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Former Mānoa Political Internship Program interns and Program Director Lawrence Nitz gather at College Hill.

A program providing University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa students with a valuable opportunity to work at the top levels of state and federal government is celebrating its golden anniversary in 2024.

three people talking
Former interns Rio Kwon and Korynn Gremert converse, while Kai Noa Lilly, Mānoa Political Internship Program Coordinator from fall 2012-fall 2020, looks on.

Organizers, alumni and supporters gathered at College Hill on April 12, to honor the 50-year milestone of the Mānoa Political Internship Program. The gathering recognized some of the people who have made the program possible over the past five decades.

“I think it is important to document parts of our curriculum that stand the test of time. This is especially true of activities that put our students in touch with the operation of the offices and issues in our democracy,” said program director and Department of Political Science Professor Lawrence Nitz. “We can advocate that all students sign up for a political campaign—but there are likely only two campaign seasons in an undergraduate’s career. There are internship opportunities all the time. These lead to genuine engagement, and in many cases, an opportunity for a staff position in an office.”

An up-close view of state, federal government

person smiling at camera standing in front of capitol
Christy Wagner

Internship participants experience an up-close view of state and federal government and gain skills to advance their careers in a variety of fields through hands-on work, combined with an enriching academic program. While the state internship has been around since the program’s inception, the U.S. Congressional internship started in 2010.

Christy Wagner, the event’s featured guest speaker, was part of the first cohort of congressional interns. After completing her internship and earning her bachelor’s degree in political science and certificate in peace and conflict resolution in 2010, Wagner served in various positions, including as a legislative director, senior defense and foreign policy advisor, special assistant for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs at the Pentagon, military legislative assistant and acting chief of staff. Most recently she served as the chief of staff to the former U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele and is currently the deputy director of legislative affairs at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

person smiling on the balcony of a building
Theresa Ng

“The Mānoa Political Internship program gave me the experience, exposure, and opportunities in Washington, D.C. that unlocked a meaningful career in the federal government,” Wagner said. “Participating in the first Congressional internship 14 years ago set an incredible professional course and direction for me in the years to come. Congratulations to UH Mānoa for 50 years of connecting talented, passionate students with life-changing opportunities!”

Wagner and other former interns, including Theresa Ng, have gone on to prominent roles in government and other sectors. Ng, who graduated from UH Mānoa with degrees in public health and political science, interned for Hawaiʻi’s Lt. Gov. in 2021 and U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in 2022. She is now a Senate office manager in the Hawaiʻi State Legislature.

“I would not be where I am now without the support of the Mānoa Political Internship Program,” Ng said. “Both internships helped me foster an interest in policy. I was also exposed to legislative procedures, which helped me better appreciate the state’s process for civic engagement. Through my internships, I was inspired to work at the legislature to understand more about the potential policies being considered.”

three people talking
Jairus Grove, Department of Political Science chair, converses with Mānoa Political Internship Program Director Lawrence Nitz and College of Social Sciences Dean Denise Eby Konan.

The program offers five political internships: U.S. Congressional, Hawaiʻi Governor’s office, Hawaiʻi Lieutenant Governor’s office, Hawaiʻi State Legislature and Hawaiʻi Judiciary. The application deadline for spring 2025 internships is October 15, 2024.

For more information and to apply.

The Mānoa Political Internship Program is housed in the UH Mānoa College of Social Sciences.

three people talking with each other
Former intern Cori Terayama, at left, with Laurie Onizuka, political science secretary, and former intern Carina Fasi.
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