Developing Effective Advocates during Doctoral Preparation: An Examination of Federal-Level Special Education Policy Internships

Jacqueline Rodriguez, Selma Powell, Carrie Straub, Krista Vince-Garland, Wilfred Wienke


It is critically important for leadership personnel in special education to develop knowledge and skills in policy and advocacy. The Pew Charitable Trust initiated a survey to uncover resources and experiences impacting doctoral-level preparation at institutes of higher education. Results indicated that fewer than 30 percent of doctoral students were provided the opportunity for an internship experience. Thus, a large university located in the southeast United States created an internship
experience reflective of current policies and trends within the field of special education. This article discusses interns’ responsibilities with reference to policy and politics, opportunities for mentorship, the development of personal contacts and networking, and the impact of each experience on the intern’s future role in special education teacher education and advocacy.


Doctoral internships; Special education policy; Special education advocacy; Mentorship; Professional development

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