Hosted by the Henry Clay Center in Lexington, KY, only one student from each state and the District of Columbia is selected for this competitive summer internship program on statesmanship.
By Riana Jicha.
A political science major from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo was selected to represent Hawai‘i at the 2023 College Student Congress to be held this summer at the Henry Clay Center, a nonprofit located in Lexington, KY, dedicated to advancing the skills and values of traditional statesmanship. Only one student from each state and the District of Columbia is selected for this very competitive internship program.
Leoshina Kariha, from Papua New Guinea, is a junior who came to Hawai’i through the United States South Pacific Scholarship Program, administered by the East-West Center on behalf of the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. She is a member of Pi Sigma Alpha, a national political science honor society, and along with her bachelor of arts in political science is also working toward a minor in geography and a certificate in international politics. She plans to graduate in spring 2024.
“It’s an honor to represent the state of Hawai’i and its people, and I am so thankful for this opportunity,” says Kariha about the prestigious internship.
She says she hopes to take the knowledge and skills gained from her both her academics and internships back to her homeland to help in education and development in rural areas.
The College Student Congress
The College Student Congress is a two-week summer program for undergraduates interested in public policy, politics, diplomacy and modern leadership. Interns learn about the dynamics of the policy process through an experiential and immersive curriculum, engaging with lawmakers, academics, government relations experts, policy advisors and other leaders to explore the challenges of formulating comprehensive public policy.
A key component of the program is a public policy project, where the interns research and develop a bipartisan solution for a policy challenge currently facing the nation.
“When I saw the application being circulated in the political science department by [Associate Professor of Political Science] Su-Mi Lee, I was interested in applying because I saw that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn more about the mechanisms of formulating public policy,” says Kariha on her inspiration to apply for the program.
At the congress, Kariha hopes to connect with students in the national community to enhance her understanding of community action. She strives to learn about issues and experiences others have lived through, gaining a broader understanding of policy that addresses community issues. Through this comprehensive approach to policy, community, and connections, she seeks to develop further her appreciation for United States’ democratic processes and formulations.
“I believe that understanding legal processes is crucial so that we can be instrumental in change that can give us a voice and visibility in the community,” she says.
This summer opportunity is not Kariha’s first internship. Last fall, she interned at the Hilo offices of U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele where she learned more about representation of indigenous people in government policy and positions, bringing to light the necessity of the expression of all people, something she will continue to seek in her summer program.
One of the reasons for Kariha accepting these internships is so she can return home to Papua New Guinea loaded with practical knowledge that she can then put toward the national development of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. It is an area near and dear to her, a region currently under the process of independence after being fraught with civil wars from 1988 to 1998. Bougainville is the province where her father is from, so it is close to her heart and of great concern regarding its plight for independence. Kariha strives to aid in that independence through her future policy work.
“Growing up in the Pacific Region, people only dream of making it to D.C., a place where many historical figures in U.S. politics made their debuts and where their actions shifted global politics,” says Kariha. “I plan on taking the knowledge and skills from my degree back to PNG so that I can help in education and development in rural areas.”
Along with the Bougainville issue, she hopes to tackle other topics commonly found in minority communities that can be resolved through changes in public policy such as indigenous land rights, climate change, healthcare disparities, and issues that impact women.
By Riana Jicha, a double major in administration of justice and political science at UH Hilo.