Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

Intern Spotlight: Palmer McNeal

March 25, 2024

Palmer McNeal
Photo submitted.

When CPE intern Palmer McNeal graduated from West Jessamine High School in 2021, she knew she was headed to the University of Kentucky in the fall. Beyond that, her future was uncertain.

“I was interested in politics and education, but I had no idea what I wanted to do for a living,” she admits. “I’ve declared a major [political science], but I’m still not 100 percent sure.”

Fortunately, the Kentucky Legislative Internship Program is helping Palmer figure it out. Because of her involvement in the program this semester, she’s currently receiving a crash course in both Kentucky politics and state government. To satisfy her internship, Palmer works about 16 hours a week at the Council on Postsecondary Education and takes a one-credit seminar requirement at UK. She’s also taking an off-campus exploratory class called “Internship in Government,” in addition to an on-campus course covering legislative processes.

Initially, Palmer hoped to be assigned to a legislator, but when there weren’t enough placements, she opted to intern with an executive branch agency. In CPE’s Economic & Workforce Initiatives unit, Palmer summarizes bills related to higher education and workforce development, takes notes on legislative committee meetings, and conducts policy research for agency staff as needed.

“Palmer has added a fresh student perspective to the very important work that we are doing,” said Dr. Leslie Sizemore, Associate Vice President of the unit. “She has contributed to the development of pertinent policy, helped us see potential barriers for students transitioning to the workplace, and supported our work while gaining valuable real-world experience.”

CPE Senior Associate Michaela Mineer, who directly supervises Palmer, agrees the internship has been mutually beneficial for both parties. “It wasn’t that long ago that I was in Palmer’s shoes, an intern at CPE, wondering where my degree would take me,” Mineer said. “It’s rewarding to see her develop professional skills she can carry into her future, whatever path she decides to pursue.”

After observing the workings of the General Assembly up close, Palmer says she’s gotten a little more clarity about what she does and doesn’t want to do. “I’m definitely NOT interested in running for office, and I don’t think I want to be a campaign manager or legislative aide like I initially thought,” she says. “The session has been less dramatic than I hoped it would be. Most of the time bills pass unanimously without much fanfare. It’s not like the media portrays.”

On the other hand, Palmer’s work at CPE has given her a new appreciation for the role of state government, especially how state agencies drive policy implementation and act in the public’s interest. Now, she’s leaning toward a career focused on public policy and advocacy.

Outside of class, Palmer enjoys theater, choir, and taking care of her two cats, Sebastian and Fleetwood (in honor of Fleetwood Mac, her favorite band). She’s president of her sorority, Gamma Phi Beta, where she’s also active in new member education. She doesn’t have immediate plans to attend graduate school, but she’s keeping her options open.

“Within my major, there is a perception that you need to move to D.C. to be successful. I now realize this isn’t true.” Palmer adds, “While I still may want to work in D.C. in the future, I’ve learned that I can stay in my home state and pursue a successful career here. I love Kentucky, and I want to serve the Commonwealth.”


Last Updated: 3/25/2024