STEP Leadership

My STEP experience I chose was to complete an internship to gain leadership and real world working experience.

Dwellworks is a relocation services provider for corporations. It is a small private company of 225 employees with offices located in Cleveland (headquarters), Detroit, New York City, Puerto Rico, Costa Rico, Mexico, Canada, and Luxembourg. Dwellworks provides destination, valuation, and property management services to companies who are relocating employees. For example, my job in valuation services was to process orders as they came in to our system, create a list of appraisers in our network of suppliers, and send the list to the transferee. My function was essentially a supply chain management role, and I was able to learn how important operations management is to a company. Something I valued was how my bosses spent their time training and developing my knowledge of Dwellworks, and explaining how my role was important in the big picture of the company. When I was fully confident in my ability, I was trusted with the same workload that full time employees received. I could tell how much they appreciated my work ethic and drive to do the best I could, and I did my best to continuously improve to return the faith they put in me. I was also asked to try and look for any areas of improvement in their processes. Throughout the summer, I went above their expectations and was able to identify several opportunities for efficiency enhancements. Besides my daily workload, I worked on a project with several other interns to present to the CEO and CFO at the end of the summer. This was a great experience for me as I was able to greatly improve my problem solving and presenting ability, but also build friendships with my fellow interns. What I enjoyed the most about the project was that the problem we were tasked with solving was an actual problem Dwellworks wanted an answer to. They took our solutions seriously and commended us for our great work.

Due to the small size of Dwellworks, I was able to learn directly from the senior leadership of the company.  Being able to see the vision for Dwellworks from the CEO and CFO’s perspective gave me a better understanding of how managers strategize and lead companies. Ultimately, what made my experience at Dwellworks valuable were the people I worked with everyday. Dwellworks has a unique, fun culture and this rubbed off on me throughout the summer. My summer was enjoyable because of the friendships I had with my coworkers. It helped make adjusting to working everyday from 9-5 easier and the summer seemed to fly by because of it. I was able to learn from two of the Vice Presidents who I still maintain contact with and receive advice from. Dwellworks helped me to not only grow professionally in helping me understand the operations of a business, but also personally as my being able to establish friendships in the work place.


Dwellworks was not a company I had targeted as a place I would want to work to further my career. First of all I am studying finance and would like to work in a finance role after graduation, but my internship was not a finance-based position. I applied to Dwellwork’s internship because I read that they focus on helping sophmores and juniors gain real-world working experience and sharpen their resume to further their career. Many companies who I wanted to work for were only hiring juniors in to their internship programs, so Dwellworks seemed like the next best thing as far as internships. I was grateful they gave me the opportunity to intern with them, but I was skeptical to value of the internship as far as helping me progress my career. I can say I was proven utterly wrong. Dwellworks taught me to not be close-minded to experiences that you think you may not enjoy. To accurately judge an opportunity, you must first experience that opportunity regardless of what it may be. At first I was disappointed I was unable to secure an internship elsewhere, but I gained a sense of gratitude when I learned other classmates were not interning during the summer. The first day at Dwellworks, I was excited to begin my career and start my journey towards getting the job of my desire after graduation.

Throughout the summer, I was challenged to not lose that initial excitement. I experienced slow days and busy days and it was during the slow days that I tried to live out the saying “you get out of something what you put into it”. Dwellworks helped reinforce this idea in my life. I was able to keep the drive to work hard and enjoy myself throughout the summer, and I now look at new experiences with a similar mindset. My internship although helped me to grow professionally, impacted me more on a personal level. I learned that my initial judgments of people and experiences can be, and are mostly wrong. I need to take the time to get to know others and take new opportunities. During my internship I became friends with people whom at first I didn’t think I would be able to develop a friendship with. This includes interns who were my age, and people who are almost double my age. Now, I am more open-minded and try to be less quick to judge others and potential opportunities.


My internship at Dwellworks introduced me to the working world and a taste of my life after college. I learned that I am more prepared for working everyday from 9-5 than I previously thought. Having this experience relatively early in my college career also helps me to stand out from other job seekers, which will help me to start my career at my dream company. Much of the work I did over the summer was not directly related to my desired career choice, and I felt the work became mundane as the summer moved along. I learned to look at each new experience with enthusiasm and the will to learn at every opportunity. I ended up having a much more productive and worthwhile summer than I previously thought. Dwellworks taught me to have pride in the work I do regardless of how much motivation I have to do the work. I now look at obstacles as opportunities to improve and challenge myself personally and professionally. A major takeaway I gained is that if I value myself and the work I do then others will see my hardwork and have a higher level of trust in my ability. I also have a greater sense of other people’s perspectives due to the various types of personalities of my coworkers. This is a valuable tool I will use with my friends, classmates, and hopefully someday my employees when I become a manager.

