Summer Internship with Buckeye Service Dogs

Elizabeth Spahr



  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

I interned with Buckeye Service Dogs over the summer. It was an amazing experience in which I was able to shadow my supervisor on visits with clients who were interested in getting service dogs and work with service dogs-in-training. Aside from working with people and dogs, I was lucky enough to also work with horses and ball pythons.


  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

Having worked with this organization before my internship began I was unsure that I would be able to experience something that would definitively change or transform. However, I could not have been more wrong. Coming into this internship I knew that there was an emphasis on both the dog aspect and the human aspect, but I figured the focus was much more on the dogs. It turns out that people are almost equallyessential to animal-related businesses of any kind.

While working with horses, I also learned that training methods and behavior studies can mostly be applied across species. Though my internship supervisor is specifically in the service dog business, she does work with horses as well. I began to see horses differently by working with her; and though I in no way believe that horses and dogs are the same, I now think that if you understand how to train one, you can learn how to train the other.


  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?

During my internship, I was lucky enough to be able to go along with my supervisor to several different types of meetings. These meetings really hoped transform my views on what is important in the service dog industry. The first kind of meeting I was able to go to was a meeting with a family that was considering getting a service dog from our organization. During interviews like this, my supervisor likes to get an understanding of what daily life is like for the clients. She looks specifically for whether or not their lifestyle would support having a dog, because while service dogs are considered “medical equipment” she still has a responsibility to the dog to ensure it has a good life. This was the first meeting that really allowed me to see that the people are just as important: if the people are not willing to put in the work with the dog or unable to provide it with all the necessities, it is nearly impossible to place the dog in that home.

The other two kinds of meetings are also important. The next kind of meeting is the one where the person and their future service dog meet. During these meetings, we needed to see whether or not the people would “click” with the dog. In one of these that I attended, we actually brought two service dogs-in-training to meet with a person as we were unsure of which would be a better fit. In this case the human aspect and dog aspect of this business meet and it is very important to make the best possible team. The last type of meeting is a sort of check-up: after about a month of the team being together, my supervisor will make a short trip out to see if everything is still going well. During this meeting, she assesses whether or not the human team member is continuing with the training and keeping up their end of the contract.

My internship supervisor allowed me to help her work with her horses so that I could get some experience with training horses as well. While I was with her, I began to notice more and more similarities between training horses and training dogs. My supervisor even trained her horse to do some of the same things we train the dogs to do! Horses seem to be just as reward driven as our dogs, as well as eager to work. I would say the biggest difference between training dogs and training horses is that horses typically do not respond to voice commands like dogs and mostly rely on body language and signaling.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

I believe that most people like me that are animal science majors and on the pre-veterinary track are much more interested in animals than people, For me, at least, this was especially true as I knew from a young age that I wanted to work with animals. I think it is easy to forget that working with humans is just as important, whether they are owners or other doctors. I am grateful for this experience as it has truly helped me be better prepared for life after vet school and I am now better equipped to understand more people. This internship also contributed greatly to my breadth of experience with animals. Prior to this past summer I had never worked with reptiles or horses and now I can say that I am comfortable with both!


My Summer Internship

Name: Liya Gebru

Type of Project: Internship


I worked as an intern at Star Dental Clinic. As an intern, I attended the office daily and sometimes on weekends and assisted with tasks. These tasks included restocking cabinets, setting up rooms for appointments, cleaning around the office, patient-side assistance, and running errands for the dentist I shadowed.

As a future health professional, my desire to make addressing health disparities a lifetime goal of mine was reaffirmed. A fear of mine as a prospective dental student was always that I would grow desensitized to the things I see. After completing a certain amount of redundant dental procedures, could I remain interested in the work I do? This internship, however, illustrated the impression dentistry has on you beyond physicality.

Being able to work closely with patients of different ethnic, financial, cultural, religious, etc. backgrounds is more satisfying and stimulating than the actual physical work I will be doing. The parts I enjoyed most as an intern were conversing and building relationships with all the patients that would come in. Additionally, being able to work in a low-income area allowed me to witness the disparities that are present in oral care. It was inspiring to see that the dentist I shadowed was willing to treat patients regardless of their financial condition. She was not motivated by money, but rather the desire to do good things for people. And that was reaffirming of the kindness that exists in the world.

