Legislative internship creates new opportunities, connections

Mitchell Cotter
Mitchell Cotter

Mitchell Cotter, a junior political science major at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, is spending his summer gaining firsthand experience working with the Wisconsin State Legislature. Cotter, from Menasha, Wisconsin, is interning with Rep. Jodi Emerson, where he is contributing research related to current and future legislative proposals, attending Assembly committee meetings, responding to constituents and more. 

Cotter began his education at UW-Platteville as an engineering major, but said his interest in politics grew last summer when he watched issues surrounding social justice and COVID-19 unfold. He switched his major to political science and discovered the  Wisconsin Assembly Democrat Internship Program, for which he applied and was accepted. 

“I got really invested in government and how it can influence decisions,” said Cotter. “By applying for this internship, I really wanted to see if I could get firsthand knowledge of how the legislature can help solve these issues.”

One issue is particularly important to Cotter.  

“I’ve enjoyed politics as long as I can remember, and part of that is a reflection of my personal experience growing up,” said Cotter. “I was in foster care, and as someone who has had firsthand experience in the foster care system, which needs to be revamped, it means a lot to me to work in the public sector. Now I’m working on research to potentially create a foster care bill.”

Cotter said one of the most enjoyable parts of the internship has been the people he has met.

“I’ve had the opportunity to meet representatives and senators and talk to interest groups. I’ve definitely opened up my connections,” said Cotter, who hopes to attend law school after graduation. 

"Internships like Mitchell's are really important in not just exploring possible career paths and networking with future employers, but in understanding the connections between academic work and practical experience,” said Dr. Travis Nelson, chair of the UW-Platteville Criminal Justice and Social Sciences Department. “The benefit is not just to Mitchell. He's going to be able to come back to his courses at UW-Platteville with a range of detailed experience that will help bring the material alive for other students." 

“I am just so thankful to be a part of this process,” said Cotter. “It has been an awesome experience.”