Cal State Fullerton’s tradition of sending one student to Washington, D.C., to intern in the nation’s capital as part of the Panetta Congressional intern program continued in 2020, but unlike in previous years, the experience was entirely virtual.
Isaac Alferos ’22 (finance), currently also serving a two-year term on the California Student Aid Commission advocating for the state’s higher education students, was chosen for the Panetta program’s scholarship in 2020. He learned virtually, despite the closure of the House of Representatives during the duration of the program.
Instead of living and working in D.C., Alferos attended more than 30 Zoom sessions over two weeks, which were led by experts discussing foreign and domestic policy topics. Some of the speakers were former presidential cabinet secretaries, California state officials, researchers and journalists.
“It became an endurance game of keeping up with each lecture and understanding the subject area. Recognizing the ability to ask a cabinet secretary their thoughts on current policy is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I wanted to make sure I was well prepared and ready. I affectionately called it ‘Public Policy Bootcamp,’” says Alferos.
Panetta Scholars were tasked with writing an extensive policy paper and reviews, and group chats with fellow scholars were integral to succeeding.
“We spent many all-nighters collectively supporting each other,” recalls Alferos.
Alferos looks forward to a career in social policy, specifically marshalling the ability of higher education to combat broader issues such as incarceration, basic needs insecurity and economic inequality.
For more on Alferos’ experience and the Panetta Internship, see this CSUF News article.