As a student, I can say that I have been relatively successful. My passion for success came not only from the desire to benefit myself and my family living in a third world country, but also as a fear of failure. As an adolescent, so much pressure was put on me to be an extraordinary student. I spent hours upon hours studying and striving for success not because I had such a desire to do so, but because I feared what judgement would be bestowed on me if I was not what everyone expected.

Carrying that fear into college, I needed to find a way to be sure I would happy with the occupation I chose to pursue. This internship gave me the tools I needed to affirm my passion to become a dentist. The daily interactions with patients, particularly, gave me the extra push in continuing to pursue this career path. For example, with one simple visit with a 10-year-old, I learned that he has only visited the dentist twice before in his life. From the smile on his face, I could see the tooth decay that is already taking place and the amount of money that it will cost to address his issues. I could see his mother’s concern when the dentist informs her of the measures that will need to be taken to correct the issue. Seeing this with different people causes an obligatory feeling of duty to overcome me.

I want to be a dentist that can help people who may not be as fortunate receive the oral care they are entitled to. The relationships I built with patients and other staff reassured me that dentistry is the work of a team. And within a team, there is one primary goal. This transformation gave me different motivations for wanting to be successful. They go beyond my family and I. They extend beyond the depths of my greatest fear and tap into depths of my greatest passions.

This transformation is extremely significant to me because it enabled me to answer the ultimate question that would decide my professional life. When tasked with answering the question, “Why dentistry?”, I have an answer. I began the 2017 application cycle for dental school prior to the start of this project, and I found myself at a standstill. I was confident that I wanted to be a dentist, but I was unsure how to describe exactly why. This project encouraged me to explore more, and with that, I was able to write this paragraph in my personal statement.

“With the experiences I continue to gain while shadowing, I am confident that dentistry fits my passions and values. The doctors I work under share the ability to create long-lasting relationships with hundreds of individuals, each with a different story to tell. Regardless of the differences between them, any unique combination of persons will have at least two things in common within the walls of each of these dental offices: a dentist that cares about their health and well-being and the need for oral care. In a time where people are being divided because of their disparate identities, the community that dentistry is still able to inspire is what I think of when people ask me, “Why dentistry?’”


STEP Reflection

STEP Reflection


For my STEP Project, I used my funds in an educational format while developing my career through an internship. The funds were used for housing in an area away from home, groceries, a leadership development conference, and professional attire for the internship. The STEP funds allotted gave me the unique ability to take part in an export internship where I worked for Zephyr Solutions, LLC, a small company looking to expand the business on a global scale.

While completing my internship and STEP project, I believe I changed a little bit. I think I gained an understanding of myself through living in a completely new environment with really no close friends to be around during the week. Not that it was a bad thing; it was just greatly different because I had never spent a prolonged amount of time away from home. I did fun things on my own or with new friends I had made in the Cleveland area. It was a summer of hard work, and working more on myself compared to my relationships with others. I lost weight at a local gym, lived healthier, and did some things for myself like reading books in the park and playing golf early in the morning with a nice cup of coffee on my lonesome. My view of the world changed in the way that I knew wherever I ended up, I was going to make the most of it. It was essential to have as much fun as I could wherever I may end up later in life.

I met some amazing people in Cleveland this summer during my internship and project. Through my internship, I met a great deal of people in the Shipping and Logistics fields of business that I was able to create a relationship that could eventually lead to a job after college. One of these people actually has become one of my mentors as I gain experience in the Logistics realm of business. As a Freight Forwarder, my mentor, Mark Vinesky, has shipped and dealt with freight all over the globe. His expertise in exporting and importing goods gives me a great chance to suck up all the knowledge I can from him. He has become a great friend and mentor, and I would not have such a relationship with him if it were not for STEP.

Another great individual I met through the program was Mr. Tom Mitchell. As my STEP mentor, he provided me with many opportunities to network, give advice about my major and career path, brainstorm ideas for the project, and help with anything I needed for the program. Tom even went the extra steps to helping me in the future, offering that I use him on resumes as a reference and even to stay in touch with my life after I graduate. It is hard to really communicate how important it was to hold a relationship with a professor at The Ohio State University. I think that in general, a professor’s want for his/her students to succeed is lost in the difficulty of creating a relationship with the vast student population that each professor is designated. Nonetheless, it should be noted that the majority of professors do care about your well-being and want to help you throughout your time here at OSU.

