My Washington Academic Internship Program Experience

Me standing on the balcony at the Department of the Interior!

For my STEP Signature Project, I completed an internship as a part of the Washington Academic Internship Program (WAIP) through the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. Through WAIP, I was a communications intern at the Peace Corps where I was primarily responsibility for curating, writing, and editing blog content for the ‘Stories’ section of the website. I also got to experience many professional development workshops, as well as study tours, policy salons, and service projects.

My experience is Washington, D.C. drastically transformed my understanding of myself. First, it was my first internship experience, and second, it was the first time I had ever lived away from home (aside from college, but then again, I am from Columbus!) for an extended amount of time. Getting the chance to live on Capitol Hill while completing my internship at Peace Corps really expanded my world-view. The national news that I would read on my Twitter feed was suddenly occurring right around the corner from where I lived! To be able to walk to places like the Supreme Court, the Capitol and the Washington Monument on a daily basis was a very surreal experience. It was also interesting to be surrounded by 29 other students who were equally driven and passionate about policy and social issues. This created a highly motivated atmosphere, and influenced me to learn, do, and see as much as I could while I was there.

WAIP was incredible, but there were definitely moments where exhaustion would catch up to me! I learned a lot about my ability to have fortitude and preserve, even when I was physically tied. I knew in the long run that this experience would carry me a long way after I left, so I continued to give it my best foot forward.

My internship had a big role to play in my personal transformation. I had never thought about how intricate a communications team is in an organization, but having that experience exposed me to all the moving parts there are to it. I personally worked with the digital/social team, but I got to learn a lot about press relations, graphic design, web design, marketing, external communications, congressional relations, and so much more. One of the coolest things I got to do with the Peace Corps was participate in a flyer drop for a recruiting event they had for Capitol Hill interns or “Hillterns.” I got to drop flyers in each congressional office, and later had the opportunity to attend the event myself. I heard Peace Corps experiences from U.S. Reps. Donna Shalala and Joe Kennedy, which even further prompted me to consider applying for the Peace Corps after I graduate.

I worked on several blog series while at Peace Corps, but one of my favorites was “Why I Joined.” I got to read and edit a blog about a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) in Tanzania who joined to reconnect with her East African roots, as her mother was a former PCV who had met her father during her service.

Outside of my internship, WAIP gave me some incredible moments. One of them was a service trip the cohort took to the Kenilworth Aquatic Park. I ranked this experience as one of my favorites because it was really nice to be able to get away from the busy D.C. life and help create something really beautiful. Another great moment was when I got the chance to visit the Indian Embassy to learn about the History of Bollywood Cinema. This workshop was taught by the ambassador’s wife, whose passion for the topic was engaging and very pleasant to listen to. We were also provided an authentic Indian dinner and it was delicious!

I had some great opportunities to network. I met  up with several young OSU alumni who also underwent WAIP. It was great talking to them because they also have similar interest as me being former communications/ journalism majors. Seeing where they’re majors led them and the career trajectories, they’re on now gave me a lot of hope and excitement for the possibilities of my own future.

My STEP signature project was valuable for me in several different ways. I definitely think I accomplished the goal of learning more about potential career paths following graduation. Specifically, interning at the Peace Corps expanded my understanding of the world. I learned about the gravity of social injustices all over the world, and thus my interest in international relations and grassroot development work was piqued. Though I’m still uncertain of what exactly I want to do the rest of my life, I do know that following graduation, I want to participate in a global fellowship to learn more about how systemic injustices create systems of poverty, and overall help to improve conditions for marginalized communities, specifically for women and girls. Hearing about all the initiatives that PCVs take, I was inspired and now know I want to have a global experience so as to be a better change agent here in the United States.

 

My STEP Summer Experience

Welcome to my summer lab!

A strawberry infected with the pathogen I studied

Me presenting my summer research at MSU’s MID-Sure symposium

This summer from May 20th to July 27th, I spent my time as a undergraduate research intern at Michigan State University within the Plant Genomics Research Experience for Undergraduates. Throughout the REU program, I spent 40 hours each week within a small fruit and hop pathology lab working on my own project focused on the fungal pathogen Botrytis cinerea and fungicides within FRAC group 7 (SDHIs). At the end of the 10-week program, each cohort member created their own poster and presented their research at a symposium and the MID-Sure poster conference.