Another valuable skill is time management In an academic setting you can get away with procrastination once in awhile, but in an office, procrastination could possibly mean your loss of a job due to the potential for poor work. I learned that because there usually isn’t a hard deadline, you have to be in control of your time and finish the project when you think is most appropriate. Time management has not always been a strong skill of mine, and my internship helped me to improve my time management and organizational skills. With these improved skills I will be able to finish my college career strong and become successful once I start working full time. Dwellwork s has helped me move closer to achieving my goal of working in the finance industry because of the professional development I was exposed to. Through interactions with coworkers, hosting meetings, completing projects, and working on a large team I am confident in my ability to achieve my goals on a personal and professional level.


Below is a picture of the Dwellworks office building (left) and the desk I worked at (right)


I also entered posts into a blog for all of the summer interns at Dwellworks and kept a journal based on questions asked by my managers. The blog can be accessed here:

My journal can be viewed here:


By: Kevin Mullinger

CUGH and InterAction

What? – For my STEP experience I attended two conferences in Washington D.C. These conferences revolved around global health, and they were called Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) and InterAction: A Voice for Global Change. The purpose of me attending these conferences was to aid me in finding out if a future in a career revolving around global health was for me and in addition to that to learn more about what I could do to contribute to the betterment of the world around me. Both of these conferences allowed me to meet some of the most brilliant people ever and interact with them to strengthen my skills as both a student and as a leader.

So What? –The first conference I attended was Consortium of Universities for Global Health. When I first arrived at this conference, I was definitely intimidated by the people there. I was surrounded by congressman, CEO’s, heads of non-profits, people that did significant work overseas and the list is endless. As a result, I continually began to compare myself to who they were. This eventually turned into a good thing because I realized these comparisons made me want to strive to be like them. The work that these people had all talked about was nothing short of amazing. They worked day in and day out to help people who needed it most. Their stories were extremely effective in inspiring me, and most of all they put my own problems into perspective. They made me realize that I am truly blessed to have all that I do and I should never take it for granted, as there are millions of people that would take my place in a heartbeat. While at these conferences I spoke to many people about the work they did and the work of one man stood out to me. He was a clinical pharmacist that used to work in the states but now he works in a clinic in Africa. Talking with this man made me change my views on many things and he lead me to research things about the world around us for myself. In the end, he worked as a facilitator for a stronger interest in not only global health but the varying groups and cultures that can be found throughout the world. He brought back by curiosity, and that is something that I have found invaluable since then. At the second conference, InterAction, I began partaking in leadership seminars and courses that would effectively teach me how to manage my own non-profit, how to form the connections necessary to maintain one, and a number of other things. These courses have changed how I approach my current non-profit work and will most certainly impact any future work.

Now What? –Before meeting the pharmacist at CUGH, I had never considered pharmacy a career path I would take. However that has now changed. I have shadowed a few clinical pharmacists and retail pharmacists. In addition to that I have explored potentially obtaining a Masters in Public Health in order to further my work in the non-profit sector. This is a radical change from my previous desire to be an engineer. Although I liked engineering, when working in anything relating to the betterment of people I have a much greater desire and drive to succeed. These conferences have also enabled me to begin looking into starting my own non-profit. Alongside a businessman from my hometown, we are working on putting together a group that will serve to educate underprivileged children and teenagers on different career areas that they never thought would interest them. In his own words “I wonder if my kids got into the same work I do because of how much they were exposed to it. If they had seen the other things they could have done would they have followed in my footsteps or forged their own path and been even happier?” Finding something you are passionate about can be difficult and without attending these conferences, I may never have been able to do that. In the future I hope to get a PharmD, do a residency in neo-natal care, and work overseas in some capacity. And after that, who knows? My life experiences at that point may drive me to do something that I couldn’t imagine myself doing right now. I do know that when it comes to it, I will always keep an open mind.

Scholars DC 2K14

Scholars DC trip 2K14

I have been to Washington DC many times, but this time was the most professional one so far. All the networking and meetings I had while in DC helped me understand how the city works and where my part in it can be. Many of the places and people I visited sparked interest that I did not know I had or reaffirmed ones I have been focusing on. Overall every meeting was another experience and another person I know in DC.

The first week was helpful with group meetings. It not only allowed all of us students to get use to meeting with professionals, but we got to know each other as well. There were many places that we visited that I found fascinating. The very first group visit to the Federal Commissions Bureau to meet the director of the FCC was splendid. Although I did not want to go into media, it was fascinating visiting the Washington Post and NPR. Widmeyer Communications and the OSU government office were great places to visit since those cover the fields I enjoy. Many of the visits during the first week peaked my interests and opened my mind to what is out there in DC.

