May 11, 2017

Contact: Jay Thompson

Cal Poly Political Science Junior Selected for Panetta Institute for Public Policy’s Congressional Internship Program

SAN LUIS OBISPO — A political science major from Morgan Hill, Calif., is Cal Poly’s 2017 representative to the Panetta Institute for Public Policy’s Congressional Internship Program.

Maryam Quasto, 21, will spend two weeks in August training at the Panetta Institute at California State University at Monterey Bay, followed by 11 weeks in Washington, D.C., working full time in the office of a congressional representative.

The junior, who works part time in the university’s Donor Relations department, is among 26 students from around the Golden State taking part in the program. Participants were nominated by their respective campus presidents.

“I look forward to gaining a new perspective on what it is like to actually work in an international hub like Washington, D.C., as well as to further my understanding of the American political system,” said Quasto, who hopes to pursue a career in international law and work as a diplomat or U.S. ambassador. “I think that being in the heart of our nation will provide an amazing Learn by Doing experience, and I am excited to further my education and grow from this opportunity.”

The Panetta Institute awards scholarships to students from each of the 23 California State University campuses along with one each from Dominican University of California, Saint Mary’s College of California and Santa Clara University.

The program, now in its 19th year, is open to all academic majors. It is recognized as one of the best of its kind because of the rigorous training it provides and because the Panetta Institute scholarship covers all student costs — offering an equal opportunity for all qualified candidates.

Quasto is the 17th Cal Poly student to participate in the program since 2001.

She emigrated with her family from Baghdad, Iraq, to Silicon Valley when she was 5.

“I know how fortunate I am to have moved to the United States before conflict arose in the Middle East,” she said. “I feel I have a duty to give back to both the country I’ve been so lucky to call home and the world we live in, to help bolster growth and progress and to fight against global humanitarian crises.”

Quasto said she was inspired to apply to the Congressional Internship Program after hearing Institute Chairman Leon E. Panetta give a speech at the 2016 Cal Poly spring commencement. She said he spoke “about the necessity of active participation in the public sphere, about the duty we owe ourselves to get involved.

“I know that my passion, drive, and strong voice will flourish with an opportunity such as this, and I would love the chance to gain both professional and insightful experiences by working in the heart of our nation’s capital and then take that experience and use my voice to further my involvement in public service while giving back and helping build a stronger and united global society.”

Panetta, the nine-term Central Coast congressman who later served as director of the CIA and secretary of defense for former President Barack Obama and as former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, said the internship offers a unique opportunity for students.

“There’s just no substitute for this first-hand experience to promote public service,” he said. “We’ve had tremendous cooperation from our members of Congress — both Republicans and Democrats — in working with our students.”

The Panetta Institute covers program costs including course registration fees, campus services during orientation, air travel and housing in Washington, D.C. By covering these expenses, the institute can make the program available to interns from all socioeconomic levels.

Cal Poly awardees are supported in part through the Ed and Jan Slevin Congressional Internship Endowment.

Maryam Quasto, Cal Poly’s 2017 representative to the Panetta Institute for Public Policy’s Congressional Internship Program

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