While this program ultimately was focused on science and developing research skills, I was also able to learn more myself and about those around me who come from different backgrounds than myself. Generally, the Plant Genomics REU at MSU is meant for students that are attending a smaller (less research dominated) university. Within that pool, there are students of color, minorities, and students that are first generation college attendees. I came into the program with a respect and understanding for those who come from different backgrounds than myself, but you aren’t able to really understand how it affects a person until you work or live directly with them. My view was not necessarily changed, more so it was improved. I saw the impact of kindness, patience, and consideration.

My roommate as well as my lab mate came from a “rougher” background; one of less financial support, family drug use, and abuse. The opportunity to be open and learn about these people was special. We relied on each other for support during the days as we toiled through our rigorous research, these long days of trial and error allowed us to become fast friends and companions. I found that you should never shout your privilege, but always be aware that people may be coming from a very different place than yourself. If we take the time to listen, we can find so explanations.

Prior to this summer, I had very little research experience. I had spent time in a lab focused on drought resistance, enrolled in lab-based courses, and explored research facilities, but I never had my own project. The 10-week research experience was intense and quick. We began learning techniques and protocols from day one and were expected to know them or at least have them written down for the next time we would need them. This rapid exposure was something I knew I wanted going into the project, but I was unsure how it would affect me. I was able to find that I could handle this type of work and I would be cut out to continue it in the future.

Each day consisted of something a little different, but always working towards the same goal. I found that organization was key as I trekked through my project. Some days I messed up and I had to come in early the next day to fix it or tweak it and try again. This scenario did not apply to everyone though, some students did feel the need to work overtime or come in early. I found that by working hard during the day and taking time to understand my project at night, I was able to learn more and be more successful. I became confident in my abilities and in asking questions. I was no longer afraid to interject and ask a question, instead I was ready to learn, connect dots between concepts, and fully understand how different mechanisms worked or influenced others. I was even able to grasp the greatest aspect of research: the “re” part. I learned that research requires a large amount of re-doing, patience, and resilience. I failed many times; I had contaminated cultures, little help, and measurement errors. But, that is just how research goes and you learn to adapt.

My summer experience was incredibly valuable for my future; I was able to see that I truly enjoy the research experience and that I can complete my own project and then think beyond the project. I was able to gain a better understanding of how to present and discuss my work by presenting to faculty, fellow cohort members, and others at the MID-Sure Poster conference. This ability is crucial in the ever-developing world of science as we must take the information found and disperse it to the public in a readily understood manner. The issue of science communication strikes close to home as I see this within my parents and other family members. When we can clearly and adequately confer our knowledge to the general public, we are able to make a difference. There is a great gap between consumers and producers as well as the public and scientists. It is crucial that future scientists are able to discuss their findings to the public as we venture into a greater use of genetically engineered crops and climate change. If not, it is a common theme that people will not support what they do not know or understand. I hope to work with this gap, attempting to educate the population on what is happening within our fields and how we can each go about making it better. A goal of mine, strengthened this summer, is to obtain my PhD in Plant Pathology and work with local growers to develop intelligent strategies to avoid disease. This summer, I was able to network and meet many PIs (primary investigators) from incredible labs/universities across the country. This opportunity has given me the chance to have choices of places for graduate school. Within the professional relationship I formed with my PI, Tim, I would not have many of his colleagues or gained any insight into what I hope to do with a graduate degree. A goal of mine going into the program was to be one (large) step closer to finding graduate schools to apply to this fall, a mentor who would be willing to take me as a student, and potentially having the chance to author a publication. I was able to accomplish all of these goals through consistent networking and hard work, for that I am extremely proud. Without my summer experience, I would not be where I am right now: I will be grateful for this summer as I enter graduate school and begin to mentor others as I was mentored this summer.

STEP Internship Reflection

Type of Project: Internship

 

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

This STEP project allowed me to serve as an intern at an automotive parts manufacturing facility at the Columbus Hirschvogel Inc. facility, with a primary responsibility of a lab technician within the quality management lab. This role primarily consisted of me doing metallography, lab reports, data management, and general assistance for the ultimate goal of quality control.

