For Samiyyah Bashir-Davis, following some advice from her grandmother helped lead to one of the most meaningful experiences of her academic career.
Bashir-Davis, a junior criminal justice major, served as an intern during this winter’s Virginia General Assembly legislative session, which was held from January through March, as part of Old Dominion University’s General Assembly Internship Program.
“I learned so, so much,” Bashir-Davis said. “I think this is the most I’ve ever learned in my life in 45 days.”
Bashir-Davis, who is the speaker of the Senate for ODU’s Student Government Association, learned about the program when she saw a flyer in an elevator at the Ireland House residence hall last fall. At first, “I didn’t think anything about it,” she said, but applied at the urging of one of her professors, Philip Mann.
“He’s one of my biggest mentors,” she said. “He said, ‘Just do it.’”
Mann, who had Bashir-Davis in his Law and the Criminal Justice class, wrote a letter of recommendation.
“Ms. Bashir was one of my best students in a class of about 35,” he wrote. “She was serious, diligent, curious, and engaged in learning the material. … She clearly wants to excel and has strong and commendable ambitions as she pursues her professional career.”
Once she was accepted into the program, there was the matter of which legislators she would be assigned to. An orientation session with legislators and their aides was held at Broderick Dining Commons in December.
That’s where her grandmother’s advice paid off.
“My grandmother told me that morning to make sure I had my résumé printed,” Bashir-Davis said. “And I said, ‘Why? I’m already in. What’s the point?’ She said, ‘Just bring it.’”
At the orientation, Bashir-Davis met Del. Jackie Hope Glass, who represents the 89th District in Norfolk.
“After we went to a little lunch break, I slipped my résumé to her legislative assistant and I said, ‘I would be elated to work for Del. Glass,’” Bashir-Davis said. “The rest was history.”
Bashir-Davis was one of five ODU students who interned during the 2023 Virginia
General Assembly beginning Jan. 11. The University’s General Assembly Internship Program was established in August 2004, and the first intern was hired in January 2005. Since then, 100 interns have participated in the program. The internships are full-time, paid positions, and the students are housed in a hotel next to the state Capitol. The program is supported by an ongoing special grant from ODU's Educational Foundation.
Stephanie Harron serves as ODU’s executive assistant for strategic operations and governmental relations and is coordinator for the General Assembly Internship Program.
“The General Assembly Internship Program provides an opportunity for students to gain knowledge and understanding about the legislative process as it takes place in the heart of the commonwealth’s Capitol,” Harron said. “Not only does this internship experience reflect positively on one’s résumé, but also provides opportunities for professional networking and future employment after graduating from ODU.”
Bashir-Davis performed constituent services and eventually handled social media accounts for Glass. She said one Instagram video she produced – a reel of Glass’ outfits – garnered 14,000 views.
“I think that really grabbed her attention – how important it is to be on social media for this new generation,” said Bashir-Davis, who is now the communication manager for Glass’ re-election campaign this year.
Bashir-Davis, who also worked with Sen. Lynwood Lewis, acknowledged that working 40 hours a week while taking three classes online was a challenge. But getting an up-close look at the legislative process was illuminating.
“Being in the room where it happens, it made me look at politics and our political system in a different light,” she said. “These are real people with families, and things happen. These are not just characters on TV. We’re all just human beings trying to figure this out together.”
Randy Norman, a senior political science major who is also minoring in criminal justice, interned with Del. Barry Knight, chair of the appropriations committee, Del. Jay Leftwich and Sen. Bill DeSteph. Norman echoed Bashir-Davis’ sentiments.
“It is fascinating to see what it takes to develop an efficient budget for the Commonwealth of Virginia,” he said. “Working for Leftwich was also a fantastic experience because he chairs General Laws in the House of Delegates. It was an enlightening experience to see Republicans and Democrats work together on important issues and debate some of the most polarizing political topics.”
Victoria Allen, a junior majoring in international studies with a minor in Spanish, interned with Dels. Nadarius Clark and Kelly Convirs-Fowler. She attended Assembly meetings and rallies, assisted with organizing files and worked on documentation supporting bills and resolutions.
“I was encouraged and inspired by the kind spirits of my fellow delegates and General Assembly staff to be unafraid and desire to create change, be myself and follow my heart,” she said. “It was an unforgettable experience and provided me with the foundation I need for crucial life skills in the future.”
The other ODU interns were George Yates III, a senior marketing major who worked with Sens. Mamie Locke and L. Louise Lucas, and Sheyla Daniels, a junior international/global studies major who worked with Del. Glenn Davis and DeSteph.
Bashir-Davis, who interned for Norfolk Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Cynthia D. Collard last fall, wants to be a prosecuting attorney. She’s weighing which law schools to apply to next year.
But the General Assembly internship left an indelible impression.
“I’m so grateful to ODU for this,” she said. “So, so grateful.”
Interested in serving as a legislative intern for the 2024 General Assembly Internship Program beginning in January 2024? Visit the General Assembly Internship website or contact Harron at email@example.com or 757-683-3156.
Pictured above: “Being in the room where it happens, it made me look at politics and our political system in a different light,” said Samiyyah Bashir-Davis, a junior criminal justice major. Photo Chuck Thomas/ODU