Campus & Community

IOP internship seeks to engage students in politics:

3 min read

"Summer in the City" pairs undergraduates, mayors

The Institute of Politics (IOP) has kicked off a new internship that will send Harvard undergraduates into America’s cities this summer to look for innovative programs and practices that engage youth in politics.

The internship, called “Summer in the City,” comes with a $2,500 stipend and is being run in collaboration with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. It is part of an effort to involve a new generation of youth in political activities, according to IOP Chairman Dan Glickman.

City government, Glickman said, is the place where the contact between government and the people is the most intimate. In these tough budget times, he said, students will see the struggles to provide needed services firsthand.

“It’ll be interesting to see politics at the local level, how they cope in this atmosphere,” Glickman said. “If they [someday] want to run for office, running for local office is usually the first step.”

Though the IOP has traditionally focused on national politics and players, Glickman said there has been a shift over the years that has put more power in the hands of local governments. In addition, he said, there has been a greater acknowledgement of the importance of services provided at the local level since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“Over the years, we haven’t focused [as closely] on state and local government, which is where a lot of the policy is being made these days,” Glickman said.

The new program adds to the internships already offered by the IOP. Each summer, the Institute sends more than 100 students to a variety of settings to work and learn. Though the IOP is located at the Kennedy School of Government, Glickman said its focus is not just graduate students. The new internship is just part of the Institute’s offerings for undergraduates.

The students will travel to Boston; Akron, Ohio; Atlanta; Baltimore; Charlotte, N.C.; Detroit; Long Beach, Calif.; Miami; Nashville, Tenn.; and Oakland, Calif. A student will work with the Conference of Mayors to coordinate the program. Students will travel to the Conference of Mayors annual meeting in Denver in June to meet their mayors and then travel to their host cities to begin their internship. They will report on the best programs and practices in youth engagement they discovered when they return to Harvard in the fall.

“Meeting the challenges facing America’s cities will require the active participation of the nation’s young people,” said Boston Mayor and Conference of Mayors President Thomas Menino. “I am pleased that Harvard students will work with mayors to identify successful programs, suggest improvements, and help other cities replicate our best practices.”