessee Legislative Internship Program to help kickstart his career on the Hill.

After researching the program, Malone spoke with a close friend who had previously completed the internship and decided to apply. He also credits Bednarczuk for his support during the internship process.

Malone said the experience gave him valuable connections and insights, paving the way for his future endeavors in the realm of state politics.

Joseph KmeyerJoseph Kmeyer, senior political science major

Joseph Kmeyer, a senior political science major set to graduate in May, interned with the office of State Sen. Ken Yager, the chairman of the Republican Caucus.

From handling constituent calls to assisting with running bills, Kmeyer’s days were filled with tasks aimed at ensuring the well-being of the chairman and his constituents. Yager represents Campbell, Clay, Fentress, Macon, Morgan, Overton, Pickett, Roane and Scott counties.

One incident from his internship stood out - a man struggling with his TennCare benefits who was unable to access crucial medical appointments and medications due to financial constraints contacted the senator’s office for help. With Kmeyer’s assistance, the issue was resolved within a week, restoring the man's access to essential healthcare services.

As Kmeyer navigated the complexities of constituent services, he realized the profound impact these interactions had on individuals' lives. He said helping the citizens of Tennessee was a fulfilling experience, and he hopes to continue doing so in a similar role.

Kmeyer also credited Bednarczuk for his guidance and said his support was essential in allowing him to obtain the internship placement.

Carly Barnes Carly Barnes, senior political science major

Carly Barnes, a senior political science major with a minor in pre-law, interned with the office of State Sen. Bill Powers from District 22. In her role, Barnes was responsible for scheduling meetings with constituents and lobbyists, aiding constituents with state-related issues and tracking bills for Powers, who represents Montgomery County.

The internship experience provided Barnes with a firsthand understanding of state government operations and the intricate processes involved in policymaking. She emphasized the significant impact local representatives have on the daily lives of Tennesseans, which motivated her to explore a potential career in politics. Through her involvement in the Community Service Committee, she actively participated in organizing monthly service projects for interns and fostered a sense of community engagement and responsibility.

Barnes said her internship was invaluable, not only for the professional skills she acquired but for the meaningful connections she established within the political sphere. She encouraged others interested in politics to consider similar opportunities and said there are many diverse roles available in the field.

Zee SchumacherZee Schumacher, senior political science major

Zee Schumacher interned with State Rep. Lowell Russell's office in District 21. Her duties included filing bills, assisting with the schedule, answering phone calls, editing the newsletter and taking on additional tasks to support the office, which represents parts of Loudon and Monroe counties.

Schumacher was drawn to this internship after hearing glowing reviews from peers who had previously interned at the Tennessee General Assembly. She decided to explore the opportunity further and found it to be a perfect fit, opening up learning opportunities that aligned with her goal of pursuing a career in law.

The internship allowed Schumacher to engage with attorneys' daily experiences, gaining valuable insights and inspiration from their diverse paths to success. By immersing herself in the legislative process firsthand, she expanded her knowledge of legislative topics and gained a deeper understanding of how these concepts manifest in real-world scenarios.

Schumacher said she was enthusiastic about the internship because it provided invaluable opportunities to witness the legislative process up close and translate classroom learning into practical experiences.