In seventh grade, Anna Consani was awarded “Most Likely to Become a Senator” by a classmate. The distinction didn’t mean much to her then.
“I got that thinking, ‘Okay, first of all, I don’t even know what a senator is,'” Consani said. “I hadn’t even been through American History yet, and so I was like, ‘Okay, maybe she sees me as a leader or whatnot — I had done honors society, but that’s about it.’”
The political science junior has come a long way since then. Two weeks ago Consani received another distinction — an opportunity to represent Cal Poly at the Panetta Institute for Public Policy Congressional Internship Program in Washington D.C., which gives college students an opportunity to get hands-on experience working as interns for California Congressmembers.
This program worked with Consani’s plans — she intended to go abroad or have an internship this fall, so when she heard about the program from her department head, “I said, ‘Hey, this looks like a great opportunity.’”
The Congressional Internship Program selects one student from each California State University, as well as Santa Clara University and Dominican University. Students first attend a two-week course in late August at the Panetta Institute of Public Policy in Monterey, Calif., where they learn about the legislative process and current national issues, and then travel to Washington D.C. for the next two-and-a-half months. The Panetta Institute for Public Policy covers students’ orientation and living costs during the internship, such as lodging and transportation, as well as a stipend.
After applying for the program, Consani interviewed with the provost’s office and met with President Jeffrey Armstrong, who selected her and one other student from Cal Poly to move forward in the process. Consani then went to Monterey to interview with the Panetta Institute of Public Policy’s Director Sylvia Panetta.
Panetta said Consani answered the questions well and described her as “eager, enthusiastic and bright.”
“She wanted to learn about government by being there,” Panetta said.
Interns in the program do tasks such as answering phones, doing research and attending meetings, Panetta said, but they also “get to learn all about Congress.”
Consani was “so happy” when she got the good news that she had been chosen for the program — but said being chosen as a finalist from the Cal Poly applicants was the biggest accomplishment.
This opportunity was perfect timing, she said — it’s an election year, and she’s also deciding what she will do after graduation.
Her interest in politics didn’t really start until high school, Consani said — she attended the National Young Leader’s Conference in Washington D.C. when she was 15 and met other students from around the country. Her experience there made her “fall in love” with leadership and want to make a change, she said.
And she didn’t stop there. Consani was also involved with the YMCA Youth in Government program in high school, and at Cal Poly she’s been involved with the Model United Nations and the Political Science Club. Her experience at the National Young Leader’s Conference along with Cal Poly’s Model United Nations made her choose political science as her major, she said.
Political science department head Craig Arceneaux is also the adviser for Cal Poly’s Model United Nations, and said Consani has been involved for the past two years. She was the head delegate for Cal Poly’s representatives at the Model United Nations conference in New York at the beginning of April.
Consani has been very active in the political science department, Arceneaux said, and has always been a good student. While Arceneaux said it’s exciting Consani was chosen for this internship opportunity, it “wasn’t all that surprising.”
“If I had a list of students who were deserving of the award, she’d certainly be there,” Arceneaux said.
Consani’s experience with Model United Nations has fueled her interest in a career as an ambassador or in the United Nations, she said. This opportunity with the Panetta Institute is a step on the way to that, she said. So far she has “kind of ignored” domestic public policy, but she said she knows it’s an important area to get involved with in order to get into international relations.
Her leadership interests at Cal Poly aren’t limited to political science — she’s been involved in a number of other campus groups, including the Week Of Welcome orientation team and serving as co-chair of the Open House committee this year. If she hadn’t had that position with Open House, she would not have had as much confidence and skills to pursue the Panetta Institute internship, she said.
“I don’t do anything that I’m not 100 percent committed to and that I don’t love,” Consani said. “Everything I’ve done has kind of linked together in some sense.”
One thing Consani wants to do again with this internship is surround herself with people who are different from her and who challenge her, and see “how they operate on different levels.” She also wants to “see the pace of things” in government.
“A huge problem today in the United States is that people don’t either trust the government or really know what’s going on — they get biased news, the media skews things one way or another,” Consani said. “So actually going there and learning the processes of things and how they’re working on the other side of the news is what I’m most looking forward to.”
Consani said she still has work to do before August, though. She wants to learn more about current events and what’s happening in Washington right now. Plus, she has “a lot of school the rest of this quarter to get through.” But she has a lot to distract her now, she said. Once she gets it all done and when summer comes, she can prepare herself and look forward to the internship.