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

Posted on December 1, 2010

December 2010

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

This document reports on the third 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
For a third year, Associate Professor Elliot Posner chaired the Wellman Hill Selection 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.

Professor Posner held an informational meeting on October 29 for potential applicants that included presentations from 2009 grant recipients and the Career Center’s Experiential Learning Specialist Drew Poppleton. The committee officially launched the grants competition on November 20, and students submitted their applications by February 12. We announced the winners and alternates on April 14. All of the 2010 winners found internships by the May 21 deadline.

The committee left the basic rules of the competition largely 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. As in previous years, students were asked to fill out an application form that included a personal statement and a letter of reference from a CWRU faculty member. The committee added a new requirement, a one-page résumé, and sponsored a résumé-building workshop (led by Mr. Poppleton) on November 18. Once again, 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.

The committee interviewed 11 of 12 applicants. For the second year in a row, a panel of Career Center staff members conducted mock interviews to help students prepare. As in previous years, the students dazzled the committee with stellar performances in the actual interviews, again making the selection process extremely difficult. This year’s five recipients found exciting and impressive internships and represented the department and the University well.

Liz Hill honored the finalists and alternates with a celebratory dinner at Lola Restaurant in downtown Cleveland. The event capped the third year of this inspired program, which has broadened the experiences and aspirations of our students and has had an immeasurable impact on the department and university.

The 2010 Wellman Hill Political Science Internship Grants Winners and Alternates

Winners:

 

  • Cheyenne Chambers (Judge Solomon Oliver, U.S. District Court, Cleveland)
  • Caitlin Cipicchio (Northeast-Midwest Institute, Washington, D.C.)
  • Lauren Geiser (Middle East Research Information Project, Washington, D.C.)
  • Kenley Jones (Carter Center, Atlanta)
  • Brandon Mordue (Policy Matters Ohio, Cleveland)

Alternative Candidates:

  • John Drennan
  • David Holcomb
  • Kayla Wheeler

Reports by Grant Recipients on Their Internship Experiences

Cheyenne Chambers (Judge Solomon Oliver, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Cleveland)

On my first day of work, I wanted to make a good impression. To begin, I arrived at the Carl B. Stokes U.S. District Court House thirty minutes early, 8:00 a.m. to be exact. When I entered, my heart began to race with excitement; my dreams were quickly becoming a reality. The elevator ride to the seventeenth floor felt like an eternity. As I approached Chief Judge Solomon Oliver, Jr.’s chambers, I searched for the right words to say, “Hello Judge…Good Morning Judge…Good Day Your Honor…” Concerned about my professional attire, I checked my suit for apparent winkles and creases. At last, everything was in order. With a deep breath and a smile, I walked inside.

When I entered the chambers, I met Chief Judge Oliver’s law clerks, Margaux and Jessica, his courtroom deputy, Maria, and his judicial assistant, Bettye. After a tour of his courtroom and a brief seminar outlining a legal extern’s responsibilities, I asked, “Where’s the judge?” All responded, “Oh sorry, Judge Oliver is not here today. In fact, he won’t return to the courthouse for at least another few days. He’s been summoned for jury duty!”

Thanks to the Wellman Hill Internship Grant, I could experience a summer full of these “unexpected moments.”

At the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, I spent a majority of my externship in the courtroom. With a legal pad and pen in hand, I took notes of everything possible from jury trials to sentencing hearings. Felons appeared with a variety of criminal charges including drug possession, assault, battery, and armed robbery. An array of civil cases concerning disputes such as breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and Fourth Amendment infringements also filled the docket. In fact, one of the most interesting proceedings I watched involved the recent Cuyahoga County corruption cases.

Many times in court, I sat adjacent to the judge’s bench. With this special seat, attorneys mistakenly addressed me as “amicus curiae,” “counselor,” or even “law clerk.” Even though I would reintroduce myself as an extern, I enjoyed every minute of being recognized as “one of them.”

Outside of the courtroom, I examined dozens of pending complaints and motions. I spent many hours reading attorney’s briefs, analyzing precedents, and summarizing legal arguments. With Chief Judge Oliver and his two clerks, I would discuss potential rulings for each of the cases I reviewed. Furthermore, I sat in on several telephone conferences and noted the differences between litigation strategies in and out of the courtroom.

During the final two weeks of my externship, I was given the rare opportunity to draft my first judicial opinion. This gave me the chance to develop an order from beginning to end. Fourteen days of research, five outlines, and seventeen pages later, I granted a motion to dismiss. When I submitted the final draft, I realized that my words could ultimately change people’s lives. Undoubtedly, this was the highlight of my summer.

My externship with Chief Judge Oliver affirmed my interests in public service and law. This summer’s experiences are a constant reminder of what can happen if I remain focused and determined to succeed.

Caitlin Cipicchio (Northeast-Midwest Institute, Washington, D.C.)