 

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

Going into this STEP project, it was all too easy to lose personal focus on my studies and how they could realistically be applied into a profession. “Being a metallurgical engineer” seemed to be such an abstract and almost unobtainable goal, no matter how many years spent in university. This summer has allowed me to understand that this is not the case, and in fact, I already know quite a lot of relevant information and techniques that can prove helpful in a metallurgical lab. This was an extremely heartening discovery, as it directly validated many years of studying and proved I could make a living outside of brewing coffee or making sandwiches. This process involved a level of independence and maturity I previously have not been forced to demonstrate, and proved as a great learning experience.

 

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

The most useful component of my internship was easily the interactions with my supervisors and the lab technicians. Going into the internship it became clear to me that my direct supervisors were experienced metallurgists who not only enjoyed their craft, but also derived a great amount of excitement from talking with others who shared this passion. As a student with still much to learn, I had what I felt must have been an obnoxious amount of questions, but my supervisors never hesitated in setting aside what they were working on to talk about the science behind every question. In my scholastic career, I have had a number of great mentors, and how I was mentored through this internship was analogous to the best of these teachers.

The company I interned with began their busiest time of the year right as a joined the team, but despite this on my first day my boss walked me around the facility. He taught me all about the parts being manufactured, the processes being used, and the metallurgical principles being utilized. I shook countless hands and was handed a number of business cards. It was an amazing way to join an organization and to begin a summer internship. I was also invited to tag along for lunch with my supervisors a number of times, where they would graciously pay for my meal, all the while making me feel a part of the team even further. My supervisors also showed a great amount of patience and understanding, even in key moments of personal failure, like when I broke an $800 grinding wheel. This level of kindness was upheld the entire internship. My last week working with the organization myself and a fellow intern were driven out to a steel distributer overnight for a tour and demonstration. I was not only given invaluable lessons and information on the trade, but I also realized the importance of helping the new guy and the value of mentorship.

The guidance experienced within this intern opportunity was not exclusive to my supervisors, but was a general attitude that was seemed to be shared by all employees. My best friends within the company quickly became the two lab technicians who, not only appreciated the extra hands around the lab, but also appeared to enjoy giving a kid like me tips they had picked up over their years carrying out metallography. Jokes and updates on personal lives soon became exchanged, and I even found my coworkers giving me tips on how to improve my cooking after I would mention the trials of independent living I never truly experienced. I am confident that through this internship I built lasting relationships with my coworkers, but not only as mentors, but as friends.

 

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

Through this project I was able to acquire extremely relevant and exciting exposure to my desired industry, of manufacturing. Up until this project, I had a fairly loose understanding of what the manufacturing industry even was, and being able to spend a summer as a part of an active automotive part manufacturer, shed incredible insight. Through such experience, I learned a great amount of technical and practical knowledge that can be directly applied to my studies and scholastic pursuits. I have a newfound sense of clarity and personal conviction for my career path, as I now know how relevant my studies actually are. I also now have the peace of mind knowing that I not only enjoy my classes, but will derive a great amount of personal satisfaction as I apply such knowledge. I also feel as if I have overcome a personal landmark of finally infiltrating the professional world, and was not completely inept through the process. The intimidation of such a step is lessoned knowing the possible patience and empathy of the individuals in my field of study. This STEP project has allowed me to obtain invaluable peace of mind, along with motivation to continue pushing forward into a profession of manufacturing.

 

Some equipment I had the opportunity to become familiar with:

Saw used to obtain cross sections of parts.

Grinding wheel used to observe microstructure of parts. 

Grinding and polisher used for metallography.

Automated hardness tester used in lab.

 

Ohio House Democratic Caucus Internship

For my STEP Signature Project, I interned with the Ohio House Democratic Caucus. I have been interning with the OHDC since May of 2017 but my STEP Signature Project allowed me to remain in Columbus and continue my work for the summer. My official position with OHDC is as a finance intern which entails work such as donor research, the preparation of fundraising call lists, as well as staffing any OHDC fundraising events.

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

From the beginning of my STEP experience, I was planning on using this opportunity to discover if I wanted to pursue a career in politics. The OHDC staff mainly consists of recent Ohio State graduates so many of them followed the same path that I am currently taking. As the dog days of summer progressed and the tension of the 2018 election escalated, I couldn’t help but notice that I was losing my passion for politics. Frankly, our office was overworked and underappreciated. This feeling wore on the faces of most of the staff as we could not yet see the light at the end of the tunnel. With the 2018 election seemingly so far away, the work began to feel monotonous and I started to question whether I had a future in politics.

