Summer Internship Series: Doing Policy in DC

Leah Hansler ‘18

Policy Intern, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Arlington, VA

Summer internship series: doing policy in dc - lh-nb-office.png image #0My name is Leah Hansler and I’m a senior political science major and philosophy minor. This summer I was a policy intern at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards near Washington, DC.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) seeks to elevate the teaching profession and improve the quality of teaching and learning in the US. It maintains rigorous teacher-set standards of what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do and provides a voluntary certification process for teachers who meet these standards. NBPTS works with other education-related organizations and advocates for policies related to teacher professional development, teacher leadership, and embedding national standards in school systems and teacher preparation programs.

While I have sought out experiences related to policy and advocacy throughout my college career, I did not have experience with education policy prior to this internship and I was excited to learn and work in a new field. My supervisor, Sarah Pinsky, gave me meaningful and interesting projects and had me sitting in on meetings and conference calls on my very first day. I also had the opportunity to help with other projects and departments, like editing part of a grant proposal and participating in Strategy and Policy team meetings.  I had two main projects, which were both meaningful learning experiences that added value to the organization. Drawing on my experience in advocacy, one of my projects was to design a series of resources to help the networks of National Board Certified teachers (NBCTs) around the country with their political advocacy efforts. I finished six handouts during my internship, addressing topics like “What is Advocacy and Why is it Important for NBCTs”, “Building Relationships with Policymakers”, and “Legislative Processes”. Before I left, I wrote a document with suggestions for how to use the resources going forward. The handouts are available to all NBCTs and will be used to inform the organization’s broader advocacy goals for the year.

Drawing on my experience with research, my other main project was to go through all research that references NBPTS, create a database of the research with detailed analysis, and then to create a summary document of general themes and overarching findings from what I had read so far. While I was not able or expected to finish going through all the research during my summer there, the summary document and database I started will be available internally to all NBPTS staff to aid in grant proposals, resources, and projects.

Summer internship series: doing policy in dc - lh-capitol-building.jpg image #1

I learned so much from my experience with National Board. I refined my advocacy and research skills, learned about important education policies, and received a more intimate understanding of how education is governed in the US as well as how US government works in general. I also gained a better understanding of how nonprofit organizations function and how to collaborate effectively within them. Additionally, both because of my internship and because I was living in DC, I had the opportunity to attend several events, briefings, and advocacy activities related to topics that interest me. I went to the constituent coffee for Senator Sherrod Brown, the full House markup of an appropriations bill, and several panels hosted by the Center for American Progress and the World Affairs Council DC, to name just a few. I improved my networking skills and learned about what it’s like to be part of the policy community in DC.

Because of my internship and my time in DC, I know that I want to pursue a career in policy, advocacy, and projects for a nonprofit organization. I also came away from the experience wanting to learn more about education and curious about how the practice of teaching could fit into my other interests and goals. My internship helped me decide to take an Education class at Denison this semester and to apply for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Fellowship.

I could not have had this wonderful experience without Dr. Pool and Dr. Katz in the Political Science department, the Knowlton Center, and the Cephus L. Stephens Public Affairs Internship Stipend. I also must thank my amazing supervisor, Sarah Pinsky, as well as all the other colleagues at National Board I had the pleasure to know and work with this summer. I am grateful to them for affording me an internship opportunity that was everything I could have wanted and more.

Summer Internship Series: My Summer in Civil Rights

Maddy Bellman ’18
My summer in civil rights - 2000px-seal_of_the_ohio_civil_rights_commission.svg_-150x150.png image #0Public Affairs and Civic Engagement Intern, Ohio Civil Rights Commission, Columbus, Ohio

My name is Maddy Bellman, and I’m currently a senior English major! Thanks to the Knowlton Center and Denison alumna Mary Turocy, I spent my summer in Columbus, Ohio, working with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) as the Public Affairs and Civic Engagement (PACE) intern.

As a PACE intern, my day-to-day changed quite a bit. I balanced working on my own projects, attending Commission meetings, and shadowing employees in intake, mediation, and follow-up conferences with charging parties. I also saw House of Representatives sessions, Senate subcommittee meetings, and contacted legislators to discuss their sponsored bills.

It was a new experience for me to work in an office for almost forty hours a week, and it certainly took some adjusting to. I had my own office, my own phone, and a normal lunch hour. The work was always changing, but I wished the office was busier and the work more urgent. Working for any part of the government often means slow yet purposeful progress, so while I appreciated the necessary steps we had to take when doing our work, I hope my post-graduate job will involve more exigent projects.

Sitting in on mediations between a charging party and a respondent opened my eyes to a possible career path after graduation. Sonya, an OCRC mediator, and I helped with a number of successful mediation between two parties, and our most notable mediation settled for almost fifty-thousand dollars.

It was great working with Sonya because she was always calm, impartial, and did everything she could to ensure a successful settlement. It takes a special type of person to be a mediator, and one of my coworkers said I’m well-suited for the position.

My largest project this summer was the standardization of 53 documents for the five regional OCRC offices. I worked with our Chief Legal Counsel on this project to make sure every document had the proper letterhead, grammar, and formatting, and the purpose of this process is to protect our office from potential legal issues down the road.

I noticed and corrected a number of inconsistencies in the documents I worked on, and my project supervisors appreciated this. This was a difficult and tedious project, but my project supervisor made it all worth it when she said I did “two years of work in two days”!

Thank you to the Knowlton Center and generous alumni who made this internship possible through financial aid and pre-internship preparation. I can’t thank Mary Turocy ’05 enough for sponsoring me as an intern this summer. I learned valuable lessons of compassion and selflessness from the dedicated, caring people I worked with, and I appreciated all of my time with them.