For those who have walked the halls of the Indiana Statehouse as interns, it can be a career-shaping experience, providing guidance and clarity for students considering a future in policy or politics.
Each year, the Indy Chamber selects one O’Neill School graduate student interested in policy development and political action as its HobNob intern, named for the Chamber’s annual HobNob event.
On August 29, the Chamber selected O’Neill Policy Analysis major Erin Query, who will begin work when the 2020 legislative session starts in January. She will also receive the $5,000 stipend from Cripe Architects & Engineers that comes with the internship.
But Query will do much more than mix and mingle with influential people at the Statehouse.
Sydnee Cseresznyes, an O’Neill MPA student focusing on public management, served as the 2019 HobNob intern. She says the HobNob experience provides a unique nonpartisan view of the policy process.
“With caucus internships, you’re loyal to a party; lobbying internships are loyal to clients,” she says. “The HobNob internship focuses on issues that impact Hoosiers.”
It’s that political neutrality that appealed to Cseresznyes.
“I think the HobNob internship is the best internship in the Statehouse,” she says. “I was able to interact with everyone. I think doing what is right for the people and businesses in your community is more important than sticking to one side of the aisle. The Chamber hits that nail on the head.”
Cseresznyes worked at the federal level while interning with former U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly’s office. She says that internship helped her understand that the slow grind on Capitol Hill makes it very difficult to make an impact. It also made her realize she wanted to use her skills on the state and local levels instead.
“I wanted to use my influence to make a difference and see that work come to fruition,” she says. “The great thing about the Chamber is that—because they’re nonpartisan—where the bill comes from doesn’t matter. It only matters how it impacts the people and businesses of Indiana and Marion County.”
The session began with nearly 2,000 bills. Cseresznyes helped the Chamber’s team filter those down to a list of about 500 that impacted the Chamber’s top legislative priorities.
She attended hearings on bills relating to those issues, listened to testimony, and monitored each bill for developments that could impact the Chamber’s priority topics. She reported back to the Chamber’s leadership team, who used the information to adjust testimony, conversations, and strategy.
“I stayed longer than was required some days, but I wanted to make sure I was prepared and that our team was prepared,” she recalls.
That may have meant a few longer nights, but Cseresznyes says interns should approach this experience as they would a full-time job. She says while the hours she put in were not unreasonable, they likely don’t leave time for a second job or multiple classes. That’s why the $5,000 stipend was critical for her.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do this internship without the stipend,” she admits. “I couldn’t afford to do an unpaid internship; I have a family and was taking an online course. The stipend is essential to ensuring you can be fully present during this experience.”
Cseresznyes says immersing herself in the internship has paid off. She completed an additional summer internship with the Citizens Action Coalition, researching utility-related policy and hearings. She landed a position with Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration as a policy developer writing and amending Indiana code related to Medicaid with a special focus on substance abuse and mental health.
She says this position is a strategic stepping stone toward her future career as a lobbyist here in Indiana.
“The HobNob internship prepared me to work in the policy realm,” she says. “You can’t get this kind of preparation anywhere else because it’s just so hands-on. It really defined my career path.”
That’s why she says other students who are interested in public policy should strongly consider applying to become the next HobNob intern.
“There are a lot of different policy-related internships you can do,” she says. “But if you’re passionate about Indiana, this is the one you’ll get the most out of. If you’re even thinking about public policy, go for the HobNob internship. It really help shaped my career path.”