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 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.