Graduate students now have the opportunity to work with 35th District State Assemblyman Pedro Nava, or in a number of other offices in Sacramento, thanks to the Jesse M. Unruh Assembly Fellowship Program.

The fellowship committee, which oversees the program, is currently accepting applications from graduate students looking to spend 11 months working for the California State Assembly. Applications for the program are due by Feb. 22 and are available at The fellowship begins in October.

According to the website, 18 applicants will be selected to participate in the program and could end up working in a variety of assembly members’ offices, including that of Nava, whose constituency includes portions of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.

Nava said the fellowship, which is coordinated by California State University Sacramento, gives students a unique opportunity to work in the State Capitol and experience the legislative process.

“We want California’s brightest and best because the work we have them do is just as though they were a full-time staff person,” Nava said. “The most important benefit [of the program] is that it takes highly motivated young people and gives them a very direct, hands-on experience with the government.”

Nancy Hatamiya, Nava’s chief of staff, said the program’s participants usually work on issues that they are familiar with and passionate about. Aside from working in an array of offices at the Capitol, fellows could work full time on a legislative committee. All program participants will also attend seminars at California State University Sacramento to earn 12 transferable graduate school credits.

Nava said he thinks the nature of the work that the fellows do gives participants a competitive edge when they look for jobs in the real world.

“In my office, one of our staff people was a fellow last year,” Nava said. “California is the fifth largest economy in the world, so having worked as a fellow in the Capitol gives [students] exposure in many areas.”

Fellows will receive health, dental and vision benefits, Nava said, as well as a $1,972 monthly stipend. He said he wants the participants to focus on the experience of the fellowship without worrying about financial issues.

“One of the good things about Sacramento, especially for students coming from Santa Barbara, is that the living expenses are a lot more affordable,” Nava said.

Nava said he is not looking for someone with a specific degree, because the issues that fellows work on are so broad and varied that any degree would be useful.

“If someone were in engineering or science, I would want them to consider [applying for the fellowship] as well as someone with a political science or sociology degree,” Nava said.

Deb Artz, an internship coordinator for Career Services, said many students are not aware of the fellowship and internship opportunities available to them. She said there are about 33 statewide fellowships offered, and approximately three UCSB students receive an offer each year.

“[The fellowships] are so competitive that not many do it; you have to be pretty motivated,” Artz said. “They’re a good way to support your graduate studies.”

Nava said he enjoys being a part of the program because it benefits both the fellows and their employers.

“We all benefit,” Nava said. “My office benefits because they assist me in addressing issues concerning the district, and they benefit because it’s a unique opportunity.”