The last relationship and one of my big, new experiences of the summer was with the sweetest lady that not only allowed me to rent a room from her, but gave me a relationship with her family that I will always cherish. Thank you to Ms. Siobhan O’Donnell for letting me into your home and for being such a good friend this summer and for years to come. She was an international flight attendant so I had responsibility of the house for much Rent in Cleveland was not cheap, so I was fortunate to find Siobhan through a member of my work place with so little time before the summer! I paid for my Columbus rent with the STEP Project while using the other money for groceries, leadership opportunities, and professional attire in Cleveland.

All of these relationships and interactions allowed me to grow individually as well as make friends with people that wanted to help me as much as they could where they could. They were not in any way overbearing, and let me go my own path for much of the project and much of the summer. It was beneficial to me in so much more than just helping me with expenses. I was able to grow as a person through all of these people and what they did for me, and will always be grateful for this.

I believe the transformation and changes I experienced through this project will give me the clarity going forward to make the most of my opportunities and decisions regarding those opportunities. And that matters. It matters in an academic sense because it makes me believe in my career path and understand that knowing what you want to do for the rest of your life is a rarity in the college years. Following the paths I have is now something I believe in because of my transformation. Personally and professionally, it says much the same. I think this summer gave me the opportunity to not listen the buzz around me. I grew from the experience of being away from family and friends by making new friends and focusing on myself in health and optimistic mentality. I have the STEP program to thank for this fantastic adventure, and I will always remember how much it gave me in the form of growth and change in myself. Thank you!

Melissa Eperjesi STEP Project: Summer Internship with JDRF

For my STEP Signature Project, I was able to serve as an intern at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, or JDRF, Central Ohio at their office in Worthington. Throughout my internship, I was able to work with JDRF to plan community programs for the JDRF families in the Columbus area, as well as compile information for the weekly newsletter that is emailed to families involved with Central Ohio’s JDRF chapter.

Coming into this internship experience as a person with type 1 diabetes, I assumed that I would be changed in some way after my internship was over. I did not realize, however, how great that change would be in my life. I found myself becoming more confident with managing my diabetes through working with the JDRF children and families. Additionally, I was able to more personally understand how health literacy issue impact so many individuals and families. I had to keep this in mind as I was writing the weekly newsletter.

The very first JDRF event that I attended as an intern was their annual gala event. I was tasked with aiding with advocacy and fundraising, as well as watching over the youth ambassadors while they performed their various duties throughout the night. It was beyond inspiring to witness the ambassadors’ transparency and confidence throughout the night as they discussed their journey with type one diabetes to guests.

Personally, having been diagnosed with type one over 11 years ago, I can say that they challenged me to push myself out of my comfort zone, and be “more proud,” to say that I have the disease. While it might be some peoples’ preference to conceal their diabetes, this option did not seem viable to the youth ambassadors. They were excited to let everyone know about their disease, so as to be their own public health advocates in fighting toward a cure. I was most definitely inspired by the youth ambassadors that night. This energy was carried on by the youth ambassadors and children within other JDRF families through the various programs that I helped to plan, and then attend throughout the summer such as research updates, family social gatherings, and other fundraising events.

I think that another key perspective that I was able to gain during my time at JDRF completely unrelated to myself was the fact that health literacy, or the lack thereof, is really not universal. In some of my public health classes, we discuss the fact that, in the United States, the average individual reads at a 6th grade level. I honestly did not expect this fact to so deeply affect the work that I did with the newsletter throughout the summer. When compiling information for the weekly newsletter, I would have to have it censored by both of my bosses just to “peer review,” in a way. This act was to make sure that families who have requested that the newsletter be reported in a lower-literacy level in the past, would have their needs met. Then one day, it really sunk in for me. I have been able to attend great schools up to and including college; I would like to think that my literacy is pretty great in terms of reading and understanding basic scientific and logistical information. However, I then took a step back and realized that not all individuals with type 1, or someone in a family with a with type 1, may not have had this same “literacy experience,” as I and others have had. This information is still crucial for them to understand too. Thus, my work in the newsletter was extremely important, and really rewarding when I discovered how much it meant to our families that it was written in a more health-literate manner.

