Internship with U.S. Department of Justice in Columbus, OH

My STEP signature project this past summer was an internship with the United States Department of Justice in Columbus, Ohio. Over the course of ten weeks I had the opportunity to work alongside many analysts, experts, and law enforcement officials on a variety of projects in order to serve the city of Columbus. My main activities included conducting research, gathering data, planning projects, creating reports, and assisting my mentors through short and long-term goals.

During my internship, I learned to work with a variety of people who were very different than me. I was one of three interns assigned to my unit and each of us had different majors, backgrounds, and career interests. Between the three of us there was a healthy competitiveness within the workplace in regards to the opportunities that were offered and the different projects we wanted to work on. While each of us specialized in something unique, many projects required us to learn to work together and use one another’s skills and backgrounds in order to accomplish our tasks. This balance of healthy competition and productive collaboration was a unique dynamic that I had not experienced before. I certainly had to learn to adapt to the work environment in order to be successful.

Through my work, I discovered more of my interests and the type of work that I am good at. I was able to use my science background in several projects as well as enhance my skills in conducting research and data gathering. My internship this summer also affirmed my interests in the field of public health and a future career in public service. I was able to seize a variety of opportunities related to these areas of interests, which enabled me to learn more about my self and what I want to do in my future. Additionally, I was able to speak to many experts in countless fields who offered different perspectives and greater insight within the cross roads of law enforcement, science, and public health.

A specific internship opportunity that affirmed my career interests and enabled my transformation this summer was a conference work trip in New Orleans, Louisiana. This two-day trip consisted of a radiological awareness workshop and isotope crossroads simulation. While this opportunity was not originally offered to interns, I went above and beyond to express my interest in the program offered and requested to attend the workshop. After conveying how the program would benefit me, I was ecstatic to learn that my office approved my request and I was able to use my STEP funds to cover much of the costs.

The conference invited law enforcement officials, emergency response teams, and public health experts from across the country to attend the training. Here, I had the opportunity to directly see how public health, science, and law enforcement intersect with each other in order to serve the American people, specifically in disaster prevention and public safety. During the radiological awareness workshop, I learned how public health agencies work with law enforcement to identify radiological incidents and keep people safe. The isotope crossroads simulation allowed collaboration between government, stakeholders, and health officials in response to a case simulation.

At the conference I was able to meet with an official from the Center for Disease Control who was a knowledgeable expert in her field. We spoke about graduate schools as well as career fields in public health and she was able to give me some great guidance and support. I also had a chance to network among people within the military and law enforcement who gave me great life advice. This opportunity was significant to me because it allowed me to experience a greater perspective of the field I wish to work in. It was an amazing networking opportunity where I met professionals who shared with me their knowledge in both science and law enforcement. This conference workshop was the highlight of my STEP project and has made a meaningful impact on me.

 

Darby Lasure: Ohio Department of Insurance Internship Summer 2017

 

For my STEP signature project I was an intern at the Ohio Department of Insurance in the OSHIIP Division (Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program). For my internship I accepted and responded to phone calls into the State of Ohio office regarding Medicare, Medicaid and various other health insurance issues for those who are Medicare eligible.

I would say my view of the World (state) has definitely changed. Before I accepted this internship I had no idea about how government agencies worked and how they helped folks that needed help. After my internship I know now that there is many state programs to help those who are Medicare eligible. Since it is a huge topic in recent elections and political agendas I was able to express and further my opinion as an informed individual.

I have also learned to understand myself more. Before accepting this internship I did not have the chance to work for a state agency or hold any other job besides being a team member at Dicks Sporting Goods. I was able to learn how I function in a “corporate” world. I also was able to learn more about my actual feelings of helping people in my future job. Meaning, I always wanted to hold a job that helps people from a financial standpoint, and I think that working for any state agency in the future would allow me to accomplish that goal. I also assumed that the entire public knew their options when it came to healthcare and Medicare specifically, but this is very untrue. This made me want to educate those who are Medicare eligible around me outside of work.

During my internship I had the chance to meet a lot of great people. These folks I dealt with everyday and they will help me in my future endeavors. However, there wasn’t really a chance for events or special things considering we are funded through a state budget. So the only time I had the chance to bond with those around me was in the office while I was working. Just working everyday with the public with a group of other like minded individuals helped me gain knowledge and want to go to work everyday and help those that called in and needed assistance. I think that the most valuable relationships I am apart of are those with the analyst that help me when I was confused during a phone call.

