Oregon State University logo

Of the people, by the people, for the people

Health policy alum finds his groove as Sen. Merkley intern


Ranteg Sandhu, BS ’16

Five job offers. A three-month internship. More than 300 phone calls each day. One U.S. senator.

Ranteg Sandhu, BS ’16, had a busy summer. As one of U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley’s legislative interns, Ranteg met people throughout the state and can now write the most concise one-pager around.

Although he engaged the busy senator only a handful of times, he nevertheless got an up-close, hands-on education into the inner workings of Sen. Merkley’s Portland office. Day to day, that meant taking a barrage of calls from constituents, ranging from routine to bizarre to heartbreaking. After making note of the concern, it was relayed to the senator so he had an informed outlook to make decisions. “Making calls is important,” Ranteg says. “It does make a difference.”

In addition to routine calls, he also fielded constituent casework more individual in nature, such as delayed veterans’ benefits or individual assistance with the Oregon Health Plan. He made a point to visit the five caseworkers and six field reps in the office, especially on health issues. “I told them, any work that requires background research, planning or organization, send it to me.”

He also tracked the senator’s quotes for accuracy, helped prep for session and did background research for constituents ranging from immigration to Medicare to housing issues.

“It’s one of the most beneficial aspects of government — to help constituents. To help people in Oregon with day-to-day issues. It’s a small piece,” he says, “but I see how it fits into the larger picture.”

Just like at Oregon State — and an internship with Oregon Rep. Dan Rayfield during his last term as a student — Ranteg set himself to a high standard. Health care law and writing case briefs were favorites, as was reading legal decisions and learning to be concise in his writing.

“Being a legislative intern gives you insight and exposure to the highest professional standard you can get in any office setting,” he says. “In D.C., regardless of where you go, there’s a certain standard and expectation to rise to — so you do it. It shows you what you’re capable of in the right environment.”

Speaking of the right environment…

Initially an Exercise and Sport Science major (now Kinesiology), Ranteg participated in three NPC Physique fitness competitions on the West Coast and trained on campus while balancing school and completing an internship in athlete rehabilitation and functional movement training. It was his first test of time management — and he was failing.

His GPA was low, his classes were going “terribly” and he was on academic warning. It was just the wake-up call he needed. “I’m not the kid who gets academic warning.”

After talking with his advisor, he began seeing himself in the world of health policy. The lesson? “Don’t let the first one or two years dictate the next two years. Even if you failed, if you put your mind to it you can set a pace to graduate. Don’t do it alone.”