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THE WELLMAN HILL POLITICAL SCIENCE INTERNSHIP GRANTS PROGRAM: THE SELECTION COMMITTEE’S SECOND ANNUAL REPORT

Posted on November 1, 2009

November 2009

Selection Committee Members:
Karen Beckwith
Ken Grundy
Yuri Linetsky
Andrew Lucker
Elliot Posner (Chair)

This document reports on the second year of the Wellman Hill Political Science Internship Grants Program. The grants were made possible by a generous gift from Elizabeth (Liz) Hill (B.A., M.A., 1997) to honor her grandfather, Wellman Hill. The program enables Political Science majors to accept public service summer internships that financial limitations might otherwise force them to decline.

The Selection Process
All members of the inaugural Wellman Hill Selection Committee accepted Department of Political Science Chair Joe White’s invitation to serve a second year. Assistant Professor Elliot Posner thus again chaired a committee comprised of Professor Karen Beckwith, Professor Emeritus Ken Grundy, Visiting Assistant Professor Yuri Linetsky of the School of Law and Adjunct Assistant Professor Andrew Lucker. Unlike the first year, Professor White appointed Professor Grundy as a voting member.

On October 22 Professor Posner held an informational meeting for potential applicants that included presentations from the five 2008 grant recipients and the Career Center’s Experiential Learning Specialist Drew Poppleton. The committee officially launched the grants competition on November 18, and students submitted their applications by February 13. We announced the winners and alternates on April 9. All of the 2009 winners landed internships by the May 20 deadline.

The committee left the basic rules of the competition unchanged. The formal requirements of eligibility included: 1) a major in political science; 2) two semesters of coursework at CWRU; 3) a 3.0 grade point average in political science; 4) a graduation date no earlier than December following the internship summer; and 5) a commitment to public service. Beyond the application itself, students were required to provide a letter of reference from a CWRU faculty member. The committee added language to the website clarifying the ineligibility of Washington Center internships and highlighting the requirement of a final report by grant recipients. The main criterion for selecting grant winners was the extent to which applicants’ personal stories and their selected internships matched the public service goals of the program.

Impressed by the quality of submitted applications, the committee decided to interview all 14 candidates, most of whom took advantage of the Career Center’s offer to conduct mock interviews. Without exception, the students performed exceptionally well in the actual interviews, making the final selection process a true challenge. For a second year, the five recipients found prestigious internships and represented the department and the University well.

Liz Hill again hosted a celebratory dinner for the finalists and alternates. The guests included her father, Michael Hill, and friends from her CWRU days. The dinner at Sergio’s Sarava restaurant was a festive affair that honored the students and furthered the impact of her well conceived and inspired gift.

The 2009 Wellman Hill Political Science Internship Grants Winners and Alternates

Winners:

 

  • Nicholas Hilgeman (Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C.)

 

  • Alexandra (Sasha) Klyachkina (Genocide Intervention Network, Washington, D.C.)

 

  • David Mattern (Office of the Counselor to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D.C.)

 

  • Mirela Turc (Policy Matters Ohio, Cleveland)

 

  • Madeline Van Gunten (Cleveland Department of Public Health, Cleveland)

Alternative Candidates:

  • Lauren Geiser

 

  • Nikolay Kanazirev

 

  • Miriam Posner

Reports by Grant Recipients on Their Internship Experiences

Nicholas Hilgeman (Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C.)

This summer I interned for the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a non-partisan think tank located in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1962, CSIS has since grown to become a leader in foreign policy analysis and regional specialization. I applied to CSIS because of the diverse nature of the institution’s projects as well as the strength of the Middle East Program.

A large portion of my time was spent working on cultural intelligence for the United States Marine Corps. In an attempt to update both the content and presentation of the information soldiers receive about foreign countries, the Middle East Program designed four new learning products for specific areas of the Middle East that related to the region’s history, politics, culture, and military. My contribution to the project was two-fold. First, I was involved in researching and writing commentaries on key political actors and organizations in Lebanon. Second, I assisted in securing and editing video clips that pertained to particular aspects of society in Yemen and Jordan. As a whole, the project allowed me to more easily ascertain the connection between policy and practice. By equipping soldiers with a stronger understanding of unfamiliar surroundings, they are better able to make difficult decisions that may save lives.

In addition, I was also able to complete research on several aspects of Egypt. My first undertaking was an investigation into the regional role that Egypt plays in the Middle East, including its political, economic, and religious impacts. The second piece of research focused on the public health efforts of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Egypt. With the termination of all USAID programs in Egypt at the end of 2009, I explored what projects had been implemented since USAID first began work in Egypt and their eventual outcomes on aggregate public health in the country.