I received about 30-50 phone calls each day, but there were about 5 that really stick out from the entire summer. I think one was a man that I remember actually started as a bad experience. He spoke very angrily and by the end of the phone call he thanked me and said I was helpful and that he didn’t have another experience like the one I gave him with a state agency. It was really rewarding to be able to turn a bad experience into a good one for a caller, especially one who thought the experience would have been a bad one. It was experiences like these that made me want to go to work everyday and help those around me, and that made me want to continue my internship until I graduate this December.

This transformation is significant in my life because I needed it. I needed to help people and I wanted to help people. Those who are Medicare eligible in today’s society are seen many times to my generation as a burden or problem causers. I really wanted to take a situation and make it better. I accepted about 1000 phone calls just this summer and I know each one, even though phone calls didn’t go as planned, was at least treated with respect and given knowledge about their situation that they definitely needed to continue living their lives. This relates to my personal goals because I want to obtain a job helping people, and with the help of STEP I was able to accomplish that.

 

Munjal & Maji Marwa

My name is Vikas Munjal and I am currently a senior studying Public Health (Environmental) with a minor in Humanitarian Engineering. For STEP Signature Project, I pursued an internship with the Sustainable and Resilient Tanzanian Community (SRTC) program. The SRTC program is a collaborative process across The Ohio State University initiated through the Dept. of Civil, Environmental, and Geodetic engineering and the School of Environment and Natural Resources. the program is in partnership with the in-country NGO Kilimanjaro Hope Organization (KiHO), the University of Dodoma, and the people of Marwa Village in the Same District, Ruvu Ward of the Kilimanjaro Region. The SRTC has the acknowledged support of, and alliance with, the Same District Council (representing the Government of Tanzania).

Marwa Village was first settled in 2009-2012 and is located in the Same District, Ruvu Ward of the Kilimanjaro Region, in the Northern Zone of Tanzania. Marwa Village is a predominantly Maasai settlement, with a small, yet emerging, Chaga and Pare community mainly located in the Marwa sub-village. Marwa Village has an estimated population of between 5,000-7,000 people. The Maasai are under increasing pressure from the Tanzanian and Kenyan national governments to establish permanent village settlements, transforming their traditional wandering pastoralist lifestyles and culture. The village is constituted as four subvillages: Patteli, Lesirway, Njakatai, and Marwa (Figure 1). Marwa sub-village has Maasai, Chaga, and Pare peoples, while the other 3 sub-villages are predominantly Maasai in population. The village’s governing body is the Marwa Village Council, which consists of the Village Chairman (Mr. Elifuraha Mason), the Village Executive Officer (Mr. George Madea, representing the Tanzanian

In May 2016, the Sustainable and Resilient Tanzanian Community (SRTC) Program identified Maji Marwa as their inaugural anchor project of bringing “maji” (Swahili for “water”) to the four sub-villages of Marwa: Patteli, Lesirway, Njakatai, and Marwa. Additionally, an impact framework (Figure 2) of bringing water to Marwa was identified through a participatory community consultation process in September 2016. A priority need was identified in regard to health and water, and in May 2017 a rainwater-harvesting system was installed on the medical dispensary (clinic) in Marwa after the people identified the dispensary as a facility used by everyone and the need for clean, safe, and accessible water.

In June 2017, during my internship with the SRTC I conducted an initial health assessment in Marwa. The goal of the assessment was be to provide baseline data on health indicators prior to the arrival of clean, safe, and accessible water in Marwa, and so that it could be compared with data collected after water is introduced.

Initially, a series of questions were identified that focused primarily on basic demographics, HIV, child health, and waterborne illnesses; however, these questions were updated twice after consulting with Mr. Kateri Daniel (Executive Director of KiHO) and Mr. Tony Duke (SRTC staff). A series of guided questions to facilitate a focused dialogue and discussion within the sub-villages was deemed to be a more appropriate and engaging medium. The initial questionnaire was very limited and focused only on certain health issues, whereas the final questionnaire would allow a more fluid and open conversation around community health that was led by the Community members.

