Senior Paige Duggins scores SU’s fourth National Intern of the Year
Duggins was selected to receive the award for work she did as an intern with the Luna Legislative Scholars and Fellows Program at the Texas Capitol in the spring of 2013. She landed that internship with the help of Career Services, several Southwestern graduates, and James Kilfoyle, professor of English.
Duggins said she had no interest in government work until she met with Career Services her sophomore year. Career Services encouraged her to apply for an internship at the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). Duggins had been working in the Human Resources Department of TRS for almost a year when she shared her experience with Kilfoyle.
Kilfoyle lives next door to Ray Martinez, a 1987 Southwestern graduate who is now chancellor of WGU Texas. At that time, Martinez was chief of staff for Sen. Judith Zaffrini, who chaired the Senate Education Committee.
“Ray thought I would enjoy working in her office because she has a strong interest in education reform and policy,” Duggins said. Martinez invited her to intern with Zaffrini’s office part-time in the summer of 2011, focusing on work for the Higher Education Committee.
It was during that internship that Isabel Casas, another staff member and 2007 Southwestern graduate, told Duggins about the Luna Scholars Program and encouraged her to apply. The Luna Scholars Program, which is named after former State Sen. Gregory Luna and sponsored by the Senate Hispanic Research Council, places college students of all levels in the offices of the Texas Senate during a legislative session.
“One of the reasons I applied was because Senator Luna was very invested in education,” Duggins said. “He fought against education budget cuts and against charter school expansion, against vouchers, against all these thing I’m supportive of.”
Duggins was accepted into the program for the 83rd session of the Texas Legislature and placed back into Sen. Zaffirini’s office where she did research, wrote and outlined policies, and met with lobbyists. “It was an amazing experience,” she said. “I learned so much.”
As a result of her internships, Duggins has decided to go to law school and has applied to programs that offer a joint degree in law and education. She’s been accepted to several schools already, including UT-Austin, and she’s waiting to hear back from others.
Duggins said she can see herself in a number of careers, from an attorney who represents students with special needs to a member of a policy think-tank. Perhaps she will even return to the state capitol one day.
“The possibilities are limitless. I feel like I made good decisions and it was all worth it,” she said.
Maria Kruger, internship coordinator in Career Services, said Duggins’ performance in the classroom and in the community also was a factor in her being selected for the CEIA award.
Duggins has been a member of the women’s soccer team and editor-in-chief of Southwestern’s student newspaper, The Megaphone. She also is a member of the Southwestern University Student Foundation and serves alongside staff and faculty members on the Diversity Enrichment Committee.
In addition, she volunteers with Special Olympics, Battleground Texas, LifeWorks, Best Buddies International and SU Splash. Duggins shares her love of soccer by serving as a youth soccer coach for the East Austin Parks and Recreation Department.
“Paige has been a wonderful example of everything we advocate for in our students,” Kruger said. “Not many people can take on the level of involvement that Paige has and do it well. When you look at past winners of this award, many have multiple internship experiences. They are engaged in their community. They are leaders on their campus. Paige is no different. She is very deserving of this award and I am so very proud to have her represent Southwestern. She has a strong future in being an advocate for educational reform.”
Duggins is the fourth Southwestern student in the past eight years to receive the CEIA Academic Internship Student Achievement Award, which will be presented April 8 at the CEIA’s annual meeting in Seattle, Wash., and comes with a $500 prize. Previous recipients include Mindy Smotherman, who received the award in 2006 for her work as an intern with the U.S. Department of State; Caitlin Cooper, who received the award in 2008 for her work as an intern with National Instruments; and D’Artagnan Bebel, who won the award in 2011 for his work with the Port of Houston Authority. No other school has had more than two students receive this award.
− Elizabeth Stewart ’14