Many of my visits during the second week were either with attorneys, lobbyists, or universities. My first visit was with John Wingard, a Lawyer for the federal government. He worked with Real Estate law and held his job for many years. He talked about how he enjoyed working in the public sector a lot. He also gave advice and what not to do when working in a field that can easily be corrupt. The way he described his job pushed me even more to not be a lawyer. What was nice about him though was that he found what he enjoyed doing and stuck with it in a city where many jump around with their jobs. John is currently retired. He took us out for coffee in the morning and showed us around George Mason University Law School. There we talked to a student and met with admissions which was very helpful just in case I did decide to go into law. Wingard also talked about his time at OSU, being in a fraternity and his studies there. He was a nice start to the week.

Later I met with Meghan Gannon who is a scheduler for a congressman. She was a fellow Mountie when she attended OSU, so it was nice to hear about Mount back then. She talked about the move to Washington D.C. and how it may take time and lots of persistence. Her story, like many, demonstrated it is about who you know in DC, not what you know. She also talked about how scheduling for an official is a very time consuming job and very important. We discussed what it is like to be young and in DC, especially good places to eat.

The next day I visited City Year DC. I interned in City Year Columbus, so it was nice to compare it to DC. I met with many of the administrators there and talked about doing City Year in DC. We talked about where I am and where I want to go. I asked many questions on what people do after completing City Year DC. They said many do go into education and some go the political route. There are resources as they explained through city year and many scholarship options for grad school. It was interesting to compare the nonprofit to its Columbus office.  They also offered to take a group next year and show them around or do a session.

For lunch, I met with Stacey Pelika of the Nation Education Association. I have always been interested in education policy but was unknowledgeable of the official organizations dealing with the issues. It was nice to learn about what the NEA does and how it works. I also enjoyed discussing current issues dealing with education. Stacey focused on the research part of education policy which sounded similar to what I am learning in my classes.

To end the day I visited George Washington Law School. Talking to GW law school admissions was helpful I figuring out if I wanted to go to law school. I learned that there is no one path to Law school or after. There is no answer to getting in to law school, it is about grades and showing a specific interests. Coming out I realized I still am leaning away from law school, especially right after under grad. It was cool listening to a top law school admission to understand what law school is like and helpful hints to get there.

I started my Wednesday at Georgetown. At first I got lost, but I loved seeing the school so much it was fine. I first met up with my cousin who is a leader in their international grad school program. She connected me to their Associate Director Eleanor Jones took my resume and went over it for majority of the time. We also discussed the path that got her to the high position. I learned that sometimes I will have to take a step back to move forward to get to my destination. The advice I gained from visiting Georgetown is irreplaceable along with visiting the beautiful campus.

I got dinner that day with Amber Phelps, a teacher near DC. The connection I found with Amber was her involvement with Teach For America. I am very interested in doing an AmeriCorps program after I graduate. Comparing TFA to City Year in DC was helpful on this trip. I enjoyed talking about how Ohio State has changed over our few years’ difference.

After a visit to the White House on Thursday, I had breakfast with Jay Hunter. Jay is OSU alum who works at the Congressional Quarterly. The CQ is under the economists. Jay writes information on different congressmen to be published. Visiting CQ, Washington Post, and NPR sparked interests in journalism I never considered. Jay taught me one does not have to be journalists to be in the industry. It was also great to speak with a recent OSU grad.

Sara Todd, a lawyer at Fannie Mae, took us out for a nice lunch. She did not want to talk about her job as much as she wanted to relive her days at OSU. She was such a fun person to talk to and interesting to. Like many, she stumbled into her job unsure of her desired career path. The best advice I got from her was to enjoy being young and in college, it doesn’t last too long.

Last for that day I met with Carla McGarvey, whom works on tax policy for a Florida Senator. Her, along with many, brought up the point of it is who you know not what you know. She told us what to do if we wanted to get involved with politics. We also discussed lobbying too. She brought up lobbying also and how there are lobbyists for everything. We entertained on the idea of Disney lobbyists and lobbyists for lobbyists. She gave hope to working in DC, like it is very possible as long as I did it right.

I met with Billie Kaumaya Friday morning who works for the Nation Association for Home Builders. She gave all the details on the fun side of Washington DC. Her energy was great for the morning and got me excited for the day. She did not go over her job as much as the transition for Ohio State to DC. She told me the places I needed to go and the best places to live. Her advice will be of assistance when I move to DC.

After, I met with CJ Horn a professor at the Naval Defense University. He had a lot of information on serving and working at a University. I was more interested in his work as a professor. I enjoyed hearing his comparison to all the different positions he held while on service and teaching. He had many stories and ideas to discuss.

