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

Posted on November 13, 2012

November 2012

This document reports on the fifth 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
Professor Karen Beckwith chaired the Wellman Hill Selection Committee comprised of Professor Emeritus Ken Grundy, Professor Kathryn Lavelle, Visiting Assistant Professor Yuri Linetsky of the School of Law and Adjunct Assistant Professor Andrew Lucker.

Professor Beckwith held an informational meeting on October 27, 2011 for potential applicants that included presentations from 2010-2011 grant recipients and the Career Center’s Experiential Learning Specialist Drew Poppleton. The committee officially launched the competition in November, and 12 students submitted applications by February 10, 2012. The committee interviewed candidates on March 21 and announced the recipients and alternates on April 2. All of the 2012 grantees found internships by the May 25 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 minimum grade point average in political science; 4) a graduation date no earlier than December following the internship summer; and 5) indication of commitment to public service. Students completed an application form that included a personal statement and a letter of reference from a CWRU faculty member, and provided the committee with a one-page resume. Professor Beckwith held a resume-building workshop (led by Mr. Poppleton). 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.

Once again, a panel of Career Center staff members conducted mock interviews to help students prepare. As in previous years, the students impressed the committee with their strong interviews, making the selection process highly competitive. This year the committee gave grants to six students, all of whom found exciting and impressive internships and represented the Department of Political Science and the University well.

Liz Hill honored the finalists and alternates on April 27 with a celebratory dinner at XO Prime Steaks. The event capped the fifth 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 2012 Wellman Hill Political Science Internship Grants Recipients and Alternates
Recipients:
• Zachary Arace, Federal Reserve Board of Governors, Washington, DC
• Alexander Avdakov, Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s Office, Cleveland, Ohio
• Ellen Kubit, Policy Matters Ohio, Cleveland, Ohio
• Derek Reinbold, International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC
• Abigail Whisler, Public Policy Fellowship, the Cuyahoga County Executive Office, Cleveland, Ohio
• Irina Yakubenko, Moms First Program, Cleveland Department of Health, Cleveland, Ohio

Alternate:
• Vincent Mak

Reports by Grant Recipients on Their Internship Experiences

Zachary Arace
Federal Reserve Board of Governors, Washington, D.C.

I had the privilege and pleasure of using my 2012 Wellman Hill grant to intern in the Department of Monetary Affairs at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, DC. The Board, as it is known, is the headquarters of our nation’s central bank, leading a network of twelve regional Reserve Banks and crafting and implementing U.S. monetary policy via the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).

MA, as my department is known, has a two-fold mission. On one hand, the department—along with the Fed’s Department of Research and Statistics—initiates and manages cutting-edge macroeconomic and financial markets research, and also monitors a vast array of financial, industrial, and household macroeconomic indicators. MA also directly supports the semi-monthly meetings of the FOMC. The Committee, comprised of the Board of Governors and five Reserve Bank presidents (serving on a rotating basis), sets interest rates and directs implementation of open market operations—thus, in effect, controlling the direction of monetary policy and the economy at large.

My sub-department (known colloquially as a “section”), the FOMC Secretariat, drew, as the name intimates, most of its responsibilities from this latter mission. The project I was assigned to work on, however, involved examining historical policy memoranda circulated amongst senior policymakers in MA and at the Fed. Spanning nearly thirty years of Fed history and several hundred linear feet of paper, the collection I worked with had been left largely unexamined and unorganized. Through the summer I sorted, read, and evaluated the policy relevance of documents in the collection, based on my knowledge of economics and loose guidelines set by my project supervisor. If I deemed a particular memo relevant and useful, I then entered vital information (to/from, date, keywords, type of memo, etc.) into an electronic catalog. In the future, this catalog will be made available to (current) senior policymakers in MA and will hopefully provide a valuable source of historic context and policy precedent for contemporary decision-making.

This internship was one of the most valuable experiences of my young life, for many reasons. For one, by virtue of my unique placement within the Fed, I was able to witness—first-hand and personally—three FOMC meetings (and the preparation for those meetings), as well as the day-to-day functioning of the world’s most important central bank. For another, I was privileged enough to examine, document, and even understand the mechanics of economic and monetary policymaking—learning from the policymakers themselves. The knowledge and experience I gained can only be described as invaluable.

I cannot adequately express my deep thanks to the Wellman Hill committee for such a generous grant, facilitating a very meaningful summer experience. The Fed may seem abstract and disconnected from the lives of ordinary people, but as I witnessed at every FOMC meeting (and nearly every day), it is those very people—the American people—for whom the Fed exists and whose interests the Fed takes into utmost account.

