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Six interns from across the state are top winners of prestigious 2021 Daniel Rosenthal Legislative Intern Awards, cited for taking extra care to respond to citizens and constituents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Margaret Amshay, of Farmington Hills, is winner of the $2,000 top prize Daniel Rosenthal Internship Award. She’s a Michigan State University junior majority in psychology with a minor in criminal justice. She was nominated for her work in state Rep. Tyrone Carter’s office where she answered constituent calls, created a 100-page Constituent Resource Guide and played a lead role in training other interns.

“I loved this work and it became something that I looked forward to every day,” she said in her Rosenthal application.

Two interns share first runner-up cash awards of $1,000.

Uroosa Hassan, of Dearborn Heights, and a student at the University of Michigan in Dearborn, was named first runner up as an intern for Rep. Padma Kuppa. The senior studying political science helped plan a College, Careers, and Counseling Virtual Town Hall and made constituent wellness check-in calls as Michigan’s citizens were asked to stay safe at home. “I did this internship at a time when we were in a global pandemic, in a lockdown and people were genuinely struggling all around the world, she wrote in her application.

Hunter Kowalski, senior in MSU’s James Madison College, was cited for constituent correspondence and drafting a commemorative resolution recognizing HIV/AIDs Awareness, in his first runner up award. He worked for Rep. Sarah Anthony who introduced the resolution that was ultimately adopted by the state House. White Lake is his home town.

Kowalski submitted more than 100 unemployment inquiries on behalf of constituents whose jobs were lost due to COVID-19, which working virtually during the pandemic. “When the well-being and safety of other fell in the hands of my workplace, I held on to a personal sense of responsibility for those who depended on us,” he wrote in his application.

Emily Burch, a junior from Lake Leelanau who majors in political science at MSU, won third place. She also interned with Anthony. She was cited for her skills in design and communications, especially at a time when legislative staff were working remotely during the pandemic. She created a graphic distributed to all Michigan House members, responded to constituent voicemails and wrote letters and news releases. “Communicating with constituents has helped me to understand the importance of the work that is done in a legislative office, and the relationship between the Legislature and the community,” she said in her application.

Awardwinning interns were quick to pursue tasks, demonstrated good communications skills and were “a needed lifeline” to people stressed by unemployment during a time of pandemic, legislative supervisors wrote in nominations. Navigating remote work, the complexities of pandemic-related problems and the often heartbreaking issues that sent citizens to their legislators for solutions held stresses and yielded insights of their own, interns said in applying for the awards.

“With the spread of COVID-19, my job responsibilities suddenly changed,” wrote Kirsten Prelesnik, of Grand Haven, who shared the second runnerup award for her work with Sen. Curtis Hertel. She’s a James Madison College student who majors in political theory and constitutional democracy.

Andrew Lasko, a Traverse City senior at Central Michigan University, was tapped as winner of the U.S. Rep. Vernon Ehlers Intern Award, named for the late Michigan congressman. Lasko interned with Rep. Jack O’Malley, and studies ecology, evolution and conservation.

MSU has been honoring the life of an undergraduate science enthusiast who helped to pioneer internships in the Michigan Legislature for more than four decades. Daniel Rosenthal’s family founded the award after his death in 1977. Since then, Rosenthal winners have moved to successful careers in a variety of professions. See all winners here. 

Since then, the program’s been expanded with a series of workshops focused on legislative internship excellence. MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research hosts the program, including six workshops during the academic year, with James Madison College. Workshops alternate between sharing information on internship excellence and career opportunities.

“Legislative interns are in a unique position not only to see the inner workings of the state House or Senate, but also to learn the rewards of public service, especially in our changing times,” said IPPSR Director Matt Grossmann.

The awards are designed to guide interns to challenging policy and leadership careers. “A number of them have distinguished themselves in key Michigan industries and organizations,” said Maxwell Olivero.

Legislative internships are also a path to IPPSR’s Michigan Political Leadership Program, one of a handful of programs nationally developing public service leaders, Grossmann noted. Applications are now available for the competitive fellowships.

Other nominees are:

  • Teresa  Bissonette, a Lansing Community College senior majoring in political science. She served as an intern in the office of Rep. Kevin Coleman.
  • Aaron Claeys, of Shelby Township, an MSU senior studying political science while interning for state Rep. Kevin Hertel.
  • Emily Douponce, of Bay City, a junior majoring in political science and pre-law, interning for Rep. Timothy Beson.
  • Justin Fernando, of Troy, studying social relations and policy at MSU. He interned for Rep. Padma Kuppa.
  • Abbigail Foss, of Williamston, an intern in Rep. Angela Witwer’s offices.
  • Emma Frick, an MSU senior studying international relations, nominted for her work as an intern for Rep. Tim Sneller. She makes her hometown in Saline.
  • Jacintha Glover, of Kalamazoo, interning in Anthony’s office. At MSU, she is a senior studying political science/law.
  • Political science senior Ronin Hackworth, studying at MSU. He worked with Rep. Beau LaFave.
  • Kinsey Kutilek, of Grand Rapids, interned with Rep. Abdullah Hammoud. She’s an MSU social relations and policy major.
  • Robbie McQueen, an intern for Rep. Douglas Wozniak. He majors in international relations at MSU. He hails from Macomb Township.
  • Ashley Vassallo, of Northville, an intern for Sen. Sean McCann. She’s a senior at MSU majoring in international relations.

IPPSR is home of the Michigan Political Leadership Program, the Office for Survey Research, State of the State Survey, Public Policy Forum, Correlates of State Policy, State Networks, State of the State Podcast, Public Policy Research Fellows, Michigan Policy Insiders Panel and Michigan Policy Wonk Blog.