In the end, the internship provided me with pertinent work experience and also enabled me to expand my research, writing, and presentation skills. Whether it was relaying weekly updates to the Program Director or writing an article for the program’s newsletter, the academic and vocational knowledge I gained will be an invaluable tool as I graduate from Case and progress into the next stage of my life.

Alexandra (Sasha) Klyachkina (Genocide Intervention Network, Washington, D.C.)

There are few things more thrilling for a political science major than being in Washington D.C. It is even more exciting if you are actually interning or working there instead of just sight-seeing and admiring all of the amazing things others are accomplishing. I spent this past summer doing a bit of both, largely because I was one of the recipients of the Wellman Hill Grant. While life in DC is amazing, it is by no means cheap, and like most internships, mine was unpaid. Luckily, I received the Wellman Hill Grant in lieu of a salary and was able to use it for living expenses during my internship.

As an intern for the Genocide Intervention Network (GI-NET), I had the opportunity to do work for the organization’s Membership Department and Conflict Risk Network. While I worked with the organization previously on CWRU’s campus, being an intern in the D.C. office allowed me to gain a more extensive understanding of how it functioned and contribute to it on an entirely different level. I was able to view and assist with member outreach and development on a national scale. Additionally, since GI-NET is an advocacy-based organization, I got the chance to participate in urgent advocacy actions. Along with the other interns, I delivered members’ letters to Congressmen and even participated in a phonebank prior to the Foreign Relations Committee hearing with the Special Envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration. The next day I was able to attend the actual hearing and hear questions that GI-NET had pushed to have asked!

Furthermore, I was able to research corporate social responsibility (CSR). I spent a great deal of time looking into CSR guidelines created by corporations themselves or international organizations. I also researched case studies to see how companies implementing or failing to implement these guidelines affected the companies and their respective communities. I had never previously addressed human rights from a corporate standpoint to assess the effect that corporations can have on the communities in which they operate. The most interesting aspect of the research was seeing the effect that CSR standards have on companies; there was a multitude of cases where companies ignored their interactions with the surrounding communities only to find themselves in the midst of million dollar lawsuits for violating human rights or for creating environmental hazards. My research helped build a database that the Conflict Risk Network can use when engaging companies that operate in conflict regions to develop responsible investment strategies.

Interning with the Genocide Intervention Network this summer was an incredibly rewarding experience that I would not have been able to have without the Wellman Hill Grant. While I learned a vast array of skills, the takeaway message I got from this summer was that a person can really make an enormous difference. GI-NET was started by a few college students that decided to take the initiative on stopping the genocide in Darfur. The passion and dedication of its staff continue to be a true inspiration. Despite many people’s disillusionment with the political system, this summer really taught me that Margaret Mead was correct when she said, “Never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

David Mattern (Office of the Counselor to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D.C.)

When in my first week of work I formally met two Supreme Court Justices, stood a mere few feet from the others, and toured the conference room where the Justices have decided some of their most important cases, I knew this was destined to be my life’s most exhilarating summer. I interned in the Office of the Counselor to the Chief Justice at the Supreme Court of the United States. As a lifetime aficionado of the judicial branch and a hopeful future attorney, working for the Court provided a unique opportunity to learn about the judiciary’s internal functioning. This experience, the hallmark of my undergraduate career, would have been impossible without the Wellman Hill Political Science Internship Grant.

Along with one other judicial intern, I worked in the Office of the Counselor. The Counselor, Jeffrey P. Minear, oversees Chief Justice Roberts’s non-adjudicative responsibilities (such as the Chief Justice’s role as Chancellor of the Smithsonian Institution, his formal speeches and conferences, and the oversight of the federal judiciary). He is like the Chief Justice’s “chief-of-staff,” though this label does not capture his extensive duties.

My intern responsibilities were primarily research-oriented and included summarizing news articles, preparing memoranda and correspondence, and conducting background research for speeches and briefings provided to visiting foreign dignitaries. I collaborated with another intern and the Supreme Court Fellow on a research project that will be presented early next year.

One of the internship’s most rewarding opportunities was the chance to observe the Court’s public sessions (where the Justices announce the Court’s opinions). Court sessions are not televised, and the audio recordings of the Marshal crying “Oyez, Oyez, Oyez” as the Justices enter the courtroom do not do the spectacle justice. It was a unique summer to work in Washington because Justice Souter’s retirement necessitated Senate confirmation hearings for a replacement Justice. Justice Sotomayor was nominated to the Court on my first day of work, and I watched her take the judicial oath one week before my term ended.