This internship provided me with a hands-on Public Health experience that completely transformed my views on sustainability, development, and health. Learning about the participatory development process highlighted the proper way to conduct any development projects abroad. Many mission trips or service-learning experiences can neglect to consult the people whom the projects will effect, and many participants go into the experience knowing very little about the community they will be impacting. This dynamic often leads to project failures and misunderstandings between community members and volunteers.

Through this transformative experience, my perspective on sustainable international development has changed completely. I have grown more compassionate about issues related to health inequity and accessibility, garnering skills in health assessment and conducting consultations. For many years, I thought I wanted to go to medical school, assuming that was the only way for me to have the most direct impact on someone’s health; however, after this experience I have realized that there are many routes to improve the health of an individual. This STEP experience has helped me decide to pursue a different career after graduation and taking a break from going to medical school.

A report I authored after the trip:

Marwa Community Health Consultation Report

My Internship Experience with Colgate-Palmolive

Name: Selina Dunbar

Type of Project: Internship

My STEP funds afforded me the opportunity to intern with Colgate-Palmolive in Nashville, TN this summer! It truly was a life changing opportunity. As a result of my internship, I was able to grow both professionally and personally.
As a customer development and sales intern, I got a lot of hands on experience working in the CPG industry. Whether it be attending meetings with customers, attending trade shows, or going on store checks, I was always busy. My internship allowed me to work in a fast-paced environment, which was very rewarding.
It was also a pleasure to work with a diverse group of talented professionals. Everyone in Colgate-Palmolive’s Nashville office had a unique set of skills and experiences that I was able to learn from. I was also able to do a lot of independent learning during my internship. This afforded me the opportunity to further hone certain skills such as analytics and public speaking.
Furthermore, my internship afforded me the opportunity to live in Nashville, TN. Prior to my internship, I had never been to Nashville. So, being in Nashville was a new experience for me. Although it took some getting used to, I did enjoy living in Nashville, TN for the summer. During my internship, I stayed on Vanderbilt University’s campus. Vanderbilt is in the heart of downtown Nashville so I was able to do a lot of sightseeing. I even met other college students interning in Nashville for the summer! It was great talking to them and learning about their internship experiences.
Prior to this internship, I was mostly focused on having a marketing career in the CPG industry. Because of my internship, I am now more open to working in sales. My internship provided me with a solid foundation of Colgate-Palmolive’s core business functions because, as a sales intern, I was as a was able to work on numerous cross functional projects. I was also able to network with upper management and get ongoing constructive feedback. This greatly enhanced my skills and equipped me with the necessary experience that will be useful to going forward as a pursue a full-time job post-graduation.
Overall, I had an amazing experience during the summer internship with Colgate-Palmolive in Nashville, TN. I absolutely love the company’s culture and people, and the numerous opportunities for growth and development that the company has to offer. I look forward to the possibility of working for Colgate-Palmolive as a full-time employee when I graduate in the spring!

Jessie’s World Internship

Name: Jillian Cressman

Type of Project: Internship

My STEP Signature Project took place at Jessie’s World this past summer. Jessie’s World is a restorative housing program that is owned and operated by NISRE, Inc. (Nothing Into Something Real Estate).

A large element of my internship was becoming acquainted with the operations and procedures of a residential program that serves a specific population. For example, Jessie’s World accepts female clients in reentry [from various serious circumstances] or recovery, but most of the Jessie’s World residents I interacted with were women with a history of incarceration and substance abuse. Furthermore, much of my internship involved daytime monitoring at the Jessie’s World housing facilities. I also shadowed various aspects of the wrap-around services offered by Jessie’s World staff, such as referrals to other resources and other case management practices.

Throughout the course of my STEP internship, I was often challenged to take a critical look at myself, as self-awareness is an essential component of human service work. My introspection and feedback from staff and residents from the program allowed me to learn that at times, I may come across as naïve and eager to please people. It became clear to me that the way I think I present myself does not necessarily match up to the way people perceive me. I took away an understanding that I would need to deliberately work on projecting a more assertive and confident air. This transformation was necessary for my internship, but also is essential for my effectiveness as a future social worker.

