STEP Signature Project- Internship


Name: Lauren Knauss

Type of Project: Internship

My STEP Signature Project is an internship working for the office of First Year Experience as a Peer Leader. The responsibilities of my position fluctuate throughout the year, but in the summer months they include orientation duties such as leading small groups and completing outreach to students. Throughout the academic year I will do continual outreach to first year students and help get them started, make connections, and get answers during their first year at Ohio State.

Through this experience I have learned a lot about myself and my view of the university and the world of higher education has been transformed. At the beginning of this position we had an extensive three week long training where we really focused on exploring ourselves and learned a lot about higher education and the theories behind it. My view of the world was transformed when I meet the diverse group of students that would be Peer Leaders with me. I thought that I knew who I was and what I valued, this group of people challenged my thinking and helped open my mind to new ways of thinking and different viewpoints.

I can honestly say that my relationships with my 32 fellow Peer Leaders and 8 members of the professional staff in the office of First Year Experience have transformed me in more ways than I even know. This group of people have come together with one purpose, to help first year students succeed at our university. Our adopted motto, “It’s not about us,” is truly something that we embody. It is also a motto that I want to adopt in my life, I want to live a life that is about helping others and not one that is focused only on self-gain and advancing my personal interests. Every time that I talk to one of my co-workers I learn something new and they continually challenge me to be a better person. These are the type of people that I want to be surrounded by throughout my life.

One activity that I feel played a major role in my transformation was our training session on strengths. I really enjoyed our focus on strengths and I learned about my strengths and how they come into play when working on a team that is composed of members that have different strengths. I never really understood how my strengths could be used to benefit not only myself, but others. One activity in particular that changed my understanding of myself was when we had to describe one of our strengths to 10 people and explain how it would come into play through our role as Peer Leaders. This was very difficult to me because many of my strengths fell into the executing category and I was the only person who did not have any relationship building strengths. My team members reassured me that my strengths were valuable and they were so kind.

Another activity that really transformed my thinking was learning about some higher education theories. I am a very strategic thinker and I like to see data and facts to prove things. This did just that for me and it helped me put my job into context and realize what a huge role I am going to play in many first year students college experience. It also made me realize how much Ohio State as a university has invested to make sure that the students are having the best college experience as possible. I never knew how much thought went behind each decision the university makes, and I now know that the students’ interests are taken into every decision that is made.

This transformation is very significant in my life. I have explored the world of higher education and I am now seriously considering a career in this field. I have talked to my supervisor about graduate school and other experiences that I could gain to learn more about higher education. This internship has now changed my professional goals and my future plans.

Most importantly though is that I now put others before myself and think about how my actions and decisions affect others. This position was supposed to be about me having an impact on first year students’ college experience, but I can honestly say that this position has made my college experience phenomenal and has changed my life. I have already formed friendships that I know will last a lifetime and will impact my life in unimaginable ways.



  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.  Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project

Scotts Miracle-Gro job application posting was for an information technology security analyst. Before the summer started, that meant nothing to me; I now understand it as cyber defense at a junior, cooperate NSA level and related detective work. This includes using software tools like Solutionary, SourceFire, Active Directory etc to protect against compromises and solve problems.


  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?  Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

In terms with the specific line of work I was doing, I’ve definitely grown to appreciate the balance between accessibility and privacy. You know those awful change password requests every 180 days? Yeah, well you’re okay with those when you can see a day of a thousand failed logins in an attempt at a bruteforce attack. That being said, I still hate changing my password (and so does everyone else in cyber security). Technically, I’ve expanded my understanding of the dangers of the web. And in about every sense, I’ve developed my self.


  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?  Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

You kind of forget how incredibly personable a computer is; it’s a goldmine of sensitive data. So when someone you know is compromised and violated, it’s shivering. The everyday interaction between me and the end user affected with malware was a constant reminder how powerful and destructive technology is. I learned a lot about social engineering, types of attacks and other specifics as leisurely as in conversation.

Our core job is growing grass and selling dirt so I knew going into Scotts the people would be unique. Thankfully they were a lot of fun too. I won’t bore you with inside jokes and meaningless names to you, those are mine. There’s a lot I noticed that I didn’t expect to find that I would like to share: such as my unaccounted for unease towards a corporation having a strong political affiliation (although I’m barely political), glee at learning about its relaxed work environment, keenness to eating as a team every day, high evaluation of working at a nice campus, criticisms on how physical distance affects communication despite working with computers and other observations regarding the small details that make up the “job”. Because of these quirks, I now have a better idea of what I want.

