About the Residency Externship Program in Public Policy

Selfless Service.  Leadership.  Excellence.

These are just three of Texas A&M’s Core Values that are embodied in a lawyer’s career, particularly one in the public sector.

Texas A&M School of Law is proud to offer students the opportunity to experience firsthand the role of lawyers in the public sector by participating in its Residency Externship Program in Public Policy (REP-PP) in either Washington, D.C. or Austin, Texas.  

REP-PP-DC-capt-balc-5860-1560The REP-PP offers students a unique opportunity to gain valuable legal experience in the public sector with a focus on the role of a lawyer in policymaking—including promulgation of law, rule making, regulation, enforcement, and advocacy.  

In addition to working full-time at their externship placements, students meet two nights a week with an adjunct expert to discuss and explore further the significant ethical, moral, and political issues lawyers in the public sector face every day.

Students will have the opportunity to meet leading policymakers and stakeholders in their resident city. They also will have access to the greatest network of all – the Aggie Network – that is strong in both cities.

Two Unique Cities.  Two Unique Opportunities.  One World-Class Institution.

Mission Statement:

REP-PP DC Group6To provide Texas A&M School of Law students interested in working in the fields of federal or state public service, public policy, and regulatory creation and enforcement meaningful opportunities to explore the unique role of the public sector lawyer in policymaking through an intensive externship and seminar capstone experience in Washington, D.C. or Austin, Texas during the spring semester. Through participation in the Residency Externship Program in Public Policy, students will gain valuable experience and understanding of the significant ethical, legal, moral, and political issues those in the public sector face every day, and learn about the regulatory and administrative processes of the public sector. They also will strengthen their Aggie Core Values and the Aggie network through the experience.

Meet Our Experts:

Stephen Viña, Adjunct Professor
Stephen VinaStephen Viña is Chief Counsel for Homeland Security on the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, under Ranking Member, Senator Tom Carper (D-DE). In this position, he advises Senator Carper on a number of homeland security issues, including border and cyber security and coordinates the Ranking Member’s homeland security activities on the Committee. Stephen has served on the Committee since 2011, starting as a counsel on Senator Carper’s Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management before becoming Deputy Chief Counsel for Homeland Security in 2013.

From 2007 to 2011, Stephen served on the House Committee on Homeland Security for Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS). His positions on the House Committee included Subcommittee Director for the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence and Subcommittee Director for the Subcommittee on Emergency Communications, Preparedness, and Response. In 2002, Stephen joined the Congressional Research Service as a legislative attorney and provided nonpartisan legal counsel to Members of Congress and their staffs in the areas of border security, water resources, and agriculture.  Stephen is a graduate of the University of Texas Pan American and holds a J.D. from Texas Wesleyan University School of Law. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas.

What is an Externship?:

REP-PP Group4 USSCAn externship is an opportunity for a student to experience the role of a public sector attorney in real-time. As a participant in the Texas A&M School of Law Residency Externship Program in Public Policy, you will work with the program director to find a placement that fits your skill set and interests. Students identify their goals for their experience and set a course to seek opportunities to:

  • develop skills
  • explore public policy and what a job in that field might look like
  • combine a commitment to service and leadership with a desire to learn about a substantive area of law within the public sector
  • consider how to find satisfaction in work and balance with personal life.

In addition to working in their placements full time, students in the program engage in a three credit substantive seminar led by an adjunct expert and critically examine substantive policy, ethics, procedure, and leadership through a wide array of readings and assignments. Students also meet weekly with leaders in the field of public policy. The seminar culminates in a substantive paper or other capstone project that envelops all of the skills and experiences gained throughout the program.


REP-PP Group6 Capitol InteriorHow does the Residency Externship Program differ from other externship opportunities?
The Residency Externship Program in Public Policy is designed to give students significant legal experience in the public sector. The focus of the faculty-guided program is the role of the government lawyer in areas of policymaking—including promulgation of law, rulemaking, regulation, enforcement, and advocacy.

In addition to working full time at an entity engaged in policymaking, students will partake in a substantive seminar class that meets two nights a week with an adjunct expert in policymaking and complete a significant research paper or similar capstone project.