Yet, despite my mid-summer crisis, I began to realize why I started the internship in the first place. After meeting candidates, attending events, and listening to the passions of all of the statewide campaigns, I felt my passion reignited. I remembered why my work mattered. The candidates and current house members of the OHDC might never know who I am but I understand that it is my responsibility to help all of these individuals get elected to the Ohio Statehouse. What began as a resume-building internship opportunity transitioned into a personal project. By the end of my STEP Signature Project, I was mentally and emotionally invested in every one of our candidates because I truly believe that my work with the OHDC will flip Ohio to a blue state.

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?

As discussed previously, meeting the candidates, attending events, and listening to others talk about why they chose to campaign for office led to my transformation. For the months of May to June, my work mainly consisted of office work: this work included donor research, list building, and assembling mailers. No one involved in politics would call this exciting work. It takes a bit of motivation to sit at a desk for 6 hours a day and continuously type financial figures into a Google Sheet. The entire OHDC staff bonded together over this work because we all knew we were working toward the same common goal. Nevertheless, I started to doubt whether politics was in my future after graduation.
The introduction of campaign events into my schedule eased these doubts. After months of seeing names such as Beth Liston or Mary Lightbody over and over while conducting donor research, I attended an event at the home of Richard Cordray, the Democratic candidate for Governor. The event was a cookout that invited all of the statewide candidates for the Ohio House and Senate. Upon arriving the atmosphere felt surreal as I was surrounded by some real live government officials including Richard Cordray, Betty Sutton, Fred Strahorn, among countless others. While it might sound nerdy to say I was starstruck, I did feel like I was in the presence of celebrities.

It was at this event that I regained my motivation to be involved with politics. After finally meeting the names I had been hearing from the beginning of my internship, it was refreshing to learn about the personalities and motivations behind all of the candidates. Further, having the opportunity to listen to the gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial candidates, minority house leader of the state of Ohio, as well as the Secretary of State candidate for Ohio was the highlight of the entire experience. Not only did their words reinvigorate my passion for politics but I genuinely felt that one day I would return to an event similar to this one but as a candidate instead of an unpaid intern.

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

Like most political science majors, my major existential crisis is the debate between a career in law or politics. This crisis did not dissipate prior to or even during my internship experience. Rather, I went through phases where I definitely wanted to go into law and could not see myself in politics which was shortly followed by phases where I definitely wanted to go into politics and could not see myself in law. I thought that throughout my internship I would get a clearer perspective on what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I naively believed that if I found a true passion for politics, that I would abandon law and firmly commit to a career in politics. But the truth is I’m no closer to knowing what I want to do with my life then I was 4 months ago. And that’s not a bad thing.

My time with the Ohio House Democratic Caucus taught me that politics is nitty gritty. Most jobs in politics are low paying, high stress, with zero appreciation. Getting paid for my work would be nice, but as we inch closer to election day I am receiving some sort of compensation— a feeling that I am affecting the political scene in the state of Ohio. It might seem like an oddly specific source of pride, but as the election results pour in on election night, I will be surrounded by other interns, staff members, and current Ohio House Representatives watching the fabric of Ohio politics get stitched together before our very eyes. My internship taught me all of the unsavory elements involved with working in politics, but it also showed the unbelievable sense of achievement that comes with changing the nature of state politics. At my start date in May I would’ve told you that this was merely an internship. But now, it feels like a personal mission that will not be finished until November 6th, 2018.

Discussing targeted districts with the Executive Director and Field Director.

Tense discussions near the big map of Ohio

Midmark Corporation-Erin Gaerke

Midmark Corporation in Versailles, Ohio

For my STEP Signature project, I was an intern in the Global Sourcing department at Midmark in Versailles, Ohio. Midmark makes medical, dental, and animal health products and is on the cutting edge of creating an efficient healthcare experience. They have begun to working healthcare providers to design work spaces and best practices to make the doctor’s office as efficient and effective as possible (which as an operations management major, I find fascinating). At Midmark, the Global Sourcing team in Versailles is the purchasing department for all of our sites across the united states. As an intern, my main projects and duties included a competitive quote project, attending supplier visits and business reviews, creating reports to provide transparency to the purchasing department on current supplier/commodity spends, reconciling invoices, and working with a supplier who was experiencing quality issues.