My last meeting was a return to the OSU federal Governments Office. I luckily showed up early to talk to Joe Sadek who is in charge to the Washington Academic Internship program. We chatted about the program and the best time to take it. The information I gathered was helpful. Later when I talked with Stacey and Bill did I gain advice on how to get to their seats. Like many, it was not direct. I just have to find out what works for me and what I enjoy. Eventually it will lead me to where I need to be. It was also great to catch up with Bill and talk about the benefits of City Year. I enjoyed going to their office again and found it useful.

After the DC Scholars trip I feel more stable with my future, I am more sure of what I am studying is right for me. Meeting all the Ohio State Alumni was incredible. They still had a passion for the school and brought it to Washington DC. As much as I loved the monuments, museums, and White house, I found all the people I met the most fascinating. As one put it, in DC everyone has a cool job and a cool story. With more connections, I hope to be one of those people with a cool job and a cool story.

Scholars DC

When I received an informational email about a new program open to sophomore Scholars students that would allow them to explore their career interests in our nation’s capital, I knew that this would be what I used my STEP funds for.

About 20 of my peers and I spent the first two weeks of May 2014 in DC on a professional exploration and leadership trip. The first week consisted of group meetings (9-12 people), while the second week consisted of individual or small group meetings (1-4 people).

Our first full day in DC was spent participating in an “Amazing Race”-style scavenger hunt around DC to familiarize ourselves with the metro system and layout of the city. The rest of the day was free time and my group visited the National Archives and the White House.

Our second day in DC began with an early morning and the start of our large group visits. Each day, two large groups visited 3-4 locations and/or met with a variety of professionals. My group’s first day consisted of visits to the Federal Communications Commission, Department of State, and National Public Radio (NPR). At the FCC we met with Bob Cannon, senior counsel in Internet law, and Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC. At the Department of State, we were able to sit in on a press briefing and then have a private meeting with Marie Harf, one of the spokespeople at the Department of State. Our third and final visit of the day was a trip to NPR. We were taken on a tour of the building, sat in on a live radio show, and sat down with White House Correspondent Tamara Keith.

Our next day’s visits were to Senator Portman’s constituent breakfast; a tour of the Capitol building; a quick meeting with Representative Stivers; a meeting with Bradley Saull, an employee for the House Committee on Homeland Security, and the Washington Post.

Our next day of group visits included time with Voice of America, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, and a meeting with Representative Beatty.  The visit with Voice of America was one of my favorites as we sat down with the Chief of the Khmer (Cambodia) Division, Chris Decherd; Digital Media Coordinator/Reporter (also in Khmer), Sophat Soeung; Executive Producer of the South and Central Asia Division, Susan Shand; and Public Affairs Director, Letitia King. The conversations we had with them were absolutely fantastic. We learned about Sophat’s experience growing up in Cambodia and becoming a journalist in the US, Chris’s tenure as a journalist in Cambodia for a number of years, and Susan’s life as an international correspondent for CBS before beginning her own freelance business that worked with foreign press offices. We also discussed the challenges that VOA faces in getting news to non-press-friendly countries. VOA uses TV, radio, and internet to spread their content, however certain countries, North Korea for example, can only have access to radio. We were told that journalists and their families have been targeted by governments and regimes to discourage a VOA presence. This behavior led to the reduction of VOA’s content in Russia- they can no longer have TV programs there. After our talk, we were able to take a tour of the studio; they have programs 24/7 and one of the live broadcasts we saw was meant for Afghanistan.

Our final day of group visits my favorite, as we went to Ohio State’s Government Affairs office, the Supreme Court of the United States, and a met with former Texas Representative Henry Banilla. At the Supreme Court, we were given a lecture about the history of the Court in the courtroom, which was incredible. To actually sit in the courtroom where they hear cases was awe-inspiring. After the lecture, we met with two of Justice Alito’s law clerks- Paul and Maureen. Since their job is one I would like to have someday, I was excited to meet with them. We started with a behind-the-scenes tour of the courthouse and saw the brown-bag lunch room where the Justice’s eat together, the law library, basketball court and gym, and function rooms. The building is absolutely gorgeous, with outdoor courtyards in the interior, sheltered from public view. There is a running joke at the courthouse about the basketball court being the “highest court in the land” because it is directly above the courtroom.

After free time over the weekend, which I used to visit the Newseum and the European Union embassies, I began the second week feeling prepared to go on the individual meetings. I met with variety of professionals, including several private attorneys, attorneys who work for the US Department of Justice (DOJ), a judicial clerk at the US Court of Appeals, an admissions counselor from American University’s Washington College of Law, and someone who works for the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. I especially loved meeting with the DOJ attorneys because working at the DOJ would be a dream job for me. I also really enjoyed meeting with the admissions counselor as I plan to attend law school someday.

