“Everybody came back changed”: Innovative program creates lifelong opportunities
November 16, 2023
Author: Cal Powell  | 706-542-6402  | More about Cal

Pamela Monroe can’t remember how she first heard about the upstart Legislative Aide program.

She knew exactly why it appealed to her, though. Entering the final year of her doctoral program in the FACS department of child and family development in 1984, Monroe was intrigued by the thought of a career in public policy.

The Legislative Aide program, though only in its second year at the time, seemed an ideal fit.

“I was very interested in public policy and macro-level work, which at the time was quite novel for our field,” Monroe said. “The program was the perfect opportunity to pursue my policy interests, gain necessary experience and discern whether this was the field in which I wanted to work after graduation.”

In retrospect, the program was “the single most important opportunity for experience of my educational career,” Monroe said.

“It defined my professional career,” she said.

The program grew out of a casual conversation between then-dean Emily Quinn Pou and Georgia Rep. Bob Argo in 1982, when Argo mentioned the Georgia delegation did not have office aides at the Capitol.

Pou and faculty member Anne Sweaney designed the Legislative Aide internship program, which pairs FACS students with Georgia legislators during the session to give the students a behind-the-scenes look at policy making.

The program expanded in 1984 to offer internships in the 10th U.S. Congressional District in Washington, D.C.

“This was very innovative,” Sweaney said. “Everybody came back changed. They saw the importance of the program and a lot of them found their career for life there.”

Sweaney said one of the goals of the program was to enhance the college’s reputation among state legislators, but also to give FACS students access to an influential and well-connected group of people.

She noted many other colleges eventually created similar programs modeled after it.

“I think it really helped put FACS on the map,” she said

Forty years later, the Legislative Aide program continues to create connections that lead to meaningful careers, as was the case with Monroe back in 1984.

Her first job upon completing the doctoral program was as a legislative staff member for the Health and Welfare committee in the Louisiana House of Representatives.

Four years later, she accepted a faculty position at Louisiana State University, retiring in 2022 after a distinguished career, which included being named a Fellow of the National Council on Family Relations.

Monroe leaned on her training and experience to develop policy courses and internships for students, training thousands of them in public policy while conducting significant research on policy matters.

“I sincerely believe that the foundation provided in that initial opportunity helped open all those doors, and for this I remain deeply grateful,” she said. “The experience was significant, formative and instrumental to my professional development.”

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Reflections from former FACS Legislative Aides

From my experience serving as one of the inaugural Legislative Aides, I learned how to work with legislators to seek funding for community projects. As a result, I was able to obtain several million dollars in state funding from the New Mexico legislature to support a statewide parenting education program for teen parents, single parents, foster parents, grandparents raising grandchildren and incarcerated parents.

Esther Devall - Professor emeritus, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, New Mexico State University. Assigned to Sen. Paul Broun, 1983-84 (inaugural year)
Esther Devall
Pamela Monroe

The experience was significant, formative and instrumental to my professional development.

Pamela Monroe - Professor emerita, LSU School of Social Work/Child and Family Studies, College of Human Sciences and Education. Assigned to Sen. Paul Broun, 1984-85

It was a wonderful experience that marked the beginning of my interest in politics and civic responsibility. In that time, I also realized the full range of career possibilities that are available to a FACS graduate. I count the Legislative Aide program as an important rung in the ladder I’ve climbed in the decades since I was in Washington D.C.

Gregory Lang - Retired as Executive Director of Good Samaritan Health Centers of Gwinnett. Assigned to U.S. Rep. Doug Barnard, 1986-87
Gregory Lang
Tammy Gilland

Serving as a FACS Congressional Aide was a life-changing experience. My FACS internship gave me the chance to live my dream of working on Capitol Hill. I got to experience the positive impact elected officials can make in the lives of constituents. I saw the value of choosing the right staff for the right roles. I learned the importance of networking and gaining the trust of colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Most importantly for me, it helped me realize that where I could best use my skills and talents was not on the federal level but the local and state levels. My time as a Congressional Aide changed my career focus and opened up new doors for me to explore. I am grateful to FACS for such a wonderful opportunity to learn more about myself and for the courage to let go of one dream to pursue another!

Tammy Gilland - Director of Community Relations for Piedmont Athens Regional. Assigned to Congressman Doug Barnard, 1987-88

My internship in Washington introduced me to the legislative process and the daily activities of representatives – meetings with constituents, committee sessions and interactions with stakeholders with a wide variety of interests. I assisted with fielding inquiries from constituents, and because I was working on my doctorate in child and family development, I did some background research for my representative on federal funding for childcare. That experience and D.C. socialization really set me up for my career in state government, conducting program evaluations and research in juvenile justice and social service programs and advocating for evidence-based practices and related legislation in state agencies, the courts, legislatures and governors’ offices in Florida and California. It made a real difference in the direction of my career.

Steve Chapman - Retired as Director of Public Health Statistics, Florida Department of Health. Assigned to U.S. Rep. Doug Barnard, 1988-89
Steve Chapman
Kelly Dean

Getting out of the classroom and seeing how public policy is formed was a great learning experience. My advice to students: pursue and get those internships! You start building a circle of contacts and you’ll take those with you the rest of your life.

