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.