The Todd Otis Public Policy Internship is a unique opportunity to learn firsthand about Minnesota’s early learning policy and advocacy. Think Small believes that placing a priority on children and their families, through access to high quality early childhood education, is critical to closing Minnesota’s opportunity gap with the goal of eliminating the state’s achievement gap. Policy decisions that are in the best interest of children are in the best interest of communities and thus Minnesota’s future economic development. Throughout the legislative session, Think Small educates policy makers and the general public about the value of high quality early childhood education in a model driven by family choice and a variety of delivery options to best meet the needs of children and families.
Todd Otis’ lifelong advocacy career in Minnesota, and his work as a change-agent in early childhood, has had a significant and long-term positive impact on early childhood public policies, systems, and most importantly on the quality of early learning experiences for children and families. He graduated from Harvard College with a BA in History and received an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. Among many other accomplishments, he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal and as a legislator in the Minnesota House of Representative for 12 years. From 2001-2011 he was President of Ready 4 K, an early education advocacy group created to build public awareness, enlist support from the business community, organize the early childhood community, and promote public policy to improve school readiness in Minnesota. In 2012 Ready-4-K merged with Think Small, where Todd served as Senior Vice President of External Relations until his retirement in 2017.
Think Small started the Todd Otis Public Policy Internship to recognize Todd’s contributions and build on his legacy. Our goal is to create more early learning advocates to continue Todd’s work.
The intern will work with Think Small’s policy team to advance the organization’s public policy priorities. Work varies throughout the session and will include opportunities to support grassroots and direct lobbying efforts. They will attend hearings and meetings with state legislators at the capitol to learn first-hand about the state legislative process.
They will also support policy communications efforts by utilizing platforms such as email, social media, and the Think Small blog.
There will be opportunities collaborate with external early education partners and learn more about Think Small’s role in early care and education.
Eidan Silver and Quynh Nhu Dao joined Think Small for the 2022 Legislative Session. They both had experience as early childhood educators and enjoyed seeing the policy side of that work.
Quynh and Eidan had opportunities to dig into the details of how bills move through the legislature and share their knowledge with Think Small staff. They attended many virtual hearings but were also able to make it to the State Capitol in person—a definite highlight!
Read more about what Eidan and Quynh learned during the 2022 session from people they met both inside and outside of Think Small.
The 2021 Legislative Session was double the fun! Two interns joined the team, Helen Sabrowsky and Jacqueline Zhang. Also new this time around, Jacqueline spent part of her time supporting Senior Vice President for Family Engagement Dianne Haulcy and the Voices and Choices for Children Coalition.
Dianne is co-chair of Voices and Choices, whose focus is on developing strongly engaged cultural communities of learning, organizing and advocacy for their input and impact in shaping more equitable practices and policies that will support better outcomes for children of color and American Indian children prenatal to 8 years old across the state.
Although all legislative hearings were remote, Helen and Jacqueline greatly increased their knowledge of the state legislative process.
Read about how Jacqueline and Helen learned together and pursued their individual interests.
Kieu My Phi joined the Think Small team for the 2020 legislative session. She studied at St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy with a concentration in early childhood education, and a Master’s degree in Public Health with a focus on adverse childhood experiences. As the pandemic hit and everyone (including the legislature!) went virtual, Kieu My made the most of it.
Read about how Kieu My was able to keep learning through an unpredictable time.
Katie Burke was the Todd Otis Public Policy Intern during the 2019 legislative session. Katie is from Scotland and was studying for her Master of Human Rights degree at the University of Minnesota on a Fulbright Scholarship. While Katie has extensive knowledge of Scottish government, this was her first time experiencing a state legislature in person.
Read how the internship taught her about early education and the legislative process.
Emma Klinger was the first Todd Otis Public Policy Intern. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor’s of Science in Sociology. She became interested in a career in public policy advocacy during her off-campus semester with the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA) – Inequality in America program. At the beginning of the 2018 legislative session, Emma was new to early education. Her internship transformed the way she thinks about the issue.
Read how her experience at Think Small informed and shaped the way she now thinks about early care and education.
Consider supporting the Todd Otis Public Policy Internship at Think Small by donating today – thank you!