Prior to my internship at Midmark, I had no experience in purchasing and had never interacted with suppliers. My previous internship at BASF was focused mainly on internal improvement goals and was contained to the logistics department; interacting with persons outside of my organization on a daily basis was a new challenge and one I enjoyed immensely! During my internship at Midmark there were many ways in which I grew in understanding of myself and the world of business. One transformation I experienced was growing in confidence of my ability to succeed in the workplace. During my internship at Midmark, I was given many tasks and projects that full-time employees handle on a daily basis. With every successful project, I became more assured in my ability to do quality work in the “real world”. While at Midmark, I also grew in knowledge of my major and how businesses operate. I really loved the many “aha” moments where I recognized something I had learned in school being applied in the business world. It was absolutely fascinating to see the broad concepts covered in my textbooks come to life in front of me with real applications. Lastly, I gained greater insight into the complicated and interdependent relationship of suppliers in the supply chain. My time at Midmark grew me both personally and professionally and I’m extremely blessed for my internship there this past summer.

My time in the Global Sourcing team at Midmark grew my confidence to succeed in the workplace because of the many projects I was given and their scope. My biggest project, a competitive quote project with $1M in spend, challenged me to grow both personally and professionally. While a significant part of this project was organizing multiple quotes and comparing dollars and cents, the most difficult part of the project was communicating the results to a supplier who had lost $200K of business annually. The supplier lost this business because I decided to shift several of their parts to a more cost-competitive supplier. This was a difficult hurdle for me to jump, as during the quote process I had become familiar with the business and didn’t feel qualified to tell a seasoned business professional that Midmark would be doing business elsewhere because of a decision I (an intern) had made. After talking through these concerns with my mentor, I gave the hard news to the supplier in a face-to-face meeting. It was by far the most challenging moment of my professional career, but it went better than expected and I walked away with a newfound confidence in my abilities that continues to this day.

Drill implemented to decrease variation time

Another area of growth was in several opportunities I had to apply my learning from Fisher to the business world. The most concrete example of this was when I had the opportunity to participate in a kaizen (continuous improvement) workshop in one of our manufacturing plants. Our task was to decrease variation time, which is time spent on activities that are not a part of the established process (extra, unnecessary work). I was able to identify an opportunity to eliminate 20 seconds of variation time by implementing a new drill to a station. I also was able to utilize some of the tools from class such as a SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) Analysis to determine our positioning in commodity categories. As our warehouse utilized both Vendor-Managed Inventory (VMI) and kanban inventory management systems, I asked to observe how the respective processes worked; I was fascinated to see how in-depth a process resulted from a topic that had only covered a paragraph or two in my textbooks. I absolutely loved those moments where a concept we had touched upon in class came to life in front of me. From my time at Midmark, I am better equipped to talk on business management strategies and analysis both in the classroom and in the professional world.

One of my more immersive learning opportunities from my internship was being on the front lines of a supplier on-time delivery (OTD) issue. Our #1 supplier was experiencing quality issues from their supplier which impacted their ability to meet our delivery dates. Because of the critical nature of the situation, my mentor and I made several trips to our #1 supplier to discuss strategies to minimize supply chain impact. Simply being present in these meetings opened my eyes to the many factors that contribute to a well-oiled supply chain. During these meetings, the sheer number of considerations that factored into OTD was amazing to me: global tariffs, lead times, manufacturing schedules, political stability of the raw material suppliers’ countries, freight and shipping costs, weather, and so much more factored into us receiving our assembled product from our supplier! I was enthralled at how complicated the global supply chain is and how critical it is to each of our lives as consumers. During these meetings, working with suppliers to problem-solve solutions that would minimize impacts to our customers and continue to maintain the highest quality standards was extremely helpful as it gave me a crash-course of supply chain constraints and considerations. Through all of these meetings, my mentor would debrief me before attending and clarify any of my questions after to ensure that I understood the situation entirely. I found this approach extremely helpful and now feel prepared to problem-solve supply chain situations with others.

