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.