Bi-Partisian Learning in Sacramento


-To apply for the Cal-in-Sacramento Fellowship, click here and download the application. The application deadline is Nov. 6 at 5pm. Question? Contact Camille Koué at ckoue [at]

Posted by former Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow Maia Wolins (mwolins [at]

-- A huge thank you to Senator Figueroa, Senator Ackerman, Ethan Rarick, and the Institute of Governmental Studies for grounding me in bipartisan politics and helping to open up a world of opportunity in California’s capital.--

So a Republican Senator and a Democratic Senator walk into a classroom at UC Berkeley, and-- with the current political stalemate in Washington DC, this sounds like a joke with a painful punchline. In reality, that classroom and those two senators defined the meaning of bipartisanship and sparked my burgeoning career in California’s capital.

As a senior in Middle Eastern Studies in 2011, I was fortunate to be one of thirty students chosen for the Matsui Center's Cal-in-Sacramento Fellowship. We learned the value and practice of “working across the aisle” under the experienced wings of former Senators Liz Figueroa (D) and Dick Ackerman (R), who held distinctly opposing political views and a shared intention for collaboration. In class each week, a diverse array of speakers from the capital sparked heated debates among my classmates and I, who hailed from all points on the political spectrum. The Senators moderated our discussions, encouraging us to push deeper into the subjects of high-speed rail, term limits, prison reform, business-restrictive taxes, etc, while maintaining respectful rapport with our fellow ‘politicians.’

Over the summer, we took these friendships and understandings to our jobs in the Capitol. My dual internships with the Senate Office of International Relations and Kaufman Campaigns pushed me further to align with bipartisanship. While the Senate Office was easily bipartisan, my work on the campaign trail pumped up my blood pressure. With the example of my Cal-in-Sac instructors in mind, I was better able to communicate my perspective about the issues at stake in the campaign without overrunning the viewpoints of those of the opposite opinion.

Now it’s been a year and a half since the Cal-in-Sacramento Fellowship and I’m still working full-time in Sacramento, just down the street from the Capitol, at the Northern California World Trade Center. My internship with the Senate Office of International Relations connected me to this opportunity, as their office works closely with the NorCalWTC to host international visitors, and it’s a perfect fit for me. Here, too, the example of cooperation that the Senators provided us in the classroom is of benefit. While my work is removed from the politics of the legislature, our efforts to strengthen California’s international relations and participation in the global market are necessarily grounded in deep collaboration across a world of different perspectives.

Maia Wolins graduated from UC Berkeley in 2012 with a degree in Middle Eastern Studies and a minor in Dance and Performance Studies. After graduating, she published a paper based on her senior honors thesis titled “A Shared State: Iraqi Refugees and American Veterans in the Aftermath of War,” which can be found online through the Institute of Governmental Studies and the Kroeber Anthropological Society. She currently works as the Program Services Coordinator at the Northern California World Trade Center.