Outside of work, in my first week, I must have grown ten years. For starters, I left the comfort of a meal plan, ease of college housing and the unconditional help of my parents. I wanted to crawl into a corner and cry when I walked into Kroger for the first time, not knowing what I was going to make that first night for myself or the name and cut of my favorite cold cut which my dad routinely bought. I was a victim to brands I vaguely recalled being served at the dinner table. The second day, I got a flat. When I was notified, my initial response was, “can it wait?” I wanted nothing to do with my problems. Thankfully, a co-worker took time out of his day and helped me through it. I think he may of skipped his lunch for me, or at least kept himself an hour later. The following day, my car broke down. I needed to supply my passport to validate I was eligible to work and besides, the next day was my birthday. Queue the first time calling my dad that I needed AAA coverage, calling a tow truck, waiting, going to the nearest shop and learning that I couldn’t get the car back until next week – meaning I was stranded in Dublin needing to be in Cincinnati two hours ago. Again, praise good people, good friends who drove me two hours from Dublin to Cincinnati in their car, leaving their date together. I learned a lot that week about the significance of someone’s help.


  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?  Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

We are the sum of our experiences. On a superficial level, working over the summer opens doors to other places because it helps boost my resume, build connections, furthers my career and gives me a bit of pocket money to do other things. But the crux of what I’m most excited about is how over the past three months, I’ve grown up a lot. So to answer the original question, how I handle my day-to-day chores, be it academic, personal or professional, are going to be completely changed.


STEP Reflection – Internship


I am interning in Chevy Chase, Maryland this summer for The Travel Channel through The Scripps Network as a corporate finance intern. I plan to use my STEP money towards housing, transportation and other intern related expenses.

 There are many different things that I learned through my experience.   The first thing is a quote that I heard during a show premier at work one day, which was, “The Journey is more important than the destination.” This can be applied to many different situations throughout life, especially during my internship. The daily interactions I had with co-workers and the little things I learned everyday were way more valuable than to be at the end of the summer and have “completed the internship.” I always thought it was important to just get to the end goal, but now I understand that it is what you learn along the way that is important.

Next, I realized that your major really does not matter. I always thought that whatever I majored in I would be stuck doing for the rest of my life. That always scared me because what if I wanted to change jobs? Well I have learned that the base knowledge is important, but in most jobs, as long as you are hard working, dedicated and determined, the company can teach you what you need to do.

Lastly, I have never lived outside of Ohio. I had no idea how different it would be living in DC. This experience has been amazing in the fact that I am learning what it is like to use public transportation everyday and live in a different region of the country. The people here act different and the work environment here is different. I assumed that customer service was always putting the customer first, but after talking to people, I have found that the worker is just there to do their job, not make your day better. In the Midwest I feel like the worker or employee is always there to help serve you and make your day better. So overall, there are cultural differences from living in different parts of the country.

The first event was the event where I heard the quote, “The Journey is more important than the destination.” I heard this quote at a screening premier of a show on Travel Channel called My Big, Crazy, Family Adventure. It was the mom who said this during the first episode of the show while she was traveling with her family. It made me realize to really just slow down and enjoy the moments that lead you to your end goal, because in the end these little moments will be more significant than actually reaching your goal (the destination).

The next thing I want to mention is how your major affects your path in life. I always thought it was so important that you majored in what you want to do for the rest of your life. However, after many interactions with my boss this summer, I realize that is not the case. My boss majored in history and he is now a financial manager. This showed me that he worked for what he wanted and he ended up getting there. He told me that the company can teach you what you need to do in the position, but they can’t teach you your work ethic. Therefore I learned that I need to keep my work ethic, but it is okay to change career paths and majors.

Lastly, one thing that has changed my perception of where I want to live is the interactions with employees/workers. For example, I went to Panera one day for lunch and the worker was very rude to me. I asked him if the sandwich had cheese and he said “I don’t know, why don’t you look.” In the Midwest, the workers normally go out of their way to help you and make your day better. However, it is not just Panera in DC, it is all over. Workers just act like you are an inconvenience to them in DC. Overall, I have learned that people are raised differently and come from different environments. I was raised in Ohio and that is why my perception of what customer service should be is different then what people in DC think customer service should be.

really important for me to learn because I am always so fixed on the end goal, and I have realized I need to sit back and learn along the way in everything I do from every opportunity that I can. Also, I have been really concerned about picking the right major. After this experience I have realized that there is not necessarily a right major and that I can do whatever I set my mind to and whatever I want to do. Also, I have been doing budgeting and forecasting for the brand management, marketing, consumer press, and consumer marketing departments at the Travel Channel. After this experience, I have learned that I want to be on the other side of the table. What I mean by this is that I want to be the one who is working with the money in the brand management department, not the person who is forecasting and telling the brand management department how much they have to spend. Overall, this internship has been a great learning opportunity, which has put me on the path to my future.

