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A Capitol Adventure: Panetta Scholar Looks Back on Internship Experience

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As an intern for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, political science junior Tori Hust had a front-row seat to some of the most pressing issues in the nation’s capital.

“I think the biggest issue facing our current society is partisanship,” said Hust, who spent the last semester in Washington, D.C., as Cal State Fullerton’s Panetta Scholar. The Panetta Congressional Internship program selects one student from each of the 23 CSU campuses to send to the nation’s capital, where they intern for a California member of Congress. The student must be recommended by the university president and cabinet.

“During my first two weeks there, Sen. John McCain passed away, and this had a major impact on Congress because even though he was partisan, he reached across the aisle when necessary,” Hust recalled “It was clear how well-respected he was.”

However, Hust noted, the mood shifted during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. “I saw many protests within the Senate office buildings. There was a lot of anger and confusion, but there was still hope for the future.”

Hust also cheered the passage of H.R. 6 — The Support for Patients and Communities Act, also known as “the opioids bill.” She was encouraged by seeing Democrats and Republicans work together to reconcile their differences.

“What was most surprising to me after working in Washington, D.C., was how different it was from what is portrayed by the media. While at a protest on the steps of the Supreme Court, I watched a television network take one extreme person from each political party and pit them against one another. That is what is consistently depicted to the rest of the United States.

“But I discovered that D.C. is not as negative as it appears to be on TV,” Hust said. “Yes, there are many issues that divide the citizens; however, a large number of staffers and members of Congress are working together to resolve their differences in order to come up with solutions.”

Hust, a first-generation college student, was sent to her first congressional briefing about 15 minutes after walking into the office.

“I had to squeeze into a tiny room packed with staffers so that I could get the notes that my office needed,” she stated.

An assignment for the senior policy advisor on health and budget, turned into a semester-long effort collecting data on the increase in drug prices, opioid statistics and Medicaid expansion. Hust attended numerous off-hill briefings and seminars held at entities such as Georgetown Law School, The Brookings Institution, the Embassy of Finland and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Hust was able to meet with lobbyists and attend two “kitchen cabinet” meetings, where interns are rarely invited. In one meeting, she found herself surrounded by Democratic Congressional members and leaders.

“I was overcome with excitement and appreciation for this opportunity,” she said. “My passion for public service was amplified in that moment.”

Following her graduation from CSUF, Hust plans to earn her juris doctorate and a master’s degree in public policy.