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Congressman Donald Payne Jr. Surprises SPAA Students at Internship Class

Congressman Donald Payne Jr. (center) poses with intern Najma Hassan (left) and Michael Dillard (right) (photo by Samantha Washington)

“Service Learning Internship” courses at the School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA) provide opportunities for undergraduate students to highlight the work they’ve done at their internships through poster presentations. With posters ranging from the minimalistic to the elaborate, students share their experiences with an audience of their peers and site supervisors.  

On August 8, the students in Professor Michael Dillard’s class received an unexpected visit from Congressman Donald Payne Jr., who attended the session to surprise and support his intern, Najma Hassan (SPAA '19). 

“Najma was very inquisitive and wanted to learn a great deal,” Payne Jr. said. “We were delighted to have her in the office and she did a gamut of different things in terms of legislative and constituent service, and communicating with the Washington, D.C., office on different issues. I think she’s going to do great things in the future.”

Payne Jr. gave remarks about the importance of seizing opportunities and enhancing the public sector through dedicated service and a desire to improve the lives of citizens. His words complemented Dillard’s emphasis on the need for students to be strategic in their internships and establish pathways for their careers.

Dillard’s students represented myriad organizations in the public sector, including Newark City Hall, the KinderSmile Foundation, the YMCA, Rutgers University-Newark, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

“The presentations were reflective of the organizations and their missions, while serving as a demonstration of the learning and a meet and greet with the executive leaders from the internship sites. This networking opportunity helped students to build their social capital while understanding the dynamics of public service,” Dillard said.

“Professor Dillard's internship class was a wonderful networking opportunity for all of the students that attended. I felt so honored that the congressman and his staff came out to support me during my presentation!” said Hassan. “He took the time to go around and speak with every student; this simple act showed his kind and caring nature. Overall, this class and my internship experience will be one I will never forget.”