Kate Clark – Washington Academic Internship Program

This semester, I had the opportunity to participate in the Washington Academic Internship Program (WAIP) through the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. This program enabled me to obtain a position as a Policy Fellow with Battelle Memorial Institute’s Office of Government Relations. Battelle is a non-profit organization that manages several of the national laboratories within the Department of Energy and the Department of Homeland Security. The organization’s mission is focused on using innovation to develop solutions for marginalized communities, and its philanthropic focus is on fostering STEM education initiatives. Interestingly, Battelle’s headquarters is based in Columbus, Ohio, which is my hometown. I enjoyed working in a government relations office and I am so appreciative of the opportunity. I learned so much this semester, not only regarding the subject matter of interest to Battelle, but also about my ability to work as a young professional.

Participating in this project enabled me to learn so much about myself and what my life after graduation will be like. I had time to rethink my commitment to going straight to law school after my time at Ohio State, and I made some amazing friends along the way. This semester showed me how many professional opportunities exist in the world, and that it is okay to be unsure of the correct path to take. This confusion led me to believe that I needed to stay in Washington DC again for the summer. So, I took a chance and put down a lump sum payment on an apartment for the summer before finding a job! Long story short, everything worked out and I ended up getting a summer position that is perfect for me. However, without my experience in the spring I never would have had the courage to bet on myself, and to believe in my own abilities and qualifications.

The relationships I made this semester greatly contributed to this transformation; I met some of the most amazing people in DC. Battelle’s Office of Government Relations is very small; I only had one supervisor who I reported to directly, and three other staff members that I worked with on a daily basis. This was great because I was able to learn from several people, especially since Battelle has such broad interests. Furthermore, I got to know the subject matter of each staffer in my office, which was fascinating. Getting to know my supervisor was phenomenal! He actually participated in WAIP a few years ago and was very understanding of my commitments and encouraged me to take every opportunity that came my way. He was also always sure to introduce me as his ‘colleague’ at events and made sure to give positive feedback when it was deserved. It is very clear that he wanted to help me this semester and I am really lucky to have had a supervisor who trusted me with important, independent work. Furthermore, WAIP gave me a mentor and a program manager who were integral to my success throughout spring semester.

The projects I was given at my internship were key to my learning that I needed to come back to Washington DC for the summer and that I wanted to put off law school after graduation to work DC again. I had the opportunity to do some really cool things through my internship with Battelle. Every day, I sent out daily news clips to the office. This sounds like a menial task, but it has actually enabled me to learn so much about the experiments and breakthroughs happening at the national labs. Reading daily google alerts also helped me to better define the role of Battelle in the Columbus community. My role has allowed me to research and monitor the effects of pending legislation on issue areas of interest to Battelle, and to draft succinct reports on congressional hearings covering subjects specific to my superiors’ projects. Working within a government relations office has underscored the importance of editing my own work; I have discovered just how important the ability to write well is in a professional setting. I was tasked with daily projects of reviewing transcripts, researching technologies, and writing reports on hearings and briefings. However, I also worked on more long-term assignments. I personally tracked the locations of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Physics programs across the United States; let me tell you there are a TON. I compiled this information in relation to Congressional districts and members, and my work was used during Battelle’s Nuclear Physics Day. This lobbying day was planned before I began my internship, but my work was used in meetings with congressional members and their staffers. Additionally, as a non-profit organization, Battelle’s philanthropic mission is focused on increasing youth access to STEM education, and I was fortunate to be a part of a coalition meeting discussing Battelle’s continued advocacy under the current administration. These experiences made me much more confident in my ability to work in an office setting and let me know that the transferable skills of my degree at Ohio State will truly be of use to my future career.

I would not have had the same experience without participating in WAIP. I have lived in Columbus, Ohio for my entire life. Moving to DC for a semester, especially in the middle of the school year, was a huge commitment for me. I had to leave my family, friends, job, and student organizations (that I had grown so comfortable with) behind in my transition into interning in DC, and this was a scary process. However, knowing that 17 other Ohio State students were also participating in the same program and were feeling the same emotions really comforted me. I ended up having three other roommates and we became best friends. They each encouraged me to make the most out of each day in the district and helped me to get out of the apartment and explore the city. None of my accomplishments would have been possible without them. I am so thankful that STEP gave me the opportunity to make this experience possible.

This project enabled me to understand who I really am! I learned to open myself up to new experiences and I was also able to take a full course-load outside of my double major of International Studies and Chinese. The Public Policy classes gave me a platform to write my own policy recommendation on the ability of the federal government to lessen the effects of childhood hunger and enabled me to debate different issues with my classmates. I learned that I am actually interested in domestic affairs as well as international ones! This experience showed me that after graduation I want to return to DC to live and work, and I could not be more excited.