In the summer of 2009 I was lucky enough to intern for a nonprofit organization and learn about grassroots mobilization and non-governmental organizations’ influence on legislation. I was eager to accept another intern position in Washington, D.C. to learn more about what happens behind the scenes of the legislative branch, and the Wellman Hill grant allowed me to do just that. I interned at the Northeast-Midwest Institute, which is a nonprofit, bipartisan organization that serves as the research arm of the Northeast-Midwest Coalitions in the Senate and the House. It focuses on regional issues affecting 18 states in the Northeast and Midwest.

The NEMW Coalition and the NEMW Institute look at qualities unique to that region and then work for federal policies that help that region. The majority of my summer was spent compiling and preparing a report on demographic realities in the Northeast-Midwest. The Brookings Institution released a demographic report in May that explored the changing nature of metropolitan areas. Along with a postdoctoral fellow and another intern, I worked on a project that took Brookings methodology and applied it to the NEMW region. While our findings were similar in that the NEMW region is experiencing general trends similar to Metropolitan areas across the United States, we also discovered that some of the “New Demographic Realities” identified in the Brookings report were magnified in the Northeast-Midwest region. In response to our findings, we provided policy suggestions to the coalition for how to better address some of the disparities in wealth and education specifically in the NEMW region. Most of these were related to solving problems in former industrial core cities (such as Cleveland).

At NEMW, I also participated in policy research on a few key issues including the Neighborhood Stabilization Project and the Assistance, Quality and Affordability (AQUA) Act. The opportunity to see how policy research is performed and how it affects legislators, and therefore the public, was incredibly worthwhile. I never thought of policy research as a public service before this internship but now I understand how important it is in order to make educated decisions.

This internship was an invaluable experience for me. Not only did I learn a lot about research methodology, writing reports on legislation, and how to use Excel properly, but I also learned about issues I would like to continue working on in the future. At NEMW I really had the opportunity to research and provide policy suggestions on the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor. In the future, I would like to conduct policy research to ensure that legislators are aware of the need for change, specifically in the areas of economic and social justice.

Lauren Geiser (Middle East Research Information Project [MERIP], Washington, D.C.)

I used my Wellman Hill Grant to accept a summer internship with the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP). MERIP is located in Washington, D.C. and publishes the quarterly Middle East Report journal. MERIP’s mission is to provide analysis and information about the Middle East to the general, educated public. MERIP is a non-profit, non-governmental organization with no religious, educational, or political ties. As a result, it strives to offer a nonpartisan and accurate perspective into Middle Eastern affairs and politics. I chose to intern with MERIP because I’m interested in the Middle East and wanted journalism experience. I also wanted to work specifically for a non-profit organization. Often, though, non-profit organizations cannot afford to pay a full-time intern. Thanks to the Wellman Hill Grant, this was not a problem.

As an intern, I researched Middle Eastern affairs, edited scholarly articles, and assisted with web design for the organization’s new website. I was given access to all the books and resources in MERIP’s library, so the research opportunities seemed endless. It was rewarding and easy to cultivate relationships with MERIP’s staff members, who were friendly and supportive throughout the summer. There were two highlights to my internship. First, I had the privilege of interviewing the AFL-CIO’s 2010 Meany-Kirkland Human Rights Award winners, Egyptian union leaders Kamal Abu-Eita and Kamal Abbas. It was exciting to work with an Arabic interpreter and hear the Kamals speak their native language. Second, I was asked to contribute to the Fall 2010 issue of the Middle East Report by writing a book review. It was an honor to be published by MERIP and to contribute to public awareness about the Middle East.

MERIP was a perfect fit for my public service goals. Rigorous understanding of the Middle East is essential to maintaining a well-rounded society in the United States. MERIP helps its supporters abandon generalizations and stereotypes about the region. It was thrilling to be a part of that public service. Without the Wellman Hill Grant, my internship at MERIP would not have been possible. I am truly grateful.

Kenley Jones (Carter Center, Atlanta)

When I tell people I’m a political science major, they typically respond with some variation of “That’s interesting, but what exactly can you do with a degree in political science?” I could give several answers to this question, but it was only after receiving a Wellman Hill internship grant that I experienced firsthand the type of career my degree will allow me to pursue.

Upon learning that I had been accepted for an internship at the Carter Center, a non-profit health and diplomacy organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, I was both thrilled and apprehensive. On one hand, I knew it could be an experience of a lifetime; on the other hand, I wasn’t sure if I could accept an unpaid internship, regardless of its educational benefits. However, thanks to the Wellman Hill internship grant, I was able to spend the summer as a Carter Center intern.

I worked in the Carter Center’s Americas Program, which focuses on advancing democracy and improving regional consensus in Latin America. My work dealt specifically with the program’s Access to Information (ATI) campaign. As an ATI intern, I quickly learned that the availability of information plays a crucial role in combating corruption, promoting development, and ensuring human rights. During my internship, the Carter Center was in the process of developing an assessment tool that will be used to help government ministries evaluate their progress in implementing Access to Information legislation. My assignment was to complete background research on the assessment tool’s eighty indicators in order to determine if they would be effective in helping governments to improve their citizens’ access to information. I had the opportunity to attend an access to information videoconference with government representatives and NGOs from around the world. It was exciting to see the impact that the Carter Center’s Access to Information campaign had in international dialogues, especially knowing that I had contributed substantive research to the program.

