Thanks to a recent gift from Elizabeth Michelle Hill, a 1997 joint bachelor's and master's political science graduate, five political science undergraduates explored potential public service careers during the summer.
"This year's recipients are extraordinary individuals," said Elliot Posner, assistant professor of political science and director of the internship program. "Their files rose to the top of a very competitive pile of applications. The winners first distinguished themselves with applications that spelled out thoughtful summer plans. They then gave well articulated responses to the selection committee's questions during interviews. Lastly, they received impressive offers for public service internships."
The first group of Wellman Hill Political Science Interns engaged in a wide range of opportunities, such as studying global elections and human rights violations at the Carter Center in Atlanta; observing the criminal justice system at the Cook County State's Attorney's office in Chicago; working for the defense team at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; interning with Unite For Sight in India; and doing genetic disease advocacy at Washington, D.C.'s Genetic Alliance.
Several Wellman Hill interns discussed their plans prior to the start of their summer internships, while others shared their stories after completing their programs:
Jane Kaminski plans to head to Washington, D.C., upon graduation, and thanks to her summer internship in defense policy, she already has a start on her future plans.
Kaminski, a fourth-year student majoring in political science and international studies, spent the summer working for the defense team at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). "CSIS works very hard to be respected as a non-partisan institution, so the publications are recognized as being unbiased and substantial. The work I'm contributing to is unique because the government looks closely at our recommendations, and policy is developed based off these reports," she explained.
Kaminski said the Wellman Hill award afforded her the opportunity to spend 12 weeks doing something she loves. "I've been vying for an internship here for the past few years. I feel so lucky that I didn't have to forgo this fantastic opportunity for a paying internship (which is elusive), or figure out how to work an extra 20 hours a week on top of an internship."
She said defense policy interests her "because it strikes me as one of the most vital parts of American politics; it directly affects the lives of so many Americans in such a real way." Kaminski worked on major defense issues facing the future administration in the report Project Iceberg.
The La Porte, Ind., native said her professors and classes aided in her preparation for the internship. "Last semester, I took several classes that I've pulled knowledge from to contribute to my internship, from understanding international security organizations to the nature of political economics. I submitted a research paper I wrote on international arms trading inefficiencies for Professor Joseph White's U.S. Bureaucracy class as a secondary writing sample for CSIS, and I'm pretty sure it secured my internship."
A member of Phi Mu and the University Program Board, Kaminski said the internship will probably influence what she plans to do for her senior project.
Hema Krishna, a third-year student with a double major in biochemistry and political science, recently found a way to combine both of her academic interests. "As a premedical student with a major in political science, I have always tried to find a way to combine my interest in providing health care with my interest in policy work. I realized that public health was the intersection of those two interests. It gives me the opportunity to help people on a larger scale than the individual patient," she explained.
Thinking of her newfound interest, Krishna searched online for internship opportunities in the public health field. Several of her professors mentioned the Wellman Hill grant upon learning of her summer plans to work for Genetic Alliance, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., that focuses on genetic disease advocacy work. The position involved doing background research for policy initiatives, writing policy bulletins, and attending meetings on Capitol Hill.
Out of all of the internship opportunities she learned of, Krishna said Genetic Alliance stood out. "I was especially impressed by their internship program because their advocacy work is rooted more in actual science than most of the other organizations." She believes her undergraduate coursework prepared her for the internship. "I have both the scientific background to understand the sorts of issues the Genetic Alliance is advocating for, as well as an understanding of the political world from my political science classes. I believe my understanding of the government and of health sciences will be very beneficial."
On campus, the Sylvania, Ohio, native is a member of Delta Gamma Sorority, the Mortar Board Honor Society and the Student Turning Point Society, and is a mentor in the Emerging Leaders Program.
The 10-week internship might provide her with information for a future project. "I do not have concrete plans yet, but I may be writing my senior thesis based on the work I will be doing this summer."
A Wellman Hill Political Science award allowed Komal Patel the opportunity to work for Unite For Sight, a nonprofit organization that empowers communities worldwide to improve eye health and eliminate preventable blindness.
Patel spent two and a half weeks in Kalinga, India providing follow up care to patients who'd received treatment. The experience, she said, allowed her to see a different aspect of health care.
"Over there it's not common to go to the eye doctor. Some of these issues are easily preventable and treatable," said Patel, a fourth-year pre-med and political science major. She estimated that about 60 percent of the patients in poorer areas of the country have cataracts. Unite For Sight volunteers brought a mobile bus to specific areas to provide education and take people to their appointments. Patel said during her internship, she learned about eye anatomy, did vision acuity tests, observed surgeries, and provided post-op care to make sure patients' eyes were healing properly.
Back in the United States, Patel worked with hospitals and Unite For Sight on assembling preventative health packets, which included plastic eyeballs to teach patients about good eye heath, along with educational pamphlets.
"This trip completely revolutionized the way I look at health care. It was one of those light bulb moments for me. You really don't understand the lack of support on an international level until you are there. I am now looking toward international health policy," said the Newburgh, N.Y., native.
Patel, a member of the university's pre-medical American Medical Student Association and the , Undergraduate Indian Student Association, found out about the Wellman Hill opportunity from her pre-medical adviser, and said the grant was the only way she could have funded her internship. "I feel fortunate, and I can't thank Elizabeth Hill enough for this."
Nicholas Sachanda's future plans include going after criminals who break the law in his hometown county, and he was able to observe how the system works up close and personal during his summer internship.
The Chicago native earned a spot in the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. "I'm actually working in the office I'd want to work in later on down the road. I'll be doing everything from making copies to doing research," said Sachanda, who began his internship a week after spring classes ended.
After a couple of professors told him about the Wellman Hill opportunity, Sachanda decided to apply. He's glad he did, because he used the award money for living expenses while working as a clerk in the special litigation unit section assigned to the state prosecutor.
Sachanda, a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity and the Pre-law chapter of Phi Alpha Delta, enjoyed talking with Elizabeth Hill during the awards ceremony. "She's really nice. I plan on staying in touch, because I want to follow a similar career path."
As president of the university's Mock Trial team studying political science and economics, Sachanda already has a basic understanding of legal principles. However, he expected the internship to provide an education he won't get by reading case studies. "Not a lot of undergraduates get to do something like this," he said of his spot in the competitive program. The third-year student hopes to make strong contacts and do memorable work so that he has a shot at returning to the office upon his graduation from law school.
Sachanda said his reasons for wanting to become a prosecutor are pretty easy to sum up. "I think it would be a good experience, and it's a chance to make sure justice gets done."
Sarah Tolbert had already planned on spending her summer advocating for democracy, and the Wellman Hill Political Science Internship helped her affirm the academic path she has been on all along.
"Public service is the reason why I wanted to be a political science major. I think public service is one of the best ways to put your education to use," said Tolbert, a fourth-year student who spent 10 weeks interning at the Carter Center in Atlanta. "Since I have been privileged enough to go to a great school whereas others have not, I need to put that to use for the greater good."
Tolbert worked in the organization's democracy program, which monitors elections to ensure fairness. "I will be monitoring different elections in various countries and extensive research on conflicts. I also get to work on public awareness about human rights violations. I will be in charge of monitoring a specific country, conduct research projects, and work directly on project planning and implementation."
Tolbert was already knowledgeable about some of these areas, and found out about the Wellman Hill opportunity through Laura Ymayo Tartakoff, an adjunct associate professor of political science. "Most of my classes have dealt with international relationships or democracy to some extent."
In addition to her interest in political science, Tolbert is an environmental studies and geology major. Outside of her academic research, she is a member of the university's varsity tennis team and STAND, the student anti-genocide coalition.
A native of Canton, Ohio, Tolbert plans to document her internship experience, and said she would probably blog about her experience. "I may even focus my SAGES Capstone Project around what I learned at the Carter Center."
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