Additionally, many of my assumptions about offenders, addiction, and family were shattered, especially through my interactions with the residents at Jessie’s World. For instance, I had brought my own biases about family to my internship. My initial idea was that the family is more times than not, the best place for someone to feel protected, safe, or supported in recovery from addiction. That perception transformed after I grew in my understanding of how generalizing individuals in recovery and re-entry limits the human service provider. Furthermore, a person may have ended up in their current position due in part to the negative influence of their family. My grasp on potential family complications grew as I learned the sober-living mantra that one should change people, places and things that remind them of their addiction. Another belief of mine that expanded was my ideas about engagement and treatment involving people who have experienced the criminal justice system, as well as people with AOD (Alcohol and Other Drug) issues. Initially, I came in with an optimistically limited impression that working with these populations wouldn’t be all that different than the generalist practice examples I had discussed in my university classes. After all, I thought, people are simply people in the end. Nevertheless, my views transformed, as I gained understanding about certain approaches needed for someone struggling with addiction, or who was just emerging from prison, which has its own subculture. I can now discern a greater range of warning signs to look out for in terms of addictive behavior, as well as more dysfunctional habits that one may have taken on for survival in the criminal justice system.

My role as an intern involved me interacting with the residents (clients) of Jessie’s World alongside my supervisors, as well as on an individual basis. It was through comparing these two modes of communication that I really came to understand how the women changed their approach, depending on if they were talking to me, or my supervisors. In the beginning, I let what I perceived as manipulation affect me too much, and took it personally. However, my supervisor, Marvetta, was not only excellent at pointing out when a resident was behaving a certain way towards me, but was also wonderful at helping me process it. She helped me understand that often, nothing about how a resident reacts or talks to me is in direct relation to my character or presence. Rather, the resident is doing the best she can do to survive and provide for herself, which doesn’t always measure up to acceptable social norms. Though it wasn’t always comfortable, I am very grateful for the many teaching moments that helped me get a tougher skin.

I was also given the amazing opportunity to sit on a Re-Entry Work Readiness Program for the agency, IMPACT Community Action. Some of the residents from Jessie’s World participate in this program, which focuses on helping people (within one year of release from incarceration) address and overcome barriers to a successful re-entry into society. My original plan was to sit in on one day of the three-week course, but the instructor for the class strongly recommended I stay for another two, in order to take more away from the program. I am incredibly grateful that I took his advice! I feel like I was welcomed with open arms by a group of people who had such radically different life experiences than me. The participants were wonderful at giving me feedback on their first impressions of me, their honest perceptions of me, and what helped them get accustomed to me sitting in on their group. Moreover, hearing about the events of their lives flipped many of the things I thought I knew about the world upside down. Especially memorable was hearing the day-to-day experience of a young man who had grown up to join a gang. His view on the world was so confined, due to the environment he grew up in, which left no certainty for a tomorrow. I will be forever grateful and blown away by the re-entry class participants’ openness in sharing their stories, even with a virtual stranger sitting in on their safe space.

Another event that lead to a transformation in my view of the field of social services was being present during the auditing process at Jessie’s World. Because Jessie’s World is licensed and funded in part by The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC), is it routinely audited to make sure it is meeting state regulations. The audit inevitably had large implications, as it could have potentially affected a large source of funding for Jessie’s World. In preparation for the audit, I worked on making sure the community resources binder for the residents was up to date. Even though I worked on a small fraction of what was being assessed by the ODRC, it took hours of research. Consequently, I grew in my understanding of the complicated nature of operating all the components of an agency within a business. I also advanced in my comprehension of the more specific challenges in managing a social service agency. This experience is especially pertinent to me, as my career will involve me navigating various social service settings. Likewise, my agency or employer will most likely be audited by funders or the government.

The personal change and development that happened in conjunction with my STEP project matters significantly to my academic and professional goals. I am a Social Work major, and I am still trying to discern my area of interest in practice. I deliberately sought out an internship that would incorporate elements of social work, as well as expose me to the human services side of the criminal justice system. While my transformations in understanding did not completely clarify my career path, they added to my awareness of what social work in the criminal justice system would entail. That being said, I took everything that the residents, program participants, and agency professionals told me seriously, as it has huge implications for my development as a professional social worker. My face-to-face experience with people helped me apply the concepts I have learned about in class, as well as explore the complexity of a field built on humans. My progression throughout the internship also relates to a personal goal of becoming more approachable and open-minded. So when the opportunity arose in a conversation, I asked people what they wanted to see in a counselor or social worker. Therefore, I look forward to integrating the feedback from everyone involved in my internship and my experience, in general, in my future endeavors.

