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From backpack to briefcase

April 16, 2018

The Washington Academic Internship Program can change a college experience.

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Gemma Bush Gemma Bush

Gemma Bush came to Ohio State instilled with a passion for preserving the environment and creating a more sustainable future. An environmental policy and decision making major who will graduate this May, Bush discovered a deep reservoir of classes and student groups that could help her advance her knowledge.

She’s been engaged with student organizations such as Students for a Sustainable Campus and Students for Recycling, the Zero Waste tailgate initiative at Buckeye football games, the SUSTAINS Learning Community, and served as a volunteer for events such as Clean Up Columbus and Seeds of Service.

These experiences helped her grow, but the Glenn College’s Washington Academic Internship Program enabled her to see what working as a professional in her field was like. She spent last semester as a communication and development intern for Amazon Conservation in Washington, D.C., and recently shared thoughts on how that experience has prepared her for life after graduation.

How did your experience in the Washington Academic Internship Program prepare you for what you want to do after college?

WAIP helped prepare me for what I want to do after college in a lot of ways. It taught me a lot with regard to professional development and being successful career-wise, and it helped me meet a ton of people and make a ton of connections with alumni and other professionals that I know I will carry with me and find valuable for years to come. Also, through doing my internship, I got to test drive what it would be like to have a communications role in an environmentally oriented nonprofit. Since I loved it, I now know that’s what I want to do after graduation.

What was the most important thing you learned during the course of your internship?

I got to develop some pretty useful skills with regard to fundraising for nonprofits, and communicating with donors. I even got to design a donor email campaign.

Who were some of the best people you met during the course of your semester in DC?

There were too many to count. One fun one was that all of us students had to read Ohio State alumni J.D. Vance’s memoir Hillbilly Elegy over the summer for WAIP, and then one day we just randomly ran into J.D. Vance with his wife and their new baby at a restaurant. I also got to meet and have great conversations with both Ohio Senators (Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman), as well as House Representative Joyce Beatty. I met and spoke with Ohio State’s President Michael Drake. I also got to meet and make connections with a lot of alumni who are working in DC, including some who are really working in positions that I might be really interested in pursuing someday, including at really influential think tanks like Brookings and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute.

Gemma poses with a chain of buckeyes in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building.
Gemma converses with Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown at his constituent meet and greet.
Gemma and the students in her Washington Academic Internship group pose on the steps of the Capitol during their first week in Washington DC.
Gemma and the WAIP students on a tour of Lockheed Martin, a global security and aerospace company, just one of the many tours of notable companies, think tanks and government agencies they took while in DC.
Students from Gemma's WAIP group form an O-H-I-O on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Gemma and the WAIP students form an O-H-I-O while volunteering at a community garden in the DC area.

For you, what was the benefit of WAIP as opposed to a traditional classroom experience?

WAIP serves as a bridge between what students learn in the classroom and being able to actually go out and have a job. Rather than just going straight from the safe cocoon of college classes and library study sessions to being shot out of a cannon into the big scary real world upon graduation, WAIP serves as a really nice intermediate experience that can ease students' minds about the idea of having a job, as well as helping prepare them with a lot of real-world skills that they gain. In WAIP, you’re interning in DC, and you’re going to your internship for eight hours a day, four days a week, and at your internship they’re expecting everything out of you that they would expect out of a full-time employee. But you also have this really great support network around you: Katy Hogan, the WAIP program director and all the people you meet through networking events and workshops, as well as all of your fellow students in the program who you’re living with. 

Why are you so passionate about doing what you can to help preserve the environment?

Preserving the environment is one of the most important causes on Earth to me. It’s urgent; it’s life or death. Taking action to conserve resources and change the way we live is the only way we can ensure that humans can continue to live healthy, safe, and fulfilling lives for generations to come, and it’s the only way to ensure that the many amazing animal and plant species we currently enjoy having on our planet can continue to survive, too. I’m also so passionate about protecting the environment because protecting the environment really isn’t hard, it’s just a matter of making smart, simple changes, as individuals, as corporations, as institutions such as Ohio State, and as nations. It’s something that we CAN do. So, I want to make sure it’s something that we follow through on.