Alexander Avdakov
Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s Office, Cleveland, Ohio

Thanks to the generosity of Ms. Elizabeth Hill and the Wellman Hill Grant, I was able to intern this summer at the Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s Office. The office itself is broken up into four divisions: Felony, Appellate, Juvenile, and Municipal. I had the pleasure of working within both the Felony and Municipal divisions.

I began my internship in the felony division and was immediately thrown into the fire. Any request that an attorney made involving one of their criminal cases, we interns were responsible for it. The attorneys assigned me to write various legal motions, to be approved, we hoped, by the presiding judge. Some examples included motions to suspend court costs, recall an arrest warrant, consolidate cases, obtain occupational driving privileges, and mitigate a sentencing. Writing these motions was initially problematic, but the other interns were very helpful in providing me with examples that were similar to what the attorneys were requesting. It also took time to familiarize myself with the Ohio Revised Code, which contained the legal basis for all of the motions I was preparing.

This internship not only introduced me to the technical aspects of criminal law, but also the interpersonal ones. I was often tasked with assisting walk-in clients seeking to have their criminal records sealed by the court and requesting executive pardons from the Governor of Ohio. Additionally, I began logging client information during the court’s initial appearance and arraignment processes. It was here that I learned to interact with clients in a professional legal manner, understand the problems affecting their lives, and provide them with answers as to how our office would assist them. By the same token, I learned the fundamentals of criminal procedure.

During the latter part of my internship, I began serving the Public Defender’s Municipal Division. My new assignments were rather similar to the ones I had become accustomed to. However, they were more numerous and time sensitive. They were also mostly related to traffic incidents. These differences stemmed from the fact that every case in this division is from an alleged misdemeanor offense, rather than a more serious felony offense. As one of the office’s paralegals accurately noted, the Municipal Division is comparable to a hospital emergency room in terms of its operations. Meanwhile, the Felony Division more closely resembles hospital surgeries.

I enjoyed working in both departments equally. They each provided me with meaningful legal experience in assisting our community’s citizens most in need. This internship has confirmed my decision to attend law school and devote my career to urban public service. Clerking this summer at the County Public Defender’s Office is one of the best decisions that I have made in my life and I am indebted to the Wellman Hill Scholarship for making it possible.

Ellen Kubit
Policy Matters Ohio, Cleveland, Ohio

The summer of 2012, I had the great fortune of interning with Policy Matters Ohio, a non-profit research organization dedicated to promoting “a more prosperous, equitable, sustainable and inclusive Ohio.” Policy Matters has an office in Columbus and Cleveland, but I worked at the Cleveland location. In addition to the stimulating projects I was assigned to, staff members acted as mentors providing me with helpful career advice. The Wellman Hill grant gave me the opportunity to explore my interest in public policy as well as possible paths to consider after college.

Brief descriptions of three main projects provide an accurate summary of the work I did as a research assistant. The other four interns and I assisted Wendy Patton, senior director for the State Fiscal Project, which aimed at understanding the effects of recent state budget cuts. Each of us chose 10 counties to contact in order to learn how the budget cuts affected jobs, health, education, transportation, and people within their communities. I was responsible for a good portion of Northeastern Ohio, including Erie and Huron all the way to Ashtabula. The information we gathered was consolidated with other research from One Ohio Now and Innovation Ohio to produce an interactive website entitled, “Cuts hurt Ohio: It was bad, now it’s worse” (http://www.cutshurtohio.com/).

My favorite project was the second, where I assisted Policy Matters founding executive director, Amy Hanauer. One other intern and I spent roughly a month assembling graphs and tables on the status of wages and labor in Ohio. Through the work I did on this report, I found several disconcerting facts. For example, from 1979 to 2011, adjusted for inflation, the wages of the 20th and 30th percentile of Ohioans declined 8.2% and 7.0%. Even more startling, the wages for the median percentile of Ohioans in 2011 is $15.20, the lowest since 1996 (Hanauer, 2012). The full report, “State of Working Ohio 2012,” is accessible on the Policy Matters Ohio website (http://www.policymattersohio.org/sowo-sept2012).

Towards the end of the summer, I ventured away from budget, work and wages research to aid energy and poverty researcher Amanda Woodrum with a water sustainability report. It is just a part of Ms. Woodrum’s overall sustainable environment and economy project with the city of Oberlin, which has not yet been published. I only had the chance to spend 2 weeks on this but during that time I learned quite a bit about natural water treatment and its undeniable benefits. I was able to meet with three members of Case Western Reserve University leadership, including Latisha James, Director of the Center for Community Partnerships, Stephanie Strong Corbett, Director of Sustainability, and Eugene Matthews, Director of Facilities Services, to hear about CWRU’s own sustainable practices.