 

 

One of the Jessie’s World houses

 

The sign-in binder for residents at another one of the houses

 

The resource binder update in progress

 

 

 

E15 Group Summer Internship

Name: Jake Walisiak

Type of Project: Summer Internship

My 2017 STEP signature project was in support of an internship that was extended from my previous summer experience. I obtained internship the spring internship career fair. My program was a 10-week long commitment that was in the heart of the city of Chicago. I worked as a data analytics intern working on a pricing project under a manager of analytics.

My summer internship was truly an invaluable experience. Not only did I receive professional, company-influential experience, but also a new understanding of myself in a professional sense. This new understanding has also allowed me to understand some new and important values that I look for in a company. The best part of this change in views is that they do not pertain to only personal gain. While working on a computer everyday number crunching and analyzing data, I began to think about my time commitment on a bigger scale. I understood that my work was highly valued and played a huge role in the success of the company, however, I wasn’t full satisfied with what was being accomplished. This lack of fulfillment drove my passion to strive to undertake more responsibilities.

In regards to more responsibilities, I am referring to the desire to want to make a difference in the world. Helping a corporate company only brings so much feeling of accomplishment. With this recognition I set out to find a way to get my company involved in the community. I made it my responsibility to draw up a scope document to allow for E15 to partake in volunteer work in the underdeveloped parts of Chicago. My goal was to provide workshops for underprivileged high school students and teach them what the field of data analytics is all about. Upon finishing the scope, I got one of my coworkers on board to help me and presented the plan to the CEO. Unfortunately, the summer ran short and the implication was not able to take place. However, the knowledge and experience I gained from this experience will carry forward throughout the remainder of my professional career.

Following my summer 2016 data analyst internship with The E15 Group, I was offered the opportunity to continue working remotely while on campus. This experience allowed me to improve my skills working amongst a team strictly through remote communication. The role was flexible and required 12-hour work weeks on my own time. This gave me a chance to learn how to effectively schedule meetings and practice taking minutes after conference calls. Upon completing a survey to replace a pre-existing audit process, I presented the final product to the regional president of a hospital chain through a phone conference.

This past summer I returned to The E15 Group where I worked my second summer with the support of STEP. Going into the summer I requested an increase in responsibility and was then tasked with leading a project. My first task was analyzing survey data from our DOPs and then creating a scope to address a problem with inconsistent pricing. The goal of the project’s scope was to determine a systematic approach on how to charge our clients for the fan-experience they looked to provide at their venues. This internship taught me to work in a fast paced environment, collaborate with a team, and prepare a presentation for the executive board.

After completing these two projects, I realized that combining the strength of the offices’ communication skills and technological skills, an extremely effective workshop could be valuable to many in the future. The level of immersion I experienced amongst my co-interns and project team confirmed that I flourish in a workplace with a balance between social collaboration and technical data mining. As I progressed through the brainstorming of how to get involve with the community, I learned that my motivation was self driven and it felt good to experience this. Another benefit of this was to witness the upbeat, excited responses from my coworkers and to see how quickly they were willing to help me accomplish this goal. I will continue to stay in touch with E15 to help carry out this mission.

Earlier this summer I went on a volunteer trip to Laos in southeast Asia. It was while on this trip that I began to gain such a strong appreciation for giving back to others. I value the feeling of accomplishment and commitment of an organization to helping others. It was while at my summer internship that I did not realize until late in the summer that something was missing. I slowly began to understand it was this same feeling of wanting to give back that I was looking for.

The overall impact that this transformation will have, and has had on me is immeasurable. I have learned how important it is to me to accomplish something much more than what is just required. I also have learned that I feel a strong passion to continue to volunteer and provide services to others in need of them or who would greatly appreciate my time and advice. Going forward, I am now fortunate to have the knowledge that I would like my career to support these interests. Without this internship, I will never know how long this type of realization may have taken to experience.