Working at the Carter Center broadened my understanding of development and democratic progress. I learned to focus on how laws are implemented rather than how they are passed, to recognize how something as simple as record keeping could have a tremendous impact on the allocation of resources and government benefits. The internship expanded my horizons in other ways as well. I was able to interact on a daily basis with interns who hailed from diverse geographical locations, who collectively spoke over a half dozen languages, and who shared a commitment to human rights. I also had the privilege of meeting former president Jimmy Carter and learning from his insights on international health and diplomacy.

Working at the Carter Center helped me understand what I want to achieve with a degree in political science. The internship was truly an invaluable experience, and I am extremely grateful to the Wellman Hill grant for making it possible.

Brandon Mordue (Policy Matters Ohio, Cleveland)

As a native Ohioan, I decided to spend the summer working for Policy Matters Ohio (PMO), an organization dedicated to improving the lives of working-class families in the state. Though I still have yet to master the art of waking up before 9am, or figure out why each and every route in Cleveland seems to be slow either because of traffic or covered in speed cameras, my internship more than made up for these problems and opened my eyes to a slew of issues.

Immediately prior to my arrival, Piet van Lier, one of the PMO researchers, had published an important report on a for-profit charter school management company in the state that managed the trifecta of running several failing schools, bilking the state out of much needed education dollars through shady real estate deals, and avoiding punishment. As one of the only groups in Ohio doing any work on these companies, PMO fulfilled an important watchdog role in which I got to play a part. This project set part of my work agenda throughout the summer. I began by researching charter school management finances, education results, and student demographics compared to nearby public schools. Eventually I made some calls to a few charters with such bad records the state had ordered them closed, though Piet suspected they may try and continue operations. Lo and behold, my calls led to the discovery of two such schools that officially “closed” and then immediately reopened under a new name with the same management and even the same phone number.

The work on charter schools showed me how Freedom of Information Act requests worked and the games opposing sides play with one another. The law allows interested parties to request otherwise inaccessible information from the state and groups receiving state money “at cost” and “in a reasonable amount of time.” Of course, a “reasonable amount of time” with some of the charter management companies generally meant three weeks or more and “at cost” once meant a company copying every document they could locate at double the standard black and white copy rate and then sending all of it through overnight mail for over $700. To avoid this, PMO located a provision in the law allowing individuals who show up at the place of operation to obtain the documents right then and there. I volunteered for this task and, highlighted copy of the law in hand, traveled to a local charter school management company headquarters. Already nervous when I arrived, I soon faced an obstinate manager who initially refused my request. I pressed on and read the pertinent provision of the law out loud and, after several waits, eventually emerged successful with the documents in hand. The PMO staff greeted me with congratulations upon my return. It was truly an exhilarating adventure.

For one of my other primary projects I analyzed Department of Labor data on a federal program called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which helps workers who have lost their jobs because of outsourcing. The TAA program was expanded as part of the stimulus and PMO wanted to analyze the results in Ohio. This long project, involving several calls back and forth between PMO and the Department of Labor to clear up data issues and a significant amount of time manipulating the data, eventually led to a report which I co-authored with Zach Schiller, the head researcher at PMO. At the time it was the only thorough report analyzing the effects of the expanded program. Though I didn’t think much would come of the report, it was later cited by Governor Strickland during his campaign, which was pretty awesome.

Beyond these projects, my internship at PMO provided an opportunity to help understand the internal workings of a small non-profit. Besides the day-to-day work in the office, the interns had the opportunity to attend the PMO board meeting and see the organization’s operations from another perspective. I later organized luncheon meetings with two of the board members, who came to the office and talked informally with me and the other interns. Both had led fascinating lives—one was the former executive director of the reputable Gund Foundation—and provided explanations of nonprofits from multiple experiences across time, even giving some thoughts on where the sector was heading.

Other than learning about nonprofits, PMO provided many opportunities to get out of the office. We networked with other interns in the area, from meet and greets with the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland to a social gathering with interns working on a summer-long weatherization project in the Cleveland area. We also attended a plethora of events in the area, from a local speech by Senator Sherrod Brown to speaking events at the ACLU and a forum at CSU on wind energy. Besides hearing people talk about wind energy, several of us from the office also journeyed to a local manufacturing company called Fastenal that builds parts for wind turbines to hear presentations and then we toured the factory and observed how the parts were created. Additionally, I attended an Ohio House subcommittee meeting on the foreclosure crisis to hear a report by David Rothstein from PMO.

Thanks to the Wellman Hill I spent this last summer learning about contemporary social issues and contributing to solutions at Policy Matters Ohio, an opportunity that truly would have been impossible without the grant.

 

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