My internship with Policy Matters Ohio surpassed my expectations. I truly enjoyed gaining insight into the State’s budget, work and wages reports, and doing research on sustainability. However, the most significant aspect of the internship was my interactions with the staff. I will graduate in one year, so the post-college uncertainty lingers over my head like a rain cloud. After this summer, anxieties about which path to take, how much money to make, and whether to be concerned about others doing better than me were thrown out the window. As Pam Rosado, outreach coordinator for Policy Matters, once told me, “Bringing in that big paycheck is fine and dandy until you lie in bed and realize you don’t know why you’re doing the job you have.” This experience has helped me realize that my passion lies in helping people. Without Ms. Hill’s generosity and the Wellman Hill grant, none of this could have been possible.

Derek Reinbold
International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC

From my first day at the Director General’s Office of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), my summer was one of new experiences. Based in Washington, DC, IFPRI is a research institution that is founded on the goal of reducing hunger and poverty for people in less developed nations. My time at IFPRI was marked by the consistent attention given to my personal development, facilitated by Sivan Yosef, the Program Manager in the Director General’s Office.

My duties included research, writing, and the development of a web resource for members of IFPRI’s Senior Management Team. I studied topics closely related to food security and development from a number of different perspectives. My first projects were literature reviews, in which I conducted extensive research into several key areas of interest for IFPRI. The first of these reviews was a study of similar organizations’ action plans and priorities in dealing with food insecurity; and the second, a more broad-based look into the fundamental issues challenging food security for poor farmers.

My assignments all gave me a greater understanding of hunger, food security, and development more generally. Before my internship I did not fully appreciate the strong links between fields like agriculture, nutrition, economics, and health. In fact, these interconnections all featured prominently in my research, reflecting recent trends in the development world. In July I was able to attend the introduction of the United Nations Development Programme’s first Human Development Report, Towards a Food Secure Future. This report was notable because it was the first of its kind to be released by the UNDP, and was also the first to strongly recommend scaling up efforts to improve nutrition by such a major institution.

This event was only one of the discussions that I was encouraged to attend by Ms. Yosef, an incredible opportunity afforded to me, and a measure of the flexibility of my internship. In total, I attended half a dozen panel discussions, lectures, and other such events during my time in DC, truly expanding my understanding of politics and development. As several of these events took place at IFPRI’s office, I was able to meet a number of panelists, including John Kufuor, the former President of Ghana, and Mwangi Kimenyi, Director of the African Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution.

Although knowledge of the specifics of my work may fade with time, certain elements of my internship left a lasting impression. As a U.S. citizen, and as the son of two dedicated and successful parents, it can be very easy to lose sight of the strains and stresses that others face every day. This insight, which became increasingly clear every day I spent in Washington, imparted on me a greater sensitivity to issues of hunger and poverty.

Without the Wellman Hill grant, and Ms. Hill’s generosity, it is certain that none of this would have been possible. Besides gaining better direction for my own future, I was happy to see that my work was directly contributing towards policy solutions that are reducing hunger across the world. I was able to work with dedicated and intelligent individuals, all of whom were committed to the aid of those less fortunate. For this experience, I am truly grateful.

Abigail Whisler
Public Policy Fellowship at the Cuyahoga County Executive Office, Cleveland Ohio

During the summer of 2012, I was able to participate in the Cuyahoga County Executive Office Public Policy Fellowship, thanks to the support of the Wellman Hill Internship Grant. I spent 10 weeks of the summer working out of the county administration building in downtown Cleveland with nine other undergrad, graduate, and Ph.D. students. On my first day of work, I was assigned to the Communications Department, where I worked for the rest of the summer. I also had the opportunity to meet with the County Executive, Ed FitzGerald, to talk about working for the communications department and what he felt our most important goals were.

For the first week of the program, I mostly shadowed my supervisors in the Office of Communications. I attended events and meetings and watched the day-to-day operations of the office. After the first week, I was given projects, which became more substantive as the summer continued. Everyday projects included writing and editing press releases and media advisories, contacting all the county municipalities to keep track of local events and local newsletters, attending meetings with the press, and doing a mail merge with follow-up on RSVPs. Longer-term projects included selecting and editing content for the County Annual Report, building content for and launching twelve principles pages on the Western Reserve Plan website, and constructing a social media policy to lay out guidelines and strategy to improve county use of social media.