Kelly Dean - Marketing Director of SDA CPA Group. Assigned to Rep. Michael Thurmond, 1990-91

I loved my time as a Legislative Aide. It helped open my eyes to how our government is run on a daily basis. Senator Broun was a wonderful influence and always wanted to know my opinion of the issues.

Paige Fuller - Sales director with Mary Kay Cosmetics. Assigned to Sen. Paul Broun, 1994-95
Paige Fuller
Jennifer Ward Dunn

I absolutely loved my time as an aide in 2001 working for the Georgia Women’s Legislative Caucus. Instead of having one boss, I had over 40. I adored the team I worked with and made lifelong friends; the relationships I made 22 years ago have helped me in my career since. It was such a rewarding experience.

Jennifer Ward Dunn - UGA Extension College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences as a Rural Health Agent specializing in Behavioral Health. Assigned to Women’s Caucus, 2000-01

The Legislative Aide program provided a unique experience with a front row seat to the Georgia General Assembly. The professional experience gained from this program was invaluable and has paved the way for opportunities in my career. I am forever grateful for having been a part of this incredible program and for having had the opportunity to work alongside Representative Louise McBee.

Jacquelyn Tucker - Sales, HUB International. Assigned to Rep. Louise McBee, 2001-02
Jacquelyn Tucker
Coutney Geter

The FACS Legislative Aide program gave me a good understanding on how our state legislative process works, including the process for a bill becoming a law and the amount of time this could take. It allows me to talk with clients who are anxious about current legislation.

Coutney Geter - Founder of Atlanta Therapeutic Collective, author and public speaker. Assigned to Rep. Bob Smith, 2004-05

I’m forever grateful I did the program because it’s led me to the path I’m on today. It was really a fun time in my life that required me to step out of my comfort zone.

Trey Taylor - Superior Court judge on the Dublin, Ga., Judicial Circuit bench. Assigned to Sen. Brian Kemp, 2004-05
Trey Taylor
Kelly Ann Blanchard

I am responsible for managing and recruiting volunteers who want to connect people to their natural and cultural resources and inspire them to become stewards for our parks and the environment. Thanks to the Legislative Aide program, I discovered how the pieces of the legislative puzzle fit together and the importance of representing your constituents’ needs and goals. This knowledge helps when writing grants as well as advocating for our natural and cultural resources in my county.

Kelly Ann Blanchard - Volunteer Coordinator for the Friends of El Paso County Nature Centers in Colorado Springs. Assigned to Rep. Doug McKillip, 2008-09

The Legislative Aide program was an essential chapter in my life after college. The connections I forged within the program were a compass in my professional development in the real estate and banking industries, specifically. Witnessing diverse perspectives and building relationships across our great state was a voyage of enrichment and enduring value.

Jacob Hawk - Vice-president, Market Manager for Fountain Equipment Finance. Assigned to Rep. Bob Smith, 2009-10
Jacob Hawk
Abigail Thompson

I owe so much to the FACS Legislative Aide program for getting me to where I am today and will always be grateful for the doors it helped open. As an undergrad, it helped me identify a career path and led me to a job I’m passionate about. It brings me so much joy to know the program is still going strong and hope it continues for decades to come. Participation in the program helped establish my career trajectory, and I’m forever grateful to Dr. Sweaney for encouraging me to apply. I've been working at the state Capitol and in government relations ever since and employed as a lobbyist.

Abigail Thompson - Director of Government Relations & Advocacy, Shepherd Center in Atlanta. Assigned to Sen. Bill Cowsert, 2011-12

The Legislative Aide program taught me how to professionally network and built my confidence in public speaking. The program also directly led to my first job out of college as a legal assistant at Senator Bill Cowsert’s law office in Athens. Everything I was exposed to during that semester at the Capitol helped shape me into the person I am today! The program is invaluable and gives real world experience to someone still in college.

Morgan (Penland) Reece - Flight Attendant & Technical Facilitator at Delta Air Lines. Assigned to Sen. Bill Cowsert, 2016-17
Morgan (Penland) Reece
Jake Conner

Being a Legislative Aide was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. I was a non-traditional Legislative Aide, since my college major was dietetics. I learned big-picture lessons like how laws are crafted and how much work is involved in policy making. I also learned internal lessons about how to be a hard worker in a fast-paced and high-stakes environment. I would recommend any student take advantage of the opportunities provided by the program.

Jake Conner - Walton County FACS Extension Agent. Assigned to Rep. Spencer Frye, 2017-18

The Legislative Aide program opened my eyes to the importance of state policy and encouraged me to pursue a law degree.

Amanda Carlson - DePaul University College of Law, family law fellow. Assigned to Sen. Bill Cowsert, 2021-22

Amanda Carlson

Morgan Easley

My time as a legislative aide was pivotal and life-changing. (I learned) the sky is not the limit – you are your own limit. I could not have made a better internship choice than deciding to apply for the Legislative Aide program.

Morgan Easley - Senior Analyst, U.S. Department of Justice. Assigned to Rep. Chuck Williams, 2015-16

The legislative aide program was invaluable for my professional development and provided me with so many unique opportunities that contributed positively to my life after graduation. I made so many enduring connections and friendships during my time at the Capitol I will forever be grateful for. Being able to witness the legislative process behind the scenes was a special experience I would recommend to any student in FACS.

Sarah Tauchert - Advocacy coordinator, Georgia Association of Realtors. Assigned to Sen. Frank Ginn, 2022-23
Sarah Tauchert
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