My co-workers & I at our steel supplier’s facility

Throughout my internship at Midmark, one of my favorite aspects of the job was the amount of personal interaction I had with my co-workers. Being an intern can be a daunting position but the openness and friendliness of my colleagues made the learning experience much more enjoyable. Each of my co-workers gave me different avenues for growth and helped me to understand operations at Midmark as well as business in general. I know I couldn’t have succeeded in any of my projects without their input and advice. My mentor and manager were both especially strong in these areas and advocated for me to be exposed to my interest areas. For example, as an operations management major, I love getting to observe processes and understand how they work. Because of this, they invited me on an overnight supplier business review in Cleveland to visit one of our steel manufacturers and suppliers. This trip was absolutely amazing because I was able to witness steel manufacturing first hand and gain understanding of how businesses like Midmark benchmark suppliers and their performance along dimensions such as quality, pricing, OTD, and communication. My co-workers were absolutely amazing at explaining parts of the business that I did not understand and worked to develop my professional skill-set.

The transformation and growth I experienced during my internship at Midmark is extremely valuable to me because it will be critical in my fast-approaching career. As I will be interning in the purchasing department at J.M. Smucker’s this upcoming summer, the knowledge I gained at Midmark will help me to succeed and make well-informed decisions. In addition, the confidence I gained to make and communicate hard decisions will be helpful in all aspects of my life, from business to my personal life. Prior to my internship at Midmark, I would dwell on my mistakes longer than it was productive to do so; since this summer, I am more focused on the future and moving past my mistakes. I have found this to be immensely helpful to my health as well as succeeding in school and business. From my time in purchasing at Midmark, I now want to pursue purchasing full-time in my future career and feel prepared to do so with the skills I gained. I am extremely thankful and blessed for my experience at Midmark and all the skills and lessons it taught me.

Battelle Medical Devices Internship – With a Twist!

Nathan Platfoot – STEP-Funded Internship

Medical Devices Division at Battelle Memorial Institute – Columbus, OH

My name is Nathan Platfoot, and this summer my transformational experience involved an internship at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, OH. It was one of the greatest work environments I’ve ever been in, and my summer spent with some of the best co-workers and interns challenged me in multiple dimensions. The technical content of the internship was quite challenging, which I absolutely loved. I learned about devices and design techniques before I even took the classes on them, which will help as the fall semester goes underway! The variety of project work demanded the development of multiple technical and personal skills, and it helped me realize my own abilities and skill sets – even outside of working hours. As a whole, this internship helped push my boundaries, challenge myself, realize my abilities as well as my weaknesses, and invest in great relationships with fellow co-workers that I can proudly call my friends. I finished my work term with a week-long retreat in Minnesota – read on to see how an amazing love changed my life that week!

All of the interns presented one of their projects at the end of their work term, and this is a picture of my presentation.

I was the Electrical Engineering Hardware Co-op in the Medical Devices Division at Battelle. This means that I was supporting some of their full-time engineers with their projects by performing tests, building prototypes, programming devices, writing code on the computer, and creating relevant circuitry for the design. I worked on a number of different projects related to medical device applications, and the poster below gives some insight into one of those projects. It involved work on a device Battelle was creating with one of their customers which focused on detecting for traumatic brain injury (TBI) using ultrasound. In this case, it has a focus on detecting TBI in the battlefield for soldiers, requiring the design to be durable, quick, and portable. I assisted another engineer in creating a solution to detect the alignment of the soldier’s head in the device, which was used to properly align the probe. You can review my poster for more of the gory technical details if that excites you (for many it doesn’t, but I appreciate you if it does!). At the end of my work term, I attended the School of New Evangelization retreat in Minnesota, which was hosted by a Catholic organization I’m in called Saint Paul’s Outreach. It was a week-long retreat focused on spiritual formation, praise and worship, and practicals on how to spread the Gospel to college students. Over 400 students and young missionaries attended from campuses across the country, and of course our OSU group won their Ultimate Frisbee tournament!

Poster presenting one of my main projects while at Battelle.

This internship reassured me that life after college will be beautiful. Giving me an insight to what the working world will be, this internship showed me that it’s not as dark and restricting as many make it out to be. You always hear people say, “Enjoy college, they’re the best years of your life,” but why do they say that? What comes after college that makes every day you live after that point worse? I don’t think it’s the working world, or “real world” as many describe it. It’s perspective. Of course, there are peaks and valleys of every day, every year, every lifetime. But if you’re not living your absolute best life today, not giving it your all, not happy with where you’re at in life, then what are you doing?