How many students may be admitted to the program?
Currently, we anticipate a limit of six (6) students in each of the program cities.  

Who is eligible?
Students in their final year of law school with a minimum 3.0 gpa who have taken Administrative Law (or a similar regulatory-type course) and Drafting for Public Policy are eligible. 2L students who demonstrate extraordinary interest may be invited by the Dean to participate.

How do I apply?
The program application process begins in early August. Students interested in participating should complete the requisite application form and submit it as soon as possible. Students will be notified by August 31 whether they have been accepted.  

Students accepted into the program must be prepared to discuss their placement interests with the director during the first week of September and must commit to at least two mandatory meetings during the fall semester before their placements begin.

How do I find my placement in Washington or Austin?
Students are responsible for identifying the areas in and entities for which they wish to work during the semester. Once those identifications are made, students may work with the director of the program of their choice to prepare their application materials, find the right match from existing and possible placement opportunities, and secure their externship.

Every effort will be made to find a placement that meets a student’s interest, but students who are accepted to the program may have to agree to participation in the program before their individual placement is finalized.

What if the position I am interested in requires a security clearance?
Some placements in the Washington, D.C., area may require a student to obtain a security clearance prior to beginning their externship. The security clearance process can take time so students may have to agree to participate in the program prior to securing their final placement.  

If you are interested in a placement that requires a security clearance, you should work quickly with your program Director and the Externship Director to complete the necessary paperwork.

Where did students get placed in 2016?

REP-PP DC Group4 Feb 2016Students participating in the 2016 program had placements with Senator John Cornyn’s Judiciary Committee staff; Congressman Joe Barton’s office​; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Office of General Counsel; the National Rifle Association’s Institute of Legislative Action​; the Open Society Foundations; and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Washington Legislative Office.

Can I participate in student publications and other on-campus student activities during the semester program?
Students should consider whether participation in the program would restrict their participation in other on-campus activities such as moot court, clinics, and publications. For example, at this time, students may not be permitted to serve on the board of a student publication, but can still be active publications members.

What if I only have a limited number of pass/fail credits left?
Currently, the Law School places a cap of 12 credits that students may designate as Pass/Fail. Students interested in participating in the programs should meet with the Registrar to determine the number of usable credits they have left. Students will use a total of 9 pass/fail credits as part of the Austin or D.C. programs, 6 of which will count toward their cap total of 12.

Ultimately, it is up to students interested in participating in the programs to ensure that they meet all graduation and other residency requirements before applying to the program.

Is there a winter term course?
Yes, students accepted into the program must enroll in a graded winter term course designed to introduce them to government, ethics and the role of the extern in public policy. The course also introduces students to their host cities and gives students a chance to explore their placements in detail before the start of the spring semester.

Besides my placement, what else will I be doing during the spring semester?
Students in the program will take a course two evenings a week throughout the semester taught by faculty adjuncts with exceptional expertise in policymaking and working in the public sector. The seminar course explores government, ethics, and the role of the public sector extern and the many issues they encounter.  

In addition to the coursework, students will hear from guest speakers and visit government offices to learn more about law, rulemaking, and the public sector. Students will share their experiences at their various placements and discuss the elements of their work.  

Students also are required to submit weekly reflective journal entries, contribute to the program’s blog, attend networking events sponsored by or including members of the Aggie Network, and will be given tours to such historic landmarks as the White House, Pentagon, Capitol, and Library of Congress, among others.

Is there a writing or capstone component included in the program?
Students will prepare either a significant research paper associated with their placement or complete some other capstone project. Students ​will obtain approval for paper topics and the capstone projects from the ​Director ​and adhere to the deadlines set out for the project's completion. Students will have opportunities throughout the semester to discuss their projects with ​the Directo​r.

What incidental costs are associated with the program?
Students participating in the program will be responsible for paying all relocation, housing, transportation, utilities, and meal expenses.

What if I have more questions?
If you have more questions about the program, feel free to contact Charlotte Ku and Cecily Becker, the program directors.