 

My Summer Internship

Name: Holly Rack

Type of Project: Internship

My STEP signature project allowed me to pay for housing and expenses for living in Columbus, Ohio as I completed my very first internship in the manufacturing industry. My position at Niagara Bottling, LLC was as an intern on the Manufacturing Technology team. With this role I was able to apply my knowledge as an operations management student to create a labor optimization report detailing four plants.

While completing my STEP project, I was able to come to two very important realizations about myself and the world around me. The first, and most positive transformation, was a personal affirmation that I have found the correct career path to pursue once I graduate. Beginning this summer, I was nervous being in a manufacturing center when I had little to no experience. I was working alongside engineering students that ridiculed my business background. As I moved forward in my internship experience, I gained confidence in my abilities and I improved a lot of my technical skills. Midway through my summer project, I took over as the Team Lead for a project I worked on with 4 other people, and I was able to ensure a successful project completion.

My internship experience also gave me a newfound insight on the field I will soon be stepping into; as a woman stepping into the realm of manufacturing, I will be facing much resistance and difficulties in the form of sexism. I was caught off guard many times with sexist comments or lowered expectations of my abilities, and I found myself constantly trying to ‘prove’ myself as an equal to gain some small form of respect for my abilities and experience.

Post internship, I have been able to take a mental inventory of all the experience I gained in manufacturing, and I have noticed how much I personally and professionally have grown. Taking over as a project lead with my four intern peers, I was able to assess the critical points of project management. Last week I was able to attend the Fisher career fair and talk about my experiences travelling to different plants and implementing best manufacturing practices, and it interested many potential employers.

In addition to adding skills to my resume, I also began to recognize how applicable my classes are to my future. My operations management core classes have been extremely fascinating because of how I can now relate them to the work I did over the summer. It has given me a sense of pride for my future and made me apply myself to classwork in ways I have never done before.

My internship also encouraged me to become a much more independent person. Because I had the opportunity to travel alone to different plants, I got experience renting cars, locking the hotel room doors, eating alone, and exploring different parts of America. It made me look to myself for happiness and let me do a lot of self- reflection on what I want for my future. I loved having the opportunity to travel, and after my experiences I would absolutely look for a job that allows travel.

Even the moments where I was exposed to sexism in the workplace pushed me to grow as an individual. I have found myself standing up for myself more often now and taking a more assertive role in demanding the respect I deserve. It has allowed me to be more aware of early signs, giving me a better look at potential companies I want to work for post-graduation.

Ultimately, my internship was hands down the most pivotal moment in my academic career. It not only confirmed my choice of major, but it also fostered my growth in a fast-paced, tough environment that I could not have experienced elsewhere.  Allowing me the chance to find my professional passion, I could not be more grateful for this experience. I am looking forward to researching future employers, interviewing, and accepting a job in the field I love.

Victoria’s Secret Merchandising Internship

Maggie Thomas

Internship

This summer I participated in an internship with LBrands in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. I worked as a Merchandising Intern for Victoria’s Secret Stores and was part of the Body by Victoria Bras team. Throughout my internship, I assisted the other merchants with various tasks including system updates and sample management.

Over the course of my internship I had the opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at the retail industry and develop skills that I will need to be successful in this field. By the end of the summer my passion for retail had grown tremendously and I was able to confirm that I would like to pursue a full-time career working with fashion retail. Before my internship, I was extremely naïve about the day to day activities of a merchant, but at its conclusion I was able to handle many daily tasks on my own and even input my opinion on current and future business.

While working all interns got the opportunity to speak with other full time employees and hear about their jobs and career paths. After meeting with my cross functional team and other merchants, I began to understand that working in retail requires constant teamwork and everyone looks to support each other. This was very appealing to me because I would like to work in an environment where employees want to support each other and help the company succeed as a whole instead of simply looking out for individual interests.

The Merchandising Interns were assigned a project to work on for the entirety of the summer and we even got the chance to collaborate with two other interns working in New York City. Throughout this process, we examined the retail landscape and looked for opportunities to improve our business. After working on the project for two months and developing our recommendations, we even had the opportunity to present our ideas to leadership. The intern project informed me even more about the retail industry and gave me a new appreciation for it.

Overall, simply being involved in the day to day tasks of a merchant was very educational and inspiring. As the summer progressed I saw product move from concept to physical samples and now it is nearly in stores. I also got to see how weekly business can quickly effect the assortment and how agile and resourceful merchants must truly be.

