Harrisburg Semester

School of Public Affairs
(717) 948 6648
Fax Number: 
(717) 948 6320

The Internship Experience

The Harrisburg Semester Internship Program places students in the midst of Pennsylvania politics and policy making and provides them with practical, on-the-job experience working in their field of interest. For many, this internship is a student's first 'real-world' learning experience and opens the door for future employment opportunities. Students participating during the Spring Semester will experience the Capitol while offices are in full session while Summer participants will have the opportunity for a range of experiences while staying on track with projected graduation schedules. Both Penn State and non-Penn State students are eligible to participate.

Benefits for students

  • Increases self-confidence as public service professionals

  • Builds resume and portfolio

  • Enhances networking opportunities and connections for future employment

  • Encourages intellectual growth, integrating classroom learning with workplace experiences.


Faculty coordinators work closely with students to place them in state and local government agencies, community and economic development organizations, government-related businesses, and non-profits.

Specific placements may include the state legislature, state agencies, public affairs and lobbying firms, and policy advocacy organizations in areas such as economic development, human rights, and environmental policy. The program also seeks new internship sites to match students’ interests.

Recent placements

  • State legislature (committees, representatives, and senators)

  • State agencies: Human Relations Commission, Department of Health, Governor’s Policy Office,  Department of Agriculture, Department of Aging

  • Lobbying and public relations firms:  Novak Strategic Advisors, the Winter Group, the Bravo Group, Greenlee Partners, Delta Development Group, and TRIAD

  • Economic development organizations/public-private partnerships: Harristown Development Corporation

  • Advocacy organizations: Pennsylvania League of Conservation Voters, Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations, the Pennsylvania Council on Independent Living, Harrisburg Regional Chamber of Commerce

  • Non-profits: United Way, the YWCA

  • Pennsylvania Legislative Services

Common responsibilities

  • Conducting legislative research

  • Attending legislative committee meetings and hearings

  • Planning conferences and special events

  • Preparing marketing and media reports

  • Designing and updating websites

  • Responding to constituent requests

  • Tracking federal or state legislation

  • Preparing campaign events

  • Engaging in policy advocacy

For more, see excerpts from student journals.


Students are encouraged to apply early, as paid internships are limited. Students should choose an internship placement based on its value to future career goals. Several stipends are available for students who accept unpaid internships.


All students must enroll in the Harrisburg Semester Seminar (PUBPL 490), which meets one evening a week and helps students learn about the political environment and context for decision-making in Pennsylvania government. Additional classroom requirements vary based upon a student’s academic program and the semester in which they are enrolled.

The program works with non-Penn State students to ensure that the Penn State credits will transfer to their home institution.




  • Students who already have earned 60 credits.

  • Students with a minimum 3.0 grade-point average

  • Exceptions: Students not meeting the preferred criteria must submit strong recommendation letters and evidence of high motivation and commitment.

Application deadline

  • Applications begin being accepted late in fall semester.

  • Early application is encouraged to ensure the most placement options. (Some internship sites begin interviewing students for summer slots in late February and extend offers by mid-March.

  • Applications accepted on a rolling basis, however acceptance and placement are not guaranteed for late applicants.

Application process



Students must pay the current Penn State undergraduate tuition rate for the courses outlined. Students from other schools will pay the current undergraduate tuition rate to their home institution.


  • The International House (I-House) http://www.ihousehbg.org -- Located in center city Harrisburg, within walking distance of most internship sites and the Capitol. Created to provide a warm and friendly environment where students, scholars, and interns can live and learn from one another. The I-House fills quickly. Students should reserve housing as early as possible.

  • On-campus housing at Penn State Harrisburg – The campus is located in Middletown, eight miles east of downtown Harrisburg. Contact Penn State Harrisburg Housing and Food Services at 717-948-6241 for more information.

  • Housing in the city of Harrisburg is available through various sources.

Rental rates

Rental rates for housing, including the International House, list between $550-$750 per month.


Students should also budget for food, transportation, and entertainment.

Financial Aid

  • Liberal Arts Scholarships for University Park Students — Must be a full-time undergraduate (i.e., at least 12 credits per semester) with primary major in the College of Liberal Arts and require funds to support activities such as internships, study abroad, and travel to professional conferences associated with the major.
    2011-2012 Application for Student Enrichment

  • The Cliff Jones Fund — Several stipends of $2,500 each are available to Penn State undergraduate students who enroll in the summer Harrisburg Semester program. The fund, named in honor of the longtime Penn State Harrisburg advocate who served four Pennsylvania governors in cabinet positions, was initiated to financially assist students in the Harrisburg Semester program which he helped create.

  • Honors Students — Students should check with their honors program about the availability of financial aid for internship and public service projects.

Non-Penn State Students

  • Students from other academic institutions who meet the academic criteria are welcome to participate in this program. Students are strongly encouraged to contact the Harrisburg Semester coordinator to discuss their objectives for participating in this program. Past students have participated in Harrisburg Semester for job experience only, while others received permission from their home institution to transfer credits back to fulfill graduation requirements.

  • Non-Penn State students should seek stipends from their home institution.


Students have benefited greatly from the Harrisburg Semester experience.

  • Kyle Miller interned with Democratic State Senator Anthony Williams in summer, 2013. He remarked: "Thanks much for a great semester. I had a great time and learned a lot about Pennsylvania politics."
  • Christina Pastrana, then a University Park history major, an intern in 2007, said of the experience: "One of the most rewarding aspects of this job is the opportunity to meet and speak with many people who are in the forefront of legislation."
  • Chris Hagen-Frederiksen, a Schreyer Honor student, has said: "I found the Harrisburg Semester program to be incredibly beneficial to my academic and professional development. Upon entering the program, I knew I was interested in politics and law, and the program only sharpened my focus. My internship experience offered me a rare opportunity to undertake a hands-on role in policy analysis and develop an intimate knowledge with how an independent Commonwealth agency operates, and develop analytical and writing skills beneficial to my undergraduate, professional and legal studies."
  • Matt Appleman, an intern in summer, 2013, said of his experience: "That course over the summer was the best class I ever took by far!"

Supervisors of interns were also very positive in their evaluation of their interns, indicating that the program provides a win-win for students and organizations.

  • Lobbyist and former Pennsylvania lieutenant governor Mark Singel said of an intern whom he worked with in summer, 2013: "Politics is harder than you think—and more fun than you can imagine! It was a pleasure working with Almir throughout this semester."
  • Another supervisor, Cody Harbaugh, representing the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, said: "The student showed an impressive knowledge when it came to key political issues, players, and policy. He also was very adept at working on database management, and much of his work in the area was very precise."
  • Jon Hopcraft, Executive Director of the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, mentioned: "Matthew excelled in many areas seldom seen in other legislative interns. He was able to take minimal direction to complex research projects on his own time...."