Though there were times when I felt stressed, frustrated, and very overtired on the trip, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. It was worth the months of uncertainty about who I would get to talk to and what we would talk about. As a rather introverted individual, meeting with that many people and having to be “on” all the time was draining, but I worked through it and learned a lot about myself in the process.

I feel like this trip had a definite impact on my career path, even if it did not clear up my vision of my future like I thought it would. This trip has definitely shown me that government is the sector I want to work in. The work is interesting, variable, important, and it’s all in DC. I have also definitely decided on going to law school. However, there are several areas that this trip made more muddled for me.

I had hoped to narrow my focus and concentrate on one area in law, but I am interested in too many things. My meeting with the person from the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology piqued my interest in policy and I’m surprised I never thought of it before. Being in DC for two weeks has also made me rethink my decision to take time off before law school. I kind of want to just go straight in and get going with my career. But then sometimes I think I should still work for a couple years beforehand. I just don’t want to go straight through and regret not traveling or exploring my options more later on in life. I guess the question is, would I regret not going to law school straight out of undergrad? Would I regret not taking time off? These are the crossroads in my life and whichever path I choose will impact my career.

Second Year Outdoor Leadership Experience


I went on the Second Year Outdoor Leadership Experience with the Outdoor Adventure Center. We backpacked for two weeks through Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and the John Muir Trail. For the first 8 days on the trail, each participant had the chance to be leader of the day. This consisted of deciding the route, how many miles we would hike that day, when we would fill up on water, when we would stop for lunch, how often we would take breaks, etc. Each leader of the day also had a leadership topic and an outdoor specific skill that we taught to the group. Then at the end of the day, we would reflect around the campfire and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the leader of the day.

Once leader of the day was over, we had to work together as a group of leaders to decided how the day would go. It was very interesting to watch the dynamic change in the group. Some people had more dominant personalities when it came to stepping up at leaders, while others didn’t mind being “participants” and just doing what the group wanted to do.

So What?

This trip ended up being a trip of a lifetime. Something that I will never forget, and for many reasons. It was nice to get away from “real life” and all the responsibilities that came with it; to put our electronics away, and just soak up nature in its rawest form. This trip was not only one of the most beautiful trips of my life, but by far the most intense experience of my life. Mentally, physically, and emotionally, this trip broke everyone down and taught us all something about ourselves that we never expected. This trip made me realize that backpacking, being in nature, and having that time to reflect is the best way to revitalize and cleanse your soul (I know, its cheesy, but true).

I have always felt uncomfortable being a leader, and I came to realize on this trip that it was because I hated the attention that comes with leadership. There is always going to be someone who doesn’t agree with what you’re doing, so no matter what, you’ll be ridiculed. I didn’t really notice this until it came up as a discussion topic one night. I told the group that I would rather sit back and let someone else be the leader and would only step up if no one else did. It surprised me when another participant told me that she thought I did a great job as a leader, especially leading by example. Hearing someone tell me that they noticed my hard work, or the fact that I went the extra mile helped changed my opinion of what a leader is. I think this trip taught me that leadership is not a cookie cutter discipline. There is no right or wrong. There are so many different ways to lead, and one leadership practice for one person might not be the most beneficial practice for the next.

The trip also taught me a lot about myself. I don’t share my feeling with many people, but being able to open up to this group helped me come to terms with a lot of what was going on in my head (I’m not crazy. I swear lol). It made me more confident in who I am as a person, who I want to be, and made me feel like I was enough (although I have to remind myself that now and again).

Now What?

I don’t think that this trip changed how I am as a leader, but it made me more aware of my leadership. I never noticed that I lead by example, but I find that I ask myself more often whether I should step up and take on a more prominent leadership role, or whether it is best suited for someone else.

I think that this experience has helped me grow, and change as a person. I feel that it has made me realize what is important in life, and what I should learn to let go of. I also learned that standing up for what I believe in is never something I should be criticized or ridiculed for. This is all important because no matter where we go in life, we will all be in some sort of leadership role. We need to be able to realize what’s important, what’s best for the group, and what’s worth standing up for.