As I finish my senior year and my time at Ohio State comes to an end, I must now begin my professional career. Because of STEP and the opportunity I received this summer, I now can confidently say, I know the direction I would like to go. The retail industry is constantly changing and presenting new challenges and, in the near future, I hope to be involved in its evolution.

 

Ariel Corporation Co-op Experience

I adopted my STEP signature project to revolve around my mechanical engineering cooperative education, or co-op, experience with Ariel Corporation. Ariel Corporation, based in Mount Vernon, Ohio, is the world’s leading manufacturer of reciprocating natural gas compressors. During my nine-month co-op with Ariel, I worked in the maintenance and project and processes departments to develop internal facility documentation in order to maintain a working understanding of the layouts of all of Ariel’s facilities.

During my co-op experience, my expectations and plans for after graduation were able to more accurately develop. I had not previously had any engineering experience and was not quite sure what life could or would be like post-graduation. I often feel that the daily grind of working towards a degree can cause students to lose sight of their motivation while in college. I know I personally was losing sight of my educational and career goals among the piling homework and studying deadlines. However, first-hand exposure to my degree’s working environment was just what I need to see the big picture and to remember why I am pushing myself to graduate with an engineering degree. Not only did my co-op allow me to regain motivation, but it also provided me with a plethora of technical and personal skills that simply cannot be obtained in the classroom.

Co-oping with Ariel provided me exposure to a number of learning experiences that, in addition to my technical knowledge gained here at OSU, will help propel me after my graduation. These experiences at Ariel also helped me to reshape my expectations and preferences for my first job after graduation.

A significant amount of my professional growth can be attributed to the technical skills I acquired during my co-op. A majority of my work utilized AutoCAD software, a program I had little to no experience with at the beginning of my co-op. It was interesting and extremely gratifying to see how improved my skill set had become over nine months; I went from being lost in the process to aiding in the training of other incoming co-ops. Other technical skills gained included knowledge of the manufacturing process at Ariel and understanding of national utility and safety standards.

While a significant portion of my professional growth is visible through the technical skills I gained, I also strongly believe that growth can be seen through my “soft skills.” I was fortunate to have been assigned to a mentor who understood the importance to not only expose co-ops to a wide variety of technical experiences but also to introduce them to the norms of everyday workplace interactions. Despite the fact that I was one of the newest additions to the company and by far not the most experienced, my mentor pushed me and guided me on how to contact the necessary individuals for my projects. With his guidance, I gained confidence and learned how to successfully interact with my co-workers in a manner that would ensure that my projects would continue to move forward towards completion.

In addition to the professional growth, my lack of homework and therefore my increased time outside of work allowed for personal growth. During this time, I improved my budgeting skills and took the time to experiment and eventually find the best ways for myself to keep track of my finances. This allowed me to reassess how I’m spending my money and find ways I can make better decisions, in respect to dining out or impulse purchases, to save money. Another significant source of personal growth stemmed from the desire to fill the empty time outside of the work hours. During school, I had usually filled those hours with studying or hanging with friends. However, moving to a new town and beginning work with a new group of people, such as the other co-ops from across Ohio, allowed me to push myself to be more independent, make new acquaintances, explore new places, and chase after new experiences. These experiences varied from weekly lunches with the other co-ops at all the different diners in town, go-karting, long-distance cycling, trips to Kentucky and Florida, and even a road trip to go hiking in Montana.

My nine-month co-op experience with Ariel Corporation was not only crucial in providing me first-hand experience in the field that I am desiring to enter upon graduation, but it also allowed me to better understand my personal and professional aspirations. During this experience I gained professional skills that will prove invaluable in the future. Additionally, my personal growth during this time has further established the importance of  managing time efficiently to allow the balance I desire between working and chasing after new personal life experiences.

-Kaley Coss

Co-Alliance Agronomy Internship

After much deliberation and several re-evaluations of options, the STEP signature project that I settled upon was an internship experience. The role I attained for this past summer was with Co-Alliance, LLP. I was an agronomy intern and field scout at the New Holland, Ohio agronomy plant. Co-Alliance is a large, regional farmers’ cooperative involved in the agronomy, energy, grain and animal science industries. Here I scouted agronomic crop fields, documented and analyzed field trials of nutrition programs and crop variety trial plots, collected data and managed reports for a tissue sampling program, and took part in other roles as needed.

