The Harry S. Truman Center for Governmental Affairs at UMKC offers the Truman Bootstrap Award to two students each summer semester. The application deadline for next summer’s program is Dec. 19.
The Truman Bootstrap Award was created to provide students with an opportunity to intern in a congressional office in Washington, D.C. Its purpose is to enhance students’ interests in public policy through a summer-long immersion experience working directly with members of Congress and their staff members.
Last summer the interns spent nine weeks in D.C.. The first week was used to acclimate the students to their surroundings, and the last week gave them some time to sightsee and experience the history of Washington, D.C.
“We try to make [the experience] as rich as we can,” said Dale Neuman, Program Director of the Truman Center.
The award has been offered each summer since 2008. It was created in honor of Harry S. Truman, who “bootstrapped” himself up through political ranks despite his lack of a college degree. Applicants for the Truman Bootstrap Award are required to show that they might not otherwise be able to get a Washington, D.C. experience without this assistance.
Last year, the UM system invited all of its campuses to join in a combined experience that increased students’ abilities to network with more people than before. Interns from all UM campuses are now housed in Washington, D.C. condos rented by UM, rather than have each campus’ interns housed separately. UM President Tim Wolfe hosted a send-off dinner for last summer’s interns to introduce the new collaboration.
In addition to providing housing, UMKC fully funds round-trip airfare to D.C., summer semester tuition costs for the internship and the required book, as well as reimbursement for meals and incidental expenses up to $1000 (receipts are required for reimbursement). Student interns provide their own spending money and are responsible for paying for any changes to the travel itinerary after tickets have been purchased by the University.
Senior political science and economics major Noland Perrilloux III was one of the two interns during the summer 2014 semester. He was assigned to Senator Claire McCaskill’s office, where his daily duties included clerical tasks like answering phones and sorting mail. He also had opportunities to speak with constituents regarding McCaskill’s stances on policy, after which he directed them to caseworkers who were able to help with a particular issue. He also attended congressional hearings, where he took notes for other staffers who were not able to attend.
“One interesting hearing I attended was for [U.S. Army] Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl,” Perrilloux said. “It was about possible unlawful [breaking of] constitutional bounds for the detainee swap.” (Sgt. Bergdahl was recently released from a five-year captivity in Afghanistan in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees.)
Students from all majors are welcome to apply for the Truman Bootstrap Award, but most tend to have majors or minors in political science, according to Neuman. Applicants are required to have had a basic course in American government and a portfolio documenting their interests in civic affairs and community service.
“We feel like anything we can do to get people involved in civic engagement … is part of meeting our mission,” Neuman said.
Two critical parts of the application process, according to both Neuman and Perrilloux, are the essay and the recommendations. The process is competitive and the interns are selected by a group of UMKC alumni who have either previously interned or have managed an internship program.
“Go to teachers you actually know,” Perrilloux said. “Those you’ve had a class with, not someone higher up in the department. Talk to someone who will write something positive about you, not just give a vague statement.”
Neuman stressed that there are no extensions granted on the Dec. 19 deadline, nor are any of the requirements waived. The completed application is due by 5 p.m., Dec. 19, 2014, in the Truman Center mailbox located in Scofield 302.
For more information about the award and application requirements, visit http://cas.umkc.edu/trumancenter/bootstrap.asp. The Truman Center also lists other internships, scholarships, work and volunteer opportunities on the web page.