General Sherman - Worlds Largest Tree!
General Sherman – Worlds Largest Tree!
Panther Gap - Beautiful View
Panther Gap – Beautiful View


JMT suspension bridge
JMT suspension bridge
John Muir Trail - aka heaven on earth
John Muir Trail – aka heaven on earth
Rae Lakes
Rae Lakes


Scholars DC

When trying to choose an endeavor to use as my STEP experience, I knew that I wanted to create an experience that would benefit me both personally, and professionally. The Scholars DC program fell into my lap, fully formed and perfect for my leadership experience through STEP. Through the DC program I would be given a chance to travel to Washington DC and meet professionals working in various industries in DC and make the kind of connections that could benefit me in my future career. Once accepted to the Scholars DC program, I participated in a semester long class as well as a two week trip to Washington DC. The class took place once a week during the spring semester leading up to the trip, and was a great way to get to know the people in the group and the expectations of the trip. During class time we discussed our interests in DC and were given the names of people working in these fields that we could reach out to to set up a meeting. In addition we researched other people we were interested in and reached out to make further networking connections in DC. When we arrived in DC our first week was full of group meetings scheduled for us by our trip leader Kevin. The second week we were free to meet with professionals whom we had contacted as well as to explore DC and all it had to offer.

My trip to DC was definitely a career changing experience for me. Before embarking on my DC trip, I was unsure as to where I wanted to head with my life, other than a slight inclination toward public service. After spending my two weeks in DC meeting all kinds of interesting and influential people, I had a very solid idea of what I wanted to pursue. I am now very excited to get involved in public service and government in my future, and I hope to eventually find myself in an influential position where I can affect real change in the lives of others.

After meeting with a woman who worked in the Public Policy department of the Girl Scouts, I know that my dream job would be to work as a lobbyist for a woman’s empowerment organization such as the Girl Scouts. I am now so excited to pursue these goals and have already made a significant start with my internship in the State House. Thanks to the connections I made while in DC I am excited about seeking a summer internship in Washington. If I hadn’t participated in this Scholars DC program, made possible for me by the STEP program, I certainly would not be headed so assuredly in the direction that I am today.



Scholars DC

My STEP experience was Scholars DC, a one semester, one credit hour course that culminated in a two week trip to our nation’s capital.  We studied a new topic each week of the semester, which ranged from meeting with the former editor of the Columbus Dispatch and Colleen Marshall, a local news anchor, to talk about the media, to a guest professor from the College of Architecture who taught us about the history of city planning in Washington, D.C.   The trip to DC was by far the best part of the experience though.


Our group in front of the US Capitol

Buckeye pride at the U.S. Capitol


The first week, we were divided into groups and attended visits that were coordinated by the instructor of the class and creator of the program.  While we had the opportunity to visit Congress to speak with two Senators from Ohio, tour the Pentagon, and explore the FBI Academy at Quantico, among other things, the most memorable part of this week was definitely the day when we visited agencies within the Intelligence Branch.  Although hours were spent packed into a van traveling in rush hour traffic from our hotel, located directly across the street from the Pentagon, to the agencies we were visiting, it was well worth it.  From meeting the man who helped capture Osama Bin Laden at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to speaking Russian with a Director at the National Security Administration (NSA), it was truly a once in a lifetime experience.  I learned new things about myself that day, discovered qualities I wasn’t aware I possessed, and began to think differently about my intended career path and my future in general.


Visiting the U.S. Pentagon

Visiting the U.S. Pentagon


Going into the second week, I was not sure it was possible for the trip to get any better, but I was wrong.  I had twelve individual meetings that week, as we were supposed to take it upon ourselves to meet with leaders in our chosen fields.  Probably the most terrifying thing I had to do in preparation for my individual meetings was dial a number for the White House.  I did not understand the meaning of “outside of my comfort zone” until the White House operator picked up the phone and I actually had to speak.  It was entirely worth the risk though, as I was able to meet with the Senior White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, Lynn Rosenthal.  Being directed to a room labeled “Office of the Vice President” for a meeting is something that I’ll never forget.  I remember one of her employees meeting me, as she was rushing back from Capitol Hill to see me.  I will be eternally grateful to Lynn for taking an hour and a half out of her clearly very busy day to squeeze in a meeting with me, a nervous college student from Ohio, just so she could answer my questions, encourage me to pursue my goals, and provide advice about college and my life beyond.  I walked out of that meeting on cloud nine, realizing I was in the White House Complex, twenty feet from the West Wing, and I’ve had a newfound motivation ever since.

Lynn Rosenthal and I

Lynn Rosenthal and I

While I found it hard to believe that subsequent experiences and meetings on the trip would live up to that particular appointment, I was not disappointed by any of my other commitments.  I had a series of meetings with officials at the State Department and that was another truly transformative experience for me.  I had the privilege of meeting with another individual who had served as a White House Advisor, this time on Nuclear Regulations.  He serves at the State Department as the Chairman of the New START committee and was able to provide so much insight about our Nuclear Treaties with Russia.  I was a Russian minor at the time, and I was fascinated by the entire department.  We were even able to visit a room where they have a Russian translator, among other employees, twenty four hours a day to aide in our communications with Russia.  While at the State Department, I was also able to talk about a fascination of mine, Bioterrorism, with a Colonel who runs a committee.  He gave me some new book recommendations to add to my reading list and told us a lot of funny stories, one in particular about a pen and John Kerry that was absolutely hilarious.  I went on from that department to meet with a woman who works in Central Asian relations.  She was particularly invested in helping us learn about all of the opportunities we could explore if we would like to work for the government, including fellowships I had never heard of and other programs I would not have discovered on my own.