Field Scout Training

The project helped me understand myself more, in the sense that I learned some strengths and weaknesses of mine and became aware of ways I could grow. Over the course of the internship I realized I often feel lacking if I have to ask questions or for clarification on certain tasks or expectations, so I often do not ask for help or clarity. However, working under supervisors who cared about my understanding and my growth, I learned that asking questions helps not only gain understanding that, but really helps deepen relationships and create a good dynamic within the workplace. Another thing I  learned was that I have much more to learn in my field and that it is helpful to utilize as many resources as possible. I also became aware that I sometimes lack confidence because I do not have as much agricultural background as many of my colleagues. Another thing I understood better through my experience was my desire for learning from tutorials, hands-on experience and shadowing. I found this to be extremely important to my general learning.
One of the assumptions that fell apart during my experience is that agriculture has largely overcome natural and traditional challenges. Though we have advanced technology and continually-expanding strategies to increase agricultural efficiency, we are indeed still heavily dependent upon weather and conditions, and agricultural workers must understand how to deal with many unknowns. I also learned the weight and importance of relationships within the industry. The relationship between farmers and cooperatives is very important and it is a great dynamic.
The transformations and changed understandings I underwent were aided by specific events as well as ongoing relationships and atmospheres. The development of my comfort in asking questions came as an ongoing process, aided largely by both of my supervisors’ ability to answer and teach thoroughly, as well as their genuine willingness to do so. I was able to share office space with the “Ag specialist” for our plant and his explanations of products, farming practices, and even farm management were given with clarity and sincerity. This built confidence in me as well as more understanding.
An experience that helped me realize that a lack of background is not necessarily detrimental was a conversation with my supervisor, in which he encouraged me that this actually allows me to develop ideas and strategies based upon modern knowledge and research, unhindered by tradition and set opinions. Another time I was encouraged was by an agriculture specialist I met at a mixer Co-Alliance provided for the interns, where I was able to interact with current employees. This employee shared his personal experience and reminded me not to let others count me out or look down upon my background. The passion I have for the subject area can help urge me on to fill that void of experience. It may force me to reach out to more experienced people and develop mentoring relationships, but this can certainly be beneficial.
Another experience that helped shape my understanding of my own learning strategies was the opportunities to ride with my supervisors to appointments and other trips. I was able to sit-in on a customer appointment and see my manager’s rapport with the customer. The trust was gained through a straightforward, professional relationship and sincerity of interest in the customer’s well-being and success. Also, my first day on the job was defined by a ride-along with my manager where he showed me how to scout crops, look for concerning conditions and other general strategies. This and other similar trips helped me to realize that I really learn better by gaining experience than I do by listening to verbal instruction, even when the instruction is of high quality, such as was given at my work orientation.
The conditions present this summer with the wet and cold spring/planting season provided a unique opportunity for me to see that farmers do still struggle with the weather, and at high costs. Some fields had to be replanted two or three times this year due to flooding and cold temperatures, and in times such as these, when crop prices are low, farmers must be very strategic as to how to spend their money. I learned not to assume that expensive equipment and large farms always equate to ease of work or assured, continued success. Farming is risky, as it has always been.
                The changes in my understanding and approach to professional relationships that took place this summer will be valuable going forward. I feel that the desire to form relationships with people in the industry, whether in a company I work for or otherwise, will be very valuable in helping me build a professional network and support system from whom I can learn and exchange knowledge and experience. The willingness to ask questions gained through good teachers this summer will help me gain more understanding in future work environments and help create good work relationship dynamics.
Also, understanding the importance of farmers managing their resources well can help push me to be as knowledgeable as I can in order to help them best, and make good decisions based upon all the information available. I think the weather dependency of agriculture also helps me to be more flexible in general, and be able to change strategies and make informed decisions, having an open mind.
Overall this experience was very beneficial in helping me understand general agriculture, the relationship dynamics between entities in the industry, and how to best benefit companies I commit to. I look forward to continuing to develop meaningful relationships that help reinforce efficiency and quality of performance in the workplace.

-Boden Fisher