Over the course of the program, I was also given some administrative responsibilities for the fellowship program. These included scheduling meetings, helping to coordinate a day of volunteering, and doing follow-up on group projects. At the end of every week, we would have a brief meeting to discuss the projects that each of the fellows were working on, discuss new projects that needed volunteers, and go over important events and deadlines. I also helped coordinate photos with each fellow and the Executive, as well as compiling all of the fellows’ biographies, which were posted on the Cuyahoga County Website.

Throughout the summer, the other fellows and I also got to tour various buildings/administrations in the county, including the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office, the County Archives, and the County Jail. As one of my supervisors works as the public information officer for the County Sheriff’s Office, I had the unique experience of being able to tour many areas of the sheriff’s office. I was also able to attend interesting events, including a topping off event at the Medical Mart, several public works ribbon cuttings, and press conferences for various issues.

Because the Office of Communications works with most, if not all, departments, my experiences with them were very broad. I learned a great deal about how the county operates, and what the primary responsibilities of each department are. I was able to attend many events and work on a variety of projects. Overall, I found my summer experience to be very educational and rewarding. I am very grateful to Liz Hill and the members of the selection committee for making all of this possible.

Irina Yakubenko
Moms First Program, Cleveland Department of Health, Cleveland, Ohio

This past summer I interned at the Moms First office at the Cleveland Department of Health. Originally known as healthy family/healthy start, it was first funded in 1991. The main goal of the office is to reduce disparities in infant mortality and poor birth outcomes experienced by African Americans in the City of Cleveland. Moms First not only serves pregnant women and teens in the city of Cleveland, but also women and teens who have experienced a pregnancy loss and women who are incarcerated, residing in shelters, or enrolled in an inpatient chemical dependency treatment program. The project funds 37 community health workers and nine case managers who are trained to provide the project’s core services: outreach, case management, health education, interconceptional care services, and perinatal depression screening. The staff is based out of seven neighborhood settlement houses, a community-based social service agency, and Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services, NEON. Each participant receives at least two face-to-face contacts and one phone call per month. In any given year about 2,500 families receive Moms First services. The main goal is to ensure that moms and moms-to-be are healthy before, during, and after their pregnancy.

My first project at the office was to research and put together material for resiliency training. The training was for the moms in the program who needed help adapting to adversity. I organized the training and made 2 power point presentations and a survey. A few days after, the project director and I met with two of the case managers to talk about some of the problems the community health workers were having. Since the community health workers are the direct contact to the moms in the program, they participate in constant trainings and meetings to make sure the moms are getting the right help. The case managers expressed some problems that the workers were having including boundaries between them and the moms and text message and body language barriers. After that meeting, I was put in charge to develop training materials for the workers for their next meeting. I made power point presentations about each topic and printed flashcards about “text- talk.” I was able to lead the training with the caseworkers and try to help them with some of the problems they were having with the moms.

The next project I had was to find potential partners for a social clinical service committee. Moms First was trying to reach out to as many contacts in Cleveland as possible to increase resources for the moms. Their main goal was to put together a committee that would meet once every two months and bring their resources together to help the moms in the program with anything they need. I called potential partners in Cleveland and invited them to come to the first meeting to see if we could use their resources. The first meeting was very successful with 20 different people from the City of Cleveland showing up. Participants shared what they had to offer and how they could make the Moms First program stronger. I also got to attend some of the consortiums held for the moms. Important topics were discussed such as SIDS, depression, and job searching.

Another project that I had was to call current moms enrolled in the program and ask them about their experience and what they needed help with. A lot of the participants won’t reach out for help unless asked, so I collected a good deal of valuable information. Some caseworkers never showed up for their appointments or promised information but did not deliver. Some of the moms were unaware of programs that were offered to them for free. I would then report my findings to the director of the program and she would make sure that the problems were taken care of.

Lastly, at the end of my internship the program was holding a big seminar with all of the caseworkers and some of the moms to see how the program could be improved. I gave a presentation in front of this group and led icebreakers to get them ready to participate. I was then in charge of speaking with the moms to find out how they imagined their future and what kind of help they needed now to achieve the future they foresaw. After the seminar I wrote up a report with what the moms thought needed improvement.

Overall, I learned a lot about how a city participates in the public health of its residents. I was lucky enough not only to learn about the county and department of public health but also to give back to the community and help Cleveland residents. It was definitely an eye-opening experience to talk with the moms and listen to their experiences. Thanks to the Wellman Hill Grant, the internship gave me insight and experience on what path I want to take in the future. I am extremely grateful to Ms. Hill and the committee for making this possible.

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