JSU scholars marvel at inner workings of legislative budgeting with spring internships

Courtesy of Jackson State University

Two Jackson State University students are currently participating in internships with the Legislative Budget Office and the Mississippi Senate, which is providing them with hands-on experience in understanding how the legislative process functions and produces many of the policies and budgets that impact the lives of Mississippi residents.

JSU senior accounting major Madison Cathey is a revenue and budget intern within the Legislative Budget Office (LBO). Working closely with key political stakeholders in the LBO, Cathey provides technical support and ensures that the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and the Legislature adopt and enact a balanced state budget.

Cathey, who is also president of JSU’s Student Government Association (SGA), credits her determined spirit and masterful networking ability as key elements to discovering the opportunity. After an informal meet-and-greet with Jackson State University Vice President for Business  and Finance Howard Brown Jr, Cathey established a healthy rapport and vested interest in pursuing any potential opportunity to work with the Mississippi legislature. Brown is also the former deputy executive director for the Mississippi Legislative Budget Office.

“I ended up meeting him at a holiday event, and I wanted his ear for a moment to just ask about his experiences,” Cathey said. “I said, ‘if an opportunity comes up, will you keep me in mind?’So we kept in touch, and a few weeks later, an opportunity to work directly in the Legislative Budgeting Office was available.”

Brown extended high praises to both students crediting them with carrying the excellence of JSU to the state capitol and engaging early and intently in the process.

“Both students are representing JSU very well during the early stages of this Legislative Session, which speaks to our preparedness as a university,” Brown said. “I feel that the university is doing a great job of establishing stronger pipelines with the Mississippi Senate as well as the Mississippi House of Representatives.”

As a budgeting and revenue intern, Cathey said she is left in awe daily at the internal processes of legislative budgeting — tracking closely active legislative bills related to budget and revenue and observing committee hearings, absorbing the nature of the work and making a note of overall strategic process.

“I’m honestly marveled at the complexity of our government, and getting to witness some of the processes firsthand has really been a good learning experience for me,” Cathey shared. “I really enjoy being a part of the process, and it has really given me a new appreciation for public servants.”

As an outgoing SGA President, Cathey encourages the upcoming cadre of student leaders headed into the 2023-2024 year to embrace forming new diverse relationships in order to form unified bonds with the purpose of elevating JSU.

Fall 2022 graduate and Jackson native Shaundra Bennett is working  within the Mississippi Senate – Senate Appropriation and Education committee for the 2023 Legislative session. An aspiring law school student, Bennett holds  a bachelors’ degree in political science with a concentration in legal studies from JSU. The new alumna viewed this opportunity as early exposure into what will potentially become her field of study and passion.

“My perspective on the process of creating state budgets remains rooted in the demonstration of state priorities, i.e. addressing residents’ needs, reducing long-standing racial and economic disparities, and creating opportunities for families and communities to thrive,” Bennett said.

Working under the guidance of the assistant secretary of the senate, Bennett’s role mirrors that of a senate committee assistant, where she’s tasked with managing administrative projects as well as sitting in on committee meetings. Moving from this opportunity, she hopes to apply the practical training and day-to-day wisdom received from political stakeholders to her future endeavors as she embarks on her legal pathway.

“I now have options that didn’t exist before this exceptional opportunity. The possibilities are endless,” she said. “And I would be remiss to not offer a word of thanks to Mr. Howard Brown for his enthusiastic referral and words of encouragement.”