Since 1978, the New York State Senate Undergraduate Session Assistant Program has given students direct access to state government and the legislative process. Approximately 30 undergraduate students are selected for this unique experience every year. Strong personal initiative and principles are essential for success in the program.
The Senate Undergraduate Session Assistants Program is an opportunity to experience first hand our state government and legislative process. The Program runs four months, from early January to late April.
The Program was designed for college juniors and seniors, though exceptional sophomores are occasionally selected. Freshmen are ineligible. Majors in all accredited disciplines are accepted and encouraged.
The program was created to introduce students to New York State’s dynamic legislative process. Students are expected and encouraged to help meet the day-to-day demands of the New York State Legislature’s upper house. Students will develop legislation and shape public policy. They will address constituent concerns and tend to the understated procedures and dynamics of legislative session. These are but a few of the challenges they will face.
Students can apply online or by mail. Consult your college advisor as institution internship deadlines typically precede those of Senate Student Programs.
Session assistants are assigned to work full-time in a Senator’s office based upon the student’s experience, abilities, and policy interests. Office supervisors will assign assistants work and responsibilities related to the legislative process. Such duties may include: policy research; constituent relations; or the preparation of legislative documents. It’s hands-on, hard work.
Model Legislative Session allows students to experience firsthand the lawmaking process, including drafting, negotiating, and debating/voting on original student legislation. It is the culminating program activity and the experience of a lifetime.
Applicants must be matriculated undergraduates at an accredited college or university located in New York State. Majors in all accredited disciplines are accepted. Freshmen are ineligible. To be considered, applicants must have been enrolled full-time in the previous spring, as well as the current fall semester/trimester, and have maintained a minimum 3.0 grade point average. Off-campus eligibility must be conferred by authorized academic institution faculty. Applicants must meet their institution’s requirements for off-campus study.
Applicants must identify and contact their Campus Liaison Officer (CLO), or duly authorized advisor, to determine: the requirements for off-campus study; whether they are eligible to participate in such a program; the number of course credits earned; and their institution’s deadline for off-campus internship applications.
The Senate does not award course credits. Instead, a confidential performance evaluation will be provided. Advisement, evaluation, and the granting of credits are the responsibility of on-campus faculty. Due to the demands of the program, the Senate imposes a limit of three (3) additional classroom credits pursued outside the program during enrollment.
- Upon approval for off-campus study, the applicant must submit to the Senate Student Programs Office the following documents via their CLO/Advisor:
- A completed Undergraduate Session Assistant Application;
- Official school transcripts;
- Certification of current coursework;
- A one-page resume;
- Three confidential letters of reference from persons familiar with the applicant’s academic abilities and professional aptitude;
- A listing of three (3) legislative policy area preferences; areas of interest
- A six to eight (6-8) page paper or essay;
- Two one-page memoranda (a policy proposal, and rebuttal);
- A personal statement; and
- Signed and dated student statement.
The Senate awards a $8,800 stipend to Session Assistants. The stipend is paid in biweekly installments following an initial two-week lag. Assistants are required to work a minimum of 35 hours per week, or 70 hours per biweekly pay period. Due to the nature of legislative work, longer hours may sometimes be necessary. Session Assistants must work through the last scheduled date of the program to receive the full and timely payment of their final biweekly stipend check.
The Senate does not provide for and is not responsible for Session Assistant housing. Upon acceptance into the program, students are encouraged to utilize local resources such as: Capital District local newspapers (e.g. Times Union, Troy Record, Daily Gazette); online sources (e.g. Craigslist and area classified ads); local academic institutions (e.g. SUNY at Albany, and the College of St. Rose); and public libraries.
Upon arrival, students participate in an orientation program that presents the rudiments of the legislative process and culture. Weekly seminars feature procedural topics and key participants. Assignments can include reading, writing, and/or speaking assignments, including an in-depth paper.
2020 Margaret J. Hughes Scholarship Award winner: Ana Ortiz-Bravo
Margaret J. “Maggie” Hughes served with distinction as deputy director of the Washington Office of the State of New York, as a special assistant to Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller, and with the Washington Office of the New York State Senate.
Wise, patient, and caring, Maggie was a knowledgeable resource and friend to many interns and young staffers. Every year, the New York State Senate awards $1,000 to the Undergraduate Session Assistant that embodies the values and commitment to public service for which Maggie was known.
Awardees are selected based upon overall performance, written communication skills, and a commitment to serving the public with integrity.
Margaret J. Hughes Memorial Fund Scholarship Awardees