Columbus Program gives students taste of real world

Anna Duszkiewicz

Cat calls and whistling sounds filled the state prison halls as Victoria Mimms and fellow Kent State students passed through.

Mimms, a senior integrated health studies major, recalled the apprehension she felt when walking among the inmates.

“The men there probably don’t see fairly attractive women very often,” she said.

Mimms’ memories come from last fall when she took part in the Columbus Program in Intergovernmental Issues.

Every fall semester the Columbus Program sends Kent State student interns to work at government offices in Columbus.

The students attend briefings during which they get the chance to talk to people in all areas of government – various elected officials, lobbyists and prison officials among others.

Mimms said the group’s visit to the state prison was, for her, the most memorable briefing of the program.

“We found out how the prison system works and we got the chance to talk to inmates,” she said.

She laughed when she recalled the group’s mode of transportation that day.

“The prison bus picked us up and dropped us off outside the statehouse,” she said.

Vernon Sykes, director of the Columbus Program, said the program provides students with excellent networking opportunities.

“They get a chance to interact with elected officials and business people,” he said.

He said it gives students the opportunity to explore their interests.

“Students change their minds,” Sykes said. “This gives them the chance to explore it while still in school.”

Sykes said students in the program earn 15 credit hours while gaining professional experience in their field of study.

“They live and work in a professional environment, and they’re dressed and treated as professionals,” Sykes said.

Room and board price in Columbus is the same as living on campus, and students from all majors can apply for the program.

“It’s not only political science majors,” Sykes said. “In fact, most of the students who participate in the program are not political science majors.”

Columbus program assistant Kathleen Loughry said internships are customized to fit the student.

“We sit down and talk to the students beforehand and ask where they want to go, what they want to do beyond this.”

A public relations major, for example, may work for a marketing firm, Loughry said.

There’s a rolling admission for the program, but Sykes said he encourages students to apply before March.

“The sooner you apply, the stronger consideration you get with us,” he said.

He said early applