Allegheny senior to spend semester with legislature

Heather Bosau, ’17, has been accepted to participate in the Pennsylvania Legislative Fellowship in Harrisburg from mid-January to early April, making her the third student from Allegheny College to be selected for the fellowship in the last three years.

“I worked at the Center for Political Participation with Abby Lombard last spring, and she kind of told me about [the fellowship] and suggested that I talk to Professor Patrick Jackson about it,” Bosau said.

Bosau said she began speaking to Jackson about applying for the fellowship last year and began working on the application over the summer and submitted it this semester.

Jackson, the college’s national fellowship adviser, assists students interested in fellowships with their applications. He said for this fellowship, he mainly recruits students involved in the CPP or those students with a law and policy concentration.

I would encourage other students to get involved, especially from Allegheny. It is great to have Heather joining us.

— Sheryl Thomas

“Students don’t need my endorsement for this, per se,” Jackson said. “I don’t write a letter or anything like that, but I help them get the application together. But I knew when Heather came in that she was going to be a good candidate.”

Bosau said she was required to submit an essay detailing her college experiences and why she was interested in the program. The application also called for two letters of recommendation and the applicant’s transcript, Jackson said. An in-person interview takes place after an application has been reviewed, Bosau said.

“Their application process is actually pretty simple,” said Bosau.

Bosau’s interview took place in mid-October, with two representatives from the organization.

When accepted, fellows learn that they will be assigned a specific committee to work with once the fellowship begins. Bosau said she does not yet know which committee she will be assigned to.

Bosau said she also is not sure what will be included in her her daily tasks, but she knows she will be required to conduct research and speak to lawyers at the fellowship. This will assist her in coming up with a piece of legislation, which she will submit as her final project. She will have to present her idea to legislators.

The experience is categorized as a fellowship, but Bosau said it is akin to a paid internship.

Bosau is graduating this month. Currently, she is the president of the Pre-Law Club. In the spring semester, she will hand her title to the current vice president of the club, Maddie Baric, ’17.

Jackson said there are two deadlines for the fellowship, one in the fall semester and another in the spring semester.

“It’s a semester-long program, and you can do it either semester,” Jackson said.

Jackson said applicants must submit their applications the semester prior to when they wish to participate.

Pat DiFrancesco, ’15, was the first Allegheny student to recieve the fellowship, and was assigned to work with the Pennsylvania legislature’s then-Democratic Whip, Michael Hanna.

Lombard, ’16, was the second student accepted and was assigned to work with the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

Jackson approached Terry Bensel, associate provost and director of the Allegheny Gateway, to discuss DiFrancesco’s interest in applying to the PA Legislative Fellowship in the fall 2014 semester.  Bensel said he looked into it and thought it was a great idea.

“What I didn’t realize is that Pat was going to be so successful in the program that the people who run the program, actually, were really eager to have more students from Allegheny apply to the program,” said Bensel.

Lombard again impressed the fellowship the following year.

“When a school wins these kinds of things in back-to-back years, and we only had one person apply both times, that’s an indication we’re onto something and that’s a pretty good program and we should not turn our backs on it,” Bensel said.   

Bensel says that he believes DiFrancesco was the first student from Allegheny to apply to this fellowship.  The fellowship typically recruited people from the eastern side of Pennsylvania, but not the western side, Bensel says.

Jackson’s position in the Gateway as nationally competitive awards adviser was fairly new when DiFrancesco’s applied for the fellowship, Bensel said.  Jackson has made it possible for students to be able to focus on applying to national fellowships, he said.    

“A lot of people get offered jobs,” Jackson said. “I think something like 30 to 40 percent wind up with jobs and wind up taking jobs in the state government.”

Bosau said she feels the fellowship will be a great opportunity to meet people who may be in a position to help her at some point in her career.

“From the sounds of it, it builds connections. It’s a great networking opportunity,” Bosau said. “But [participants] have also had job offers that have come out of it.”

Bosau believes that the two previous students did not accept the job offers because they had other plans after graduation.

“The point is, this fellowship is a pipeline to work with the state government,” Jackson said.

The fellowship was established in 1982, according to Sheryl Thomas, PA Legislative Fellowship coordinator.

“It is a way to empower young leaders and prepare them for future legislative opportunities,” Thomas said.

Participants engage in weekly workshops and sit in on a variety of political meetings.  They work Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and receive a biweekly stipend.

“I think it is an amazing program,” Thomas said. “I came out of the program myself.”

The fellowship has always accepted undergraduate juniors and seniors, but now also accepts law school students, Thomas said.  Students who are eligible to apply include Pennsylvania students and Pennsylvania residents, even if they attend school out of state.

“We want them to have a very comprehensive view of state government,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the fellows learn how to work on bills and the entire legislative process.  The fellowship teaches participants how to draft the language for their own piece of legislation, which they will submit at the end of the 13 week program.

“I would encourage other students to get involved, especially from Allegheny,” Thomas said. “It is great to have Heather joining us.”

Bosau said her plans are to attend law school. She has not made any final decisions, but is hoping to become involved in policy work in the future. She said she believes this fellowship will allow her to make a decision about whether that is something she wants to pursue.

“I have been sort of watching from the sidelines and admiring the work that Professor Jackson has done to help students through the process, and that’s exactly the kind of work he does with these other students applying for other kinds of fellowships, as well,” Bensel said.

Applying for a fellowship is something that needs to be worked on from early on in a student’s college education, Bensel said. He recommends students begin conversation with Jackson during their sophomore year.