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2011 graduates Damian DeStefano, Lauren Cutajar-Wynne, Heather Lehman
and David Bentz are now part of the Delaware General Assembly staff.
2:12 p.m., Jan. 6, 2012--As the new legislative session prepares to
kick off Jan. 10 in Dover, four of last years 12 University of
Delaware Legislative Fellows are gaining their initial post-graduate
experience working for the Delaware General Assembly. They earned their
degrees in the College of Arts and Sciences.
David Bentz, who received his master of public administration degree
with a concentration in state and local management, is working for the
House Majority Caucus. Lauren Cutajar-Wynne and Damian DeStefano, who
each received an undergraduate degree in political science, are working
for the House Majority Caucus. DeStefano received an economics degree
in 2011 as well. Heather Lehman, who also received her bachelors
degree in political science, is working for the Senate Minority Caucus.
Each had worked during the 2011 session through UD's Legislative
Fellows Program, a competitive internship that provides students the
opportunity to assist legislators in dealing with critical issues facing
the state. Last year the program celebrated its 30th year of
partnership between the Delaware General Assembly and the University.
Legislative Fellows is a flagship program of the University and is managed by the School of Public Policy and Administrations Institute for Public Administration (IPA).
The Legislative Fellows Program is a wonderful example of the value
of collaboration, says Joseph Pika, CAS associate dean for the social
sciences. IPA recruits outstanding students from across the college;
those students gain valuable work experience in state government,
learning important life skills including the value of public service.
Ultimately, students benefit, legislators benefit and the public
Historically, many former fellows have secured post-college
positions within the state government, IPA Director Jerome Lewis says,
though most go on to successful careers elsewhere.
Lewis adds, The fact that a third of last years fellows were hired
immediately by the General Assembly speaks volumes not only about this
programs importance to the state but of the high caliber of University
of Delaware students chosen. Were very proud of them, and they serve as
role models for current and prospective fellows.
In fact, Lehman, who works directly with State Senators Joseph W.
Booth, Colin R.J. Bonini and David G. Lawson, had so impressed as a
fellow that she was hired last March, prior to graduation. Reflecting a
bit of the angst within the current job market, Lehman says, I feel
very fortunate to have found something within my field of interest.
and quickly adds, Having Legislative Fellows on my resume was really a
Bentz echoed that sentiment. Having been a fellow makes you more
qualified than other applicants. DeStefano added, You have a real
leg up in state government, in that youre familiar with [the
legislators], and theyre familiar with you. Bentz works directly with
State Representatives Earl G. Jaques, John A. Kowalko and Teresa
Schooley, and DeStefano with Representatives E. Bradford Bennett and
Darryl M. Scott.
Whereas the other three graduates work for particular legislators
within their respective caucuses, Cutajar-Wynne holds a specific
position within the House Majorityspecial projects and data manager. I
am so grateful to be a staffer for the House Majority Caucus, she
says, and I know the cohort of new Legislative Fellows will find their
work in the state legislature transformative.
Selected through a competitive University-wide process, fellows are
assigned to work directly with the states policymakers in one of the
legislatures four caucuses. Carpooling to Dover three days a week
during the legislative session, fellows provide in-depth, nonpartisan
research on issues of concern to the states legislators and citizens,
staff committees, and respond to constituent concerns. The broad range
of public policy issues they research includes energy assistance to
low-income households, credit fraud and identity theft, and education
According to IPA associate policy scientist Lisa Moreland, co-manager
of the Legislative Fellows Program and a former Legislative Fellow, the
assembly entrusts its fellows with an unmatched level of
responsibility. The kind of research our fellows are involved in is
usually done by full-time professionals in other states. It's a
fantastic opportunity for our students and a good value for the
legislature, she says.
Twelve new Legislative Fellows will be working with the 146th General
Assembly during its current session. They are profiled on the Legislative Fellows Program website.
Article and photo by Mark Deshon
Originally published by UDaily.
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