My experiences at the Supreme Court augmented my interests in the judiciary. The Wellman Hill Internship Grant enabled me to take the first steps towards a career in law and public service.

Mirela Turc (Policy Matters Ohio, Cleveland)

This summer I spent ten weeks getting to know the city of Cleveland and the impact that federal and state policies have on the state of Ohio. Though I faced downtown traffic every morning, my summer internship was one of the richest experiences I have had. Work at Policy Matters Ohio was an eye-opener to the social conditions that lower and middle-class Ohioans face and also allowed me to look at legislation that had a direct effect on the state. I was honored to work at a non-profit organization that won the 2009 Community Shares Award and that The Nation named the Best State or Regional Organization of 2008. Policy Matters researches economic issues facing Ohioans and compiles reports based on research done online, from state and county offices, and through field work. It then issues reports explaining the impact of legislation and provides recommendations for policymakers and voters.

On the first day, I hit the ground running. I had met my boss, Amy Hanauer, a couple weeks beforehand, and was invited to the Crown Plaza Hotel downtown on May 18 to attend a conference on Ohio’s labor force. There I met several of the dedicated young men and women that would be working with me, performing research, drafting reports, and doing fieldwork. I attended workshops that raised pertinent questions, such as whether new green jobs will be well-paying professions, and how northeast Ohioans can revitalize the local economy. State Representative Mike Foley gave a crash course on the cap-and-trade bill, and I was introduced to Senator Sherrod Brown.

Each day at the office was anything but mundane. I am lucky to say that I did not have a “typical” summer internship largely overrun by copying and stapling papers. The vibrant work environment led to the lasting bonds I formed with the other interns and the staff members, and lengthy discussions on such subjects as sustainability, poverty, and the job market for college graduates. During the first part of the internship, I proofread a report about the governor’s proposal to raise the graduation rate, documented information about low-income voters, and began researching apprenticeship training centers in the state. After compiling a dataset of apprenticeship training opportunities for high school graduates, I was given a more significant assignment: researching the effectiveness of Enterprise Zones and Community Reinvestment Areas. For this project, I worked closely with Zach Schiller, a well-known speaker, researcher, and contributing writer for the Plain Dealer. I called and asked for information from the ten most populous counties in Ohio concerning their tax incentives for businesses in blighted areas. I was able to assess whether these businesses were using their money wisely and whether their operations were in line with state legislation. This was a timely assignment as Ohio has had problems with its budget and is looking at scaling back on tax incentives. Thus it was important to research what aspects of EZs and CRAs are the most cost effective and have the greatest positive economic impact on Ohio’s businesses. Almost every week there was an event to attend: a proposal-writing seminar at the Foundation Center, a “funeral” protest for Ohio’s libraries, and lectures given by staff members and advocates from the greater Cleveland area, including a live webcast of my boss’s meeting with Vice President Joe Biden. The most exciting part of the internship came towards the end of my time at Policy Matters. The intern task was to visit payday lending stores and uncover how legal their business practices were. This assignment was in response to recent legislation that had mandated that payday lenders post their rates and had outlawed unemployment checks as collateral for obtaining a loan. After visiting over a dozen lenders in the greater Cleveland area in a “secret shopper” format, we were able to ascertain that lenders were for the most part taking advantage of their customers, low-income individuals to begin with, and causing them to cycle into greater debt. Our research contributed to a report called “New Law, Same Old Loans: Payday Lenders Sidestep Ohio Law” and to a testimony before the Ohio House of Representatives by David Rothstein, a researcher at Policy Matters.

Working at Policy Matters Ohio has given me the tools to be an inquisitive student and has solidified my desire to become an attorney. I am more in tune with the social conditions that lower and middle-income groups face and understand the tangible impact of legislation on ordinary people. I learned that statutes are not just ambiguous rules written by remote elites; rather, their applications can have huge repercussions in the real world. Working at Policy Matters has opened my eyes to a myriad of economic issues that I would have otherwise been a stranger to. Thanks to the Wellman Hill Internship Grant I was able to take part in this formative experience.

Madeline Van Gunten (Cleveland Department of Public Health, Cleveland)

I entered the third floor of the Cleveland Department of Public Health at quarter to eight on a Monday morning in mid-May, feeling a little nervous and completely unsure of what to expect. My supervisor, the head of the Office of HIV/AIDS services for the city, graciously welcomed me inside. As he quickly breezed through names of associated offices, grants, and medical terminology, I attempted to retain the unfamiliar acronyms. I spent the remainder of day one reviewing application grants from organizations for HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for Persons Living with AIDS) funding. On that first day, I began to recognize the complexity and number of individuals and organizations involved in HIV prevention, just one office at the Department of Public Health. By the time of my final day in August, I had developed a much fuller awareness of the importance of local, state, and federal offices working in conjunction with business, non-profits, and other organizations on several levels, seven days a week to advance public health.