After graduating in the Spring of 2018 with my Sociological BSPH, I will remain at O.S.U. for one more year, as I finish the combined Bachelors and Masters program through The College of Public Health. I will then graduate in the Spring of 2019 with my MPH in Health Behavior and Health Promotion with a concentration in Communication. I plan to utilize my education in working toward the goal of becoming a certified diabetes educator for people with type 1 diabetes, like myself. I believe that my internship experience with JDRF allowed me to comprehend how truly important community and public health programs are in advocating for awareness around a certain community or cause. Additionally, I witnessed the first-hand, empowering nature of these programs on JDRF families and those with type 1. I feel that my viewing health as a holistic well-being, rather than just a presence or lack of a physical ailment, was further solidified through my experiences with JDRF. These ideals will continually appear through my treating and educating patients about their disease.

Kraft Heinz Corporate Management Internship

For my STEP Signature Project, I was a Corporate Management Intern in Research and Development for Kraft Heinz in Chicago, Illinois. My role consisted of developing external packaging for a 2018 Innovation Project. I worked on cross functional research and development teams to qualify and implement a new product line and helped my department to reach integral goals and maintain timelines.

The transformation that I experienced this summer included increased confidence in myself, both personally and professionally. I learned that even though I am quiet, strong bonds can be formed. I learned how to form relationships with people who have different backgrounds than me, both personally and professionally. Lastly, I learned that just because I am learning, does not mean that my work is subpar. This transformation will carry through my senior year, as well as my post-graduation endeavors.
I have lived in central Ohio my entire life, with a short stint in Minneapolis. Columbus is nicknamed The Biggest Small Town in America due to the values alongside a growing population. This summer, living in Chicago, was starkly different. My intern cohort consisted of intelligent, driven students from across the country, with a wide variety of majors and backgrounds. Their presence was integral in the personal development over the summer. I lived with 7 people and worked with 28 other interns. I learned more about myself while working and going around the city with these students than I have in any other 10-week period. I bettered my interactions in casual settings, continuously held conversations with people I didn’t know well, and made the most of exploring a new city. I became more social and independent with these peers. This led to many new relationships and a strong network of soon to be professionals, all of which I think will thrive and become exceptional engineers, scientists, marketers, and financiers.

R&D Interns exploring the architecture of Chicago


I had no prior experience in packaging engineering, which is a lot more complex than one may think. It combines materials science, mechanical engineering, marketing and design. I am particularly interested in combining mechanical engineering with design, so this opportunity was a great introduction in to the paths I could take. Some of my coworkers became influential in my professional growth and learning. One coworker would ask about my happiness, what they can do to help my project, and we frequently would talk about our long-term goals. My coworkers frequently vocalized their confidence in my abilities. Thus, I became more confident in my work. This confidence will carry through this year during my senior project work. In addition, I will be more confident when looking at post-graduation opportunities. I know that I can work hard, learn quickly and add value in any role.

My project allowed me to work on an extremely cross functional team. I worked with marketing, the manufacturing plant, process engineers, and product engineers, in addition to several other departments. This was influential in understanding the viewpoints of other functions. My role was to take the two conflicting requests of marketing and the manufacturing plant, and direct the team to the best option for all parties and stakeholders. In the past, I have only worked with other engineers. This opportunity increased my professional development, because I learned how to communicate for the specific audience. Since my long-term goal is to work on cross functional teams, this is a critical skill to learn.

Increasing my confidence in my personal and professional skills is important with both my current endeavors and future goals. I am becoming more and more confident in my abilities to connect with people and strengthen my network of professionals. In addition, I have become more confident in my work. This confidence will reflect in the caliber of jobs and graduate schools I will apply to. Overall, this experience was incredible. I learned about a sector of business with which I was unfamiliar, as well as finance, marketing, sales, logistics, R&D. I met inventive and tenacious peers, and became a confident professional that will learn quickly and become a valuable employee.

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