This summer also showed me that life is what you make of it. It’s not about what you do, it’s about how you do it. It doesn’t matter if you’re the janitor or the CEO – each day is a blessing. You don’t have to be happy every single day to be joyful every single day. “Embracing the suck” in the day and raising it up for a greater cause was a large focus (or theme, if you will) for my summer. There’s something about that deep, welling joy that people notice – and it’s contagious! You can live each day regretting not doing the things you wanted to do and always wishing you were somewhere else, but nothing is more beautiful and empowering than living in the present and being where your feet are. Give up the complaints, harness those little ways you suffer every day, and offer it up for striving after a greater mission or goal in your life. After this, I found myself looking forward to going to work every day. I wanted to give each day all of my energy and do my best. I wanted to challenge myself. My perspective this summer changed everything, and I truly felt like I was doing what I loved. To put the cherry on top, the retreat reminded how much God loved me, how big my mission to spread His love to others is, and how I have to strive after showing others His love every day regardless of personal circumstance. So many students and young adults are devoid of that deep, unconditional love in their life, and I want to share that beautiful gift of love He’s shown me. My heart was so happy throughout everything that happened this summer, and it still is as I’m writing this.

What would a summer work term be without playing sand volleyball with some of the other interns?

These realizations wouldn’t have come to fruition if it weren’t for the day-to-day interactions I had with my friends. At work, I would push myself so I could report back good news on progress to my managers. My mentor and other fellow engineers would take the time to teach me various concepts in the electrical engineering field, and they would learn some from each other as well. We would talk about how to apply it to our work and how it impacts our testing or design. Although I often ventured on my own to put it into practice, they would always assist in troubleshooting when things weren’t performing as we had expected. There was nothing better than the conversations at their desks. Getting to know them beyond a work scope was some of the most rewarding part of the internship. Walking away as friends who have had silly discussions about events in the office, talked about the depths of life, and worked side-by-side on projects was incredibly satisfying. Getting lunch and playing sand volleyball with other interns extended that to a broader group of people my age, where I had more people to relate to on the daily college and “adulting” struggles. Then, when I went home, I had the seven men I lived with in my house to lean on. We would all eat and pray together in the evenings twice a week, and we all invested in each other’s lives beyond catching up on what happened that day. We dove into what our struggles were, how our relationships with others were going, and how our relationship with God was going. We’d make random late-night runs to go get food, shoot each other with Nerf guns, and solve way too many puzzles at the kitchen table. One of the guys got engaged that summer, and we had plenty of conversation on his nervousness and stress of getting the perfect engagement ring. Last week, he asked me to be a groomsman in his wedding, and I couldn’t have been happier for him and his future wife. It was much less of the events that made this summer great. It was the relationships that made it beautiful, and the events were simply building blocks for forming those friendships.

This summer was so valuable for me in forming myself into the person I want to be and living the life I want to live. I challenged myself in my work abilities. I made great friends at work, and I built brotherhood with the men at home. I pursued the Lord in my daily interactions, and used the SNE retreat as the pinnacle of the summer, raising all of my hard work up to the Father to glorify His name. I loved my life in the summer, and I want nothing less for my life after graduation. This summer helped form me into the man I want to be in the workplace, at home, and in the eyes of our loving and gracious God. Praise the Lord for this opportunity He gave me this summer!

My WAIP Experience

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

The Washington Academic Internship Program (WAIP) consisted of an internship on the hill, classwork, study tours, and a capstone paper.These culminated in an amazing experience that taught me a lot about our federal government and how I can effectively work within it.

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

WAIP changed how I viewed working in the federal government; through this program I was able to see many of the positions inside a congressional office. This program allowed me to personally grow, living further from home and for a longer period of time than ever before was a new experience and I became more independent and self-reliant.

I was also able to interact with a variety of people from many different backgrounds and perspectives. I spent a lot of time with the other people in my cohort and was able to develop a better understanding of how others from a variety of perspectives view issues and approach problems.

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

The one that initially comes to mind is when we did a service project at the Kenilworth aquatic garden. We were tasked with weeding a pond so that lilies could be grown. We had to work together to not slip in the water and get the roots of these weeds, which were usually six feet long.  This activity brought us all together and allowed me to have a basis to understand their approaches to issues.

During my internship I had to work heavily with constituents, many of who were contacting us out of anger or dissatisfaction. The constituents would call about a variety of issues and had a range of comments or complaints. Working with constituents was difficult but rewarding because I felt a sense of accomplishment when I could help them with their issue. This experience exposed me to a lot of problems that I wasn’t aware of beforehand.