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STEP Internship Reflection

I have blogged about my experience in Sydney, Australia at:

My STEP project is an 8 week internship in Sydney, Australia, where I worked for Ingenia Communities. Ingenia is an assistive living real estate company, and I worked on the finance team at the corporate headquarters. Aside from working, I explored Sydney and the surrounding area, traveled to Queenstown, New Zealand, and Cairns, Australia.

I have learned so much about myself since being abroad for so long. From corporate culture to relationships with peers, my perception of myself has definitely grown since being here. I have learned that I excel most when I am working independently, both in the office and in day to day life. I have come to learn how independent and responsible I can be on my own, especially considering I have financed the trip by myself. At work I do best when given a task to complete alone, and at home I am most efficient when working independently. On the other hand, the relationships I have made with my peers here are invaluable. I have learned my role in group settings, adjusted to living with different personalities, and become more mature because of the time with my classmates here.

The time away from home has helped me to answer a lot of questions I’ve had about my future. First, the time on the finance team here in Sydney has allowed me to discover what being an accountant actually means, and where I think I will fit in the industry. Next, I have become more certain of my desire to stay in my hometown and work in Columbus, Ohio. I have fallen in love with Sydney, but have fallen more in love with Columbus now that I am away. I have learned how much I value my family and the comfort of being within reach of them. I have loved being abroad but it has made me appreciate all the little things about home that much more.

There are many events here that have challenged me emotionally, and I think I have become stronger because of them, and seen myself mature in that aspect.

I believe my work with Ingenia Communities has helped me to realize my potential in the accounting industry. Now that I have spent 8 weeks in a corporate setting, and have worked with adults in my industry, I am confident that Ohio State will leave me fully prepared to start work in the real world when I graduate. The corporate team here was pleasantly surprised with my abilities and intelligence, so I know Ohio State is fully preparing me for full time work. At school, I work as an RA, which means I live alone. The transition from living completely alone to living with three other girls in an apartment has helped me grow so much. I was forced to practice many of the coexistence rules that I preach as an RA. From different sleep schedules and special eating habits, to different morals and expectations, all my roommates and I are very different. This added level of discomfort while living abroad proved to be a challenge that helped all of us mature. We had to learn how to adjust and react to each other’s moods. We also had to be understanding that sometimes people are homesick or upset, and that’s okay. We each needed our alone time as well. All of these circumstances, which made “coming home” from work uncomfortable at first, allowed me to become adaptable and aware of my actions and how they were affecting others.

There are so many little comforts about home that you don’t even realize you have until they are gone. For example, the ability to walk into a grocery store that you are familiar with, go to the exact aisle of the item you need, recognize the best brand for that item, and know what price to expect. That is something I took for granted at home, now that every grocery trip is a bit of a struggle comparing brands and prices, with no idea what quality each choice entails. I don’t think I ever appreciated the ease of my family living twenty minutes from campus as much as I do now that I am 20 hours away. I have learned how much I love grabbing dinner with my dad, or watching my little sister run track. This trip has taught me that it is actually important to me to stay closer to my family later in life.

Experiencing all of these uncomfortable and new situations with my peers has helped me build some of the most incredible relationships. I truly think I have found friends for life here, and when we return to Ohio State our friendships will last. Figuring out our international flights together, learning Australian customs, grocery shopping, and exploring the cities together have taught me how much I appreciate people. I love to hear people’s stories and backgrounds, what makes them the way they are, and what their ambitions are. I have not appreciated this about people as much as I have this trip, because without the people this wouldn’t be as incredible or memorable.

All of the things that I have learned about myself are vital to my future because I love to live by the rule: never stop improving. I think that this experience has altered me in ways that staying in the United States never could have. I have been put out of my comfort zones in more ways than I could have imagined, and each of these discomforts have helped me become a better version of myself.

The corporate experience and growth will help me to be a better candidate for future job opportunities. I know this unique experience will help me find exactly what I am looking for in a future employer. It has also given me a reaffirmation that pursuing my degree is truly worth it. The living arrangements will help me to adjust to different people and ideals, and respect our differences. I think this will also make me a better RA. I think being away from home so long has helped me become a more independent young adult. While I have learned I am capable of being on my own, I have also learned how blessed I am to have such a support system in my family at home.