Overall, the entire two week experience was eye-opening for me.  I did not want to leave when it was time to pack up, board the bus, and head back to Ohio.  While I learned how to navigate Chinatown, where the DC tourists never go, and how to use the Metro, the impact of this trip in my life was much more profound.  I’ve never met with so many individuals who were impressed by me, my skill set, and the potential they believe I possess to do great things with my life.  I left DC with a newfound sense of confidence and so much support and encouragement.


Before the trip, I was constantly playing it safe.  I was convinced that I would go to Law School and become a Lawyer, most likely never leaving Ohio.  Upon returning from DC, I had an entirely different mindset.  I was encouraged to pursue what I was passionate about, not what I thought would be comfortable or easier.  I started to breakout of the small little box I’d previously inhabited, becoming the Vice President of the Russian Club here at Ohio State and applying for a National Fellowship with the help of the Fellowship Office.  I switched my degree plan from a History major with a Russian minor to a double major in History and Russian, and I have not looked back since.  I may be a little uncertain about what the future holds, or even if I’ll be able to graduate on time, but I have the confidence now to pursue goals I never would’ve dreamed of before the trip to DC.  I hope to finish my degree at Ohio State and apply for fellowships to further my career goals or Russian language skills.  It is my intent to receive the Fulbright Scholarship, which entails a year of living in Russia and teaching English to college students, or the Presidential Management Fellowship, which would allow me to work for the U.S. Government in a variety of positions for three years in DC.  My ultimate goal is to continue my Russian education, move to Washington, D.C., and pursue a career of public service, and that is all thanks to my experience in Scholars DC.



STEP OAC High Sierras Leadership

By: Alissa Finke

STEP LeadershipExperience: OAC High Sierras Backpackig


Wow. Where to start. Before this experience began I had to start exercising and getting use to being on my feet for 8+ hours a day. I started to prepare myself and my body to endure the long days of hiking that were soon coming. I also had to attend pre-trip meetings, gather my equipment, and work out travel arrangements.

We flew out of Columbus and into LAX and headed straight to Sequoia National Park. We picked up supplies and began to organize everything in preparation for our expedition. We were all given leadership methods and outdoor survival tasks to know and be able to teach the group throughout the program. We prepared our lessons with one another, learned about safety, and what to expect while we explored the front country of Sequoia National Park and adjusted our bodies to the high elevation. We also started journaling every night about our thoughts, what we learned, and general feelings so that we could reflect latter on.

We set off on the trail. We carried 5 days worth of food on us. My pack was bout 35 pounds (very heavy for me). Each day we hiked 7-13 miles (averaged ~9 miles). There were 6 other students with two OAC leaders, and I making our total 9. We had to learn to work together right from the start. It is hard to explain backpacking to someone. It something you have to experience for your own, but everyday we pushed our selves to our physical and mental limits. We witnessed unimaginable beauty and created meaningful bonds to both our group members and to nature. We were each responsible for the whole group. We became one cohesive force, but not without facing a few challenges along the way. We had to deal with group dynamics, conflicts, personal injuries or fears. We had to problem-solve on the spot everyday in a new situation and new location.

Each participant had the chance to be leader of the day. This title meant that you were in charge completely. The OAC leaders became participants and you, as leader of the day, decided where and how far we were hiking, when to take food and water breaks, what we were going to eat, who was in charge of what responsibilities. The group had to adjust to different leaders and leadership styles each day and learn to make it work. We followed the leader no matter what, even if they lead us astray, we would have to just figure it out. This might not sound as bad considering we were just walking from point A to B, but there was so much more to it. You had to be the one to motivate your team, make sure the group was healthy and each individual was in good shape. You had to make the big desertions about rout changes and what to do when water sources are dry. When you are leader of the day, you also have to give your lesson on a particular leadership style and outdoor skill. Everyone takes notes and we have a detailed discussion about it. Generally, this happened during mealtime. At the very end of the night, when we have set up camp and have made dinner, we all sit around the fire and have reflection. This covered the entire day and anyone could speak, but specifically we evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of the leader of the day. This included constructive criticism and discussion.

