Barbara Lee Fellowship

The Barbara Lee Fellowship is a paid internship opportunity for students interested in gaining professional experience in law, public policy and practice.

The Barbara Lee Fellowship gives juniors and seniors exposure to and education in the nuts and bolts of Massachusetts political leadership through practical experience in the arena of public policy and practice. Selected students, who register for an eight credit internship through the Department of Political Science and International Relations, receive a stipend and an internship placement with a female state legislator.

Graduates from the Barbara Lee Fellowship Program have gone on to do a wide variety of things. A few examples include:

  • Law school and graduate school
  • Americorps
  • Working at the Massachusetts State House in various capacities, including Chief of Staff
  • Campaign Field Work Director
  • Legislative Aide with a member of Congress
  • Teaching and working in academia
  • Non-profit and NGO work

The Barbara Lee Family Foundation Intern Fellowship Program, developed in the spring semester 2004, was based on the interest of three groups: a political science department that wanted to increase the scope and success of its already-established internship program, a donor whose philanthropic foundation commits itself to putting more women in positions of political power, and state legislators who wanted to mentor young women in the political process.

Barbara Lee is an alumna of Simmons University and heads the Barbara Lee Family Foundation. The Foundation has provided funding to Simmons for increasing awareness of politics as a vocation for women.

Criteria for application:

  • Seniors preferred, juniors considered.
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Resume
  • Simmons Transcript
  • Letter of Recommendation from a faculty member
  • Writing sample (2-3 pages)

Please note: Students who are participating in the Fellows program should take POLS 212: Politics Unplugged: How Things Work in Massachusetts, offered in the fall semester. The goal of the course is to prepare students for direct involvement in the political process, whether it be with legislators (state representatives, federal representatives, governor's office) or non-government organizations involved in policy formation (non-profits, interest groups, lobbying groups).

The course gives an overview of the Massachusetts political system and organizes speakers and site visits throughout the semester. Students are required to give mock oral presentations to legislators and heads of NGOs and to use the internet as a research tool for tracking bills and laws. The class will focus on developing writing skills, including memo writing, advocacy writing, public policy briefing memos, and one major policy analysis paper, depending on the type of internship in which the student wishes to participate.

The call for applications occurs in October and students are notified of their placements by the first week of December. For more information, email [email protected].

Testimonials

"The Barbara Lee Family Foundation Fellowship was the single best program I participated in at Simmons, and trust me—I loved a lot of programs at Simmons! The BLFF allowed me a firsthand look at how the judicial system works on a state level, and allowed me to build amazing, lasting connections with the government employees who helped me learn and grow. I worked primarily on environmental and women’s rights legislation.

Since completing the BLFF and graduating, I’ve finished my 1L year at New England Law | Boston — despite the pandemic! My experience with BLFF and the briefs I wrote on specific environmental bills were instrumental in the interview process for my first legal internship—a position with Clean Harbors. My background with BLFF was massively helpful in securing my current job in civil rights legal work with Wendy Murphy [. . .] my legal research often intersects with state and federal legislative measures in order to draft motions for a particular case that is likely to end up before the Supreme Court within a few years.

I have no doubts that I would not be where I am now if not for the Fellowship. My time at the state house and with the other fellows was my first introduction to a “real” workplace, and the skills I learned throughout my time with the BLFF have transformed my life and future."

Kate Howard '18


"My Barbara Lee Fellowship experience empowered me to fight for change. I went into the Fellowship with an interest in working with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and I was grateful to have the chance to pursue my interests under the mentorship of a female legislator. During my time, I met with the Every Voice coalition and listened to their mission to push for two bills against sexual violence on college campuses. My work with them led me to hold a screening of The Hunting Ground documentary at Simmons to create a safe space for dialogue and raise awareness about sexual violence on college campuses.

The Fellowship also put me in the position to meet advocates and members of lobbying groups in different fields. This was a turning point for me because I discovered that advocacy, listening to others, and sharing knowledge all went hand in hand with the legislative process. I can say with confidence that my Fellowship experience provided me with a strong background and exposure to state government [. . .] Overall, I felt that by allowing me to pursue my interests, Barbara Lee Fellowship gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in the legislative process.

After graduating from Simmons, I accepted a position as Legislative Aide to the House Chair of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Committee. I am confident that without my prior experience being a Barbara Lee Fellow, I would not have been able to make this big decision with the same enthusiasm and excitement."

Yeji Lee '18


"BLFF gave me the tools I needed to transition into legislative work. Because I learned how to write policy briefs, interact with Legislators, and present myself professionally in the State House environment, I felt confident taking on a legislative aide role for the Majority Leader of the Colorado House of Representatives. Now I have my own interns and I do my best to create a positive environment where they can ask questions and follow their interests. I'm very grateful for Professor Pechulis and for the stepping stone the BLFF program provided me."

Kathleen Melendy '17


"I loved my experience with the Barbara Lee Family Foundation Intern Program. After Trump won in 2016, I was feeling despondent about politics and wondered if I chose the right direction for my career. A few months later, I was in the BLFF program in the spring of 2017. During my time interning in Senator Creem's office, I re-fell in love with politics. I saw that there are passionate people working in politics to help others and that even if nothing good was coming out of Washington, there was still good work happening at the local level. I enjoyed sitting in on hearings, helping constituents and learning about MA politics. I was inspired by my time in the program to work in VT state politics because I learned how much good can happen in state politics."

Shelden Goodwin '17


"The BLFF program was a great experience that provided me with unique insights into the policy-making process at the state level. The experience deepened my understanding of the local issues that many districts faced and the complexities involving how bills to address those issues are formed, debated, and eventually passed (or not). I was reminded of the importance of having representation and a voice from each of those communities. It inspired me to become more involved in my own community and to hopefully run for office one day.

Public health was one of the issues worked on by the representative I was paired with in the BLFF program. So, after graduating, I worked in a non-profit organization that promoted health-care transparency. However, research-informed policy-making was something I had become increasingly interested in after my BLFF and non-profit experience, so I applied to a PhD program in political science. I decided to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I am now going to start my third year of my PhD. My concentration is in American politics and my general interests are in political psychology, identity, and political communication. After completing my PhD I'm hoping to pursue a track where I can inform policy through my research."

Aleena Khan '15