The capstone paper allowed me to explore in depth a topic I had only cursory knowledge of beforehand. I wrote my paper on missile defense and it was a very interesting topic to research. Learning about the developments and potential is very rewarding. I didn’t know what I wanted to write my paper on when I started my WAIP experience but I went to a hearing on missile defense during my first few weeks in my office and was interested in learning more. Keeping my options and mind open was a common theme during my WAIP experience.

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

Keeping an open perspective and being able to hold multiple points of view in mind is a valuable skill to hold especially in my major, Public Management, Leadership, and Policy. Innovation is impossible without having an open mind and being willing to try something new. I have also gained a lot of experience in being self-reliant which will surely pay dividends throughout my life.

My Summer in DC: Uniting Education and Policy

Over the last three months, I was able to live, intern, and study in Washington, DC through the John Glenn College of Public Affairs’ Washington Academic Internship Program (WAIP). As a John Glenn Fellow, I worked from Monday through Thursday at the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in the Office of Congressional Affairs, taking Fridays off to explore the city with the rest of the WAIP cohort. We visited everywhere from the Pentagon to the Anacostia River, and supplemented these interactive learning experiences with policy discussions and public affairs classes two nights a week.

My summer Second-Year Transformational Experience Program (STEP) Signature Project was a learning experience for me in more ways than one. Firstly, I gained a newfound understanding of and appreciation for the U.S. political system. Working in congressional affairs for a government grant-making agency (the NEH), my office responsibilities included legislative tracking and monitoring congressional activity. This summer was also my first time taking any Public Affairs coursework, and the opportunity to expand my academic perspective regarding public policy was really valuable. The hands on government relations work combined with the theoretical practice in the classroom gave me a well-rounded picture of the current political climate.

Although I learned all kinds of important practical and professional skills along the way, including in government relations and communications, what stood out to me most about this past summer was my increased focus on education and education policy. While working at the NEH, I was lucky enough to meet with grantees ranging from K-12 students to respected academics. As they came from across the country to the NEH headquarters, I was able to hear the very real impact that humanities disciplines like History, English, and Philosophy had had on them. These interactions made me realize the urgency of education policy that supports the humanities and often overlooked disciplines that support critical thinking and reasoning skills.

During one of our biggest events of the summer, National History Day (NHD), I was part of a coordinating team that arranged 50 meetings between congressional offices and NHD-participating K-12 students and teachers from around the country. For NHD, students work independently on creative history projects, ranging from plays to papers. This day is a perfect opportunity for the NEH to facilitate meetings between students and members of Congress to show them how important the humanities are in middle school and high school education. I represented the NEH in congressional meetings with two middle school students from Alabama who had been working on their Birmingham Children’s March presentation for just under a year.

Listening to the two students talk about their research process, their visits to the archives and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and their important takeaways from the history project was really special. They had dedicated so much time to this project, with the support of their teacher, and had been able to explore and make real life connections to the past. Despite the fact that both wanted to enter STEM fields in the future, this experience truly meant something to them and had a significant impact on their education.

Spending the day with these amazing students and their teacher impacted the way I thought about the NEH’s work for the rest of my time there. It gave me something tangible to work towards during my internship, and made me even more confident in the agency’s mission. In the long-term, it made me even more passionate about making sure that the humanities are part of the daily curriculum for young students, even as much of the funding and emphasis shifts away from fields like English and History and towards fields like Engineering. The endeavors of STEM and the humanities do not have to be exclusive – both realms of knowledge are so important, especially for young people as their perspectives are being shaped. I was lucky to witness this firsthand throughout my time in DC.

It was really important for me to have this STEP experience the summer after my sophomore year at Ohio State. Not only was I able to grow personally by balancing work and school while living independently in a new city, but I was able to focus my future academic and professional goals by narrowing my focus to education policy. This coming semester, I am focusing on a more interactive educational experience by working as an English as a Second Language (ESOL) tutor at the Columbus Literacy Council. And after graduation, I am hoping to utilize both my internship experiences with academic grants and education policy and my hands on tutoring practice to engage in a full time teaching experience before applying to graduate school programs. Without this opportunity, I wouldn’t have such a clear direction moving forwards, and I’m grateful to Ohio State’s STEP Program and the John Glenn College for making this possible.

At the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the government grant-making agency where I interned this summer.

Me and my fellow John Glenn Fellows on one of our weekly study tours.

Two NEH grantees visiting their representatives.