We totaled about 129 miles on our trip and reached a max elevation of 12,000 feet. The pictures speak for themselves. We each had individual goals and group goals, which I am happy to say most if not all were met, there were tears of pain and much laughter. But most importantly we had an experience that made all the difference in each participant. We each walked away with something different, but this program gave us all the confidence to go back to the “real world” and step up as leaders of our generation in our own ways.

So What?

My persona belief is that our education system is inherently wrong in it’s ideals, goals, and basic structure. Yes education is one of the most valuable things in the world and I know I am lucky to have access to such prestigious higher education when others have nothing. I am thankful for all the educators who have helped me along the way. My point being, we are told there is only one way to succeed, one way to be happy and if you jump through the hoops and red tape of the US educational system everything will work out just fine. This means that our students conform; they think mistakes are bad, and to be wrong is to be unintelligent. Therefore we do not create beyond what our system approves of, we design our life to fit into this “perfect” box. Our higher educational system is supposed to be sending out the best and brightest young leaders into the world, but instead we have leaders who just know how to follow directions, and do what has always been done. This leads to lower qualities fulfillment, grid lock in congress, and country that isn’t moving forward as quickly as it has the potential to.

In order to have leaders that can shape the word into a better place, we need individuals with passion and creativity, who are not afraid to break the rules. Going out into the wilderness, away from everything our society distracts us from, is one of the best ways to develop our youth into freethinking and amiable leaders. When you are quite and still you can take off any mask you may be wearing, shed off any barriers you may have up and just think. This allows you to look deep inside yourself to answer questions you may not know you had or inspire ideas that would not have otherwise appeared. The nature of backpacking into the remote and beautiful areas provides this opportunity and more. Not only do you get away from technology and a busy life style, you are reminded of the power and importance of the natural world. It puts your life in perspective. Now, this trip was a trip of a lifetime, but in order to have the balance and self-understanding I am speaking of, one must venture out into nature and be still and quite as much as possible. This STEP leadership experience has given each of us that exactly and introduced a new way of thinking about life.

On a more personal note. Have learned that I am enough. It sounds simple, but it has made a significant difference in how I view myself. As a leader I have grown. I no longer wait to be asked to step-up, instead I am not afraid to give my opinions and be a leader in situations big and small. I went into this program with an open mind and no tangible expectations aside from being able to have an adventure. After the trip I am confident that I chose the program that was best for me. The OAC High Sierras has given me the strong foundation I needed to continue growing in all aspects of my life, from leadership, relationships, and personal ambitions.

Now What?

Before the program I had been a student manager for the OSU dinning services and was interning at an arboretum that summer. I had already had some experience being a leader, but after the trip my employers said that I seemed to me more confident and less doubtful. Although I still struggle with confidence from time to time, I have certainly improved In my ability to speak up and stand up in my daily life. I successfully completed my internship after my trip, leaving with good recommendations and was given a raise at my job at OSU.

STEP gave me an opportunity for self-edification with results that will follow me into my future. I know that happiness one of the most important thinks in my life, and now I have balance between academics and my personal life, which has lead to better grades and better relationships. Moving forward I know my experiences and what I have learned will help in all aspects of my life. I know how to have confidence in interviews, which will help me land a job. I am also more confident in my outdoor skills, which is a critical part of the life style I am trying to lead.

Now, I have memories and experiences that I can look back on to inspire me to keep moving forward.

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Scholars DC

My leadership experience was to visit Washington, D.C. for two weeks to attend meetings with multiple entities that were of interest to me. The first week consisted of trips to government agencies, like the FBI Academy, CIA, NSA, and Voice of America/Broadcasting Board of Governors. During these visits,we met with leaders of each organization and learned a little more about their jobs–usually more than is shared with the typical public. The second week, I was able to meet with leaders in my career field of interest. I met with event planners from multiple organizations: the Vice President of Operations of the USO, the Deputy Director of Events of the Smithsonian, and the Director of Events of the Office of the President of Georgetown University.


I absolutely loved this trip. As a business student, I was weary of traveling to a city that was known mainly for its politics, afraid that I wouldn’t find anything for me there. After meeting with my individual appointments, I realized this wasn’t true, and that there are plenty of opportunities for non-politicos in Washington. Outside of career opportunities, D.C. is also a great place to explore, with all of the museums, universities, and even shops that you can visit in your downtime. After this experience, I’m excited to visit D.C. again, and would be more confident in myself to find my way around and to meet with other leaders in my career field.

Because of this trip, I was able to intern with Senator Rob Portman, and it has opened my eyes to other opportunities in event planning (and how it relates to my other fields of interest). In addition to this, I’ve added another specialization to my major so that I am better equipped for event planning. After traveling to Washington, D.C., I am more committed to becoming an event planner, and hope to one day return to Washington to do so.

To find out more about my trip, visit my blog.