An estimated 1,106,400 individuals suffer from HIV/AIDs in the United States. About 2,840 individuals are infected in Cleveland alone. The disease has been stigmatized as a homosexual disease, and more recently an African American disease. However, in reality, the disease cuts across the boundaries of race, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. HIV is not a death sentence as commonly perceived. On the contrary, if caught early, individuals can live for decades with the disease. For this reason, prevention is of utmost importance. The priorities of the Cleveland Office of HIV/AIDs services include reducing stigma, informing individuals regarding risks, promoting safer sex practices, getting individuals tested, and ushering individuals into treatment quickly.

Throughout my internship, I was granted numerous invaluable opportunities to observe the interactions that comprise public health. I spent the first couple of weeks sitting in on meetings with local HIV/AIDs organizations (such as the Regional Advisory Group), community members, clinic directors, and the Cleveland City Council. I also traveled to Columbus to attend an inter-organizational HIV prevention meeting at which the lieutenant governor and Congressional representatives were in attendance. I was inspired by the attendance at meetings and by individuals’ commitment to garner support for individuals affected by HIV/AIDs. Previously unsure of the definition of “public health,” my internship quickly illuminated this term in my mind. Public Health is nothing more than what it sounds: advocating and ensuring health services and support on behalf of the public. Public Health is not a simple process however, as it encompasses a vast array of divisions, departments, and levels.

I very much enjoyed the wide variety of tasks I was given. My work changed day to day and week to week. I spent the majority of the internship with HIV/AIDS prevention. I developed and distributed a consumer satisfaction survey for community members who attend the Regional Advisory Group for HIV prevention. The survey garnered a great deal of feedback that will now be used to better serve the needs of community members involved in HIV prevention. I was also able to interact with members of the community and local organizations by working the Department of Public Health’s table at the AIDS walk on Case’s campus. Additionally, I spent time preparing grant applications and requests for proposals for programs such as ARAP (AIDS Rental Assistance Program), CDBG (Community Development Block Grant), and other programs to assist HIV positive individuals with housing payments, food payments, transportation and other assistance. HIV is a debilitating disease, making it very difficult for affected individuals to work as well as to afford basic items after paying for health care and medicines. The grants were developed in close coordination with representatives from local AIDS organizations such as the AIDS Taskforce and the AIDS Funding Collaborative.

In addition to assistance with day to day coordination tasks, I was able to work with legislative projects during my time with the Cleveland office. I had the opportunity to branch out from AIDS prevention and delve into smoking legislation. I was asked to research new federal legislation regarding smoking, i.e. provisions involving restrictions to keep cigarettes out of reach for children, and to make recommendations for a local smoking legislation proposal regarding child restrictions. I was able to view federal legislation and to brainstorm how it could be applied at the local level in my own city. I was also able to sit in on Cleveland City Council meetings and to witness how my advisor and the head of the Department propose legislation and programs to City Council. In addition, I assisted with draft letters to Congressional representatives regarding support for a provision that would facilitate easier treatment for HIV. Lastly, I researched provisions regarding HIV in recent bills from the Ohio legislature.

The final major task I completed with the Cleveland Department of Public Health was with the Office of Epidemiology. I was asked to complete Continuity of Operations (COOP) Plan updates for 2009 for each division/unit. COOP plans are detailed plans of what would occur in the event of an emergency, for example a flood, fire, disease outbreak, or terrorist attack. I spent about two days completing Federal FEMA certification coursework online, which introduced me to the basics of COOP and the many aspects of a comprehensive plan. During the following weeks, I sent emails, made phone calls, and paid visits to the various department heads asking them to update their plans and offering assistance in the process. I also corrected the base plan, and completed a grid of essential supplies and resources.

Having entered my internship with a vague grasp of the term public health, I have exited with a much fuller understanding and appreciation of the importance of the many organizations committed to advancing public health. Promoting public health, regardless of which aspect, is a simple goal. The action behind the scenes between organizations and government levels is much more complex. Many individuals, including myself prior to that early morning in mid-May, remain unaware of the level of work, coordination, and communication that goes into ensuring public health. I am heartened by the large number of organizations that make public health their goal. Thanks to the generous Wellman Hill grant and the Case administration, I am happy to have been able to observe and to assist with the many processes carried out on a daily basis by the Cleveland Department of Public Health.

 

Page last modified: January 23, 2015