Senate internship helps Paterno Fellow explore career path in legal field

Ellie West
August 05, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Schreyer Scholar and Paterno Fellow Sarah Devlin spent the first half of her summer interning with United States Sen. Robert Menendez, an opportunity she hopes will serve as the first step toward her future law career.

Devlin, a rising junior studying English with a minor in media studies, worked as a press intern for the New Jersey senator, where she learned the inner workings of the state’s policy-making process, aided with communications efforts, and gained an introduction to the legal field. While the internship was largely virtual, the New Jersey native was able to head into the senator’s Jersey City office on a few occasions this summer.

“It was a really great opportunity, especially because I’m from New Jersey,” she said. “I also have an interest in pursuing law, so I figured it would be a really awesome introduction to that — and it was.” 

As an intern, her responsibilities ranged from coordinating press releases to scanning the media for relevant editorials and news clips.

“I was on the communications team, so I was mostly responsible for doing press-related tasks,” she said. “I would draft press materials, compile relevant editorials and daily news clips for the senator and the staff to read, and also plan and write some social media posts.”

Devlin described how when the state would receive grants or implement new policy, she would be tasked with writing official press releases to be published on the senator’s website.

“It was really cool to see that … I didn’t have a byline or anything, but just being able to have my own work published online somewhere was great,” she said.

With written communication being a central aspect of the internship, Devlin described how a key course from her honors curriculum helped prepare her for the role.

“Last spring, I was enrolled in ENGL 202B, but I took the Schreyer version with Dr. Heather Holleman,” she said. “Being an English major, I was always more focused on literature or reading, and I honestly didn’t love the way I wrote. I credit Dr. Holleman for improving my writing so much over the past semester … She was an amazing professor.”

While the internship only ran from May 24 to July 1, Devlin said it provided her with an engaging and “well-rounded” experience.

“It allowed me to explore a connection between my English major and media studies minor,” she said. “I knew it was going to be very writing-heavy, but it also ended up bringing in a mix of communications and journalism, which was great to experience. I got to improve not only my writing but my communication skills as well.”

Devlin said she was mainly driven to apply to the role because she sought an experience that would correlate with her interest in eventually attending law school.

“My interest in law school has definitely been growing over the past year, so I was grateful to have that experience working in a lawmaker's office,” she said. “I also have some interest in possibly working for a media-based company dealing with editing or legal stuff in the future … but I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do.” 

For students who are interested in exploring a career path in law or politics, Devlin advised applying for internships even if their area of study is not specific to the field.

“There’s always going to be an opportunity for another kind of perspective,” she said. “I had no background in political science, unlike all the other interns I was working with. I think that honestly made me stand out in the office though because I was bringing my own unique skills and perspective to the role.”

  • Sarah Devlin leans on railing next to body of water

    Devlin outside Senator Menendez's Jersey City office with the New York City skyline in the background

    IMAGE: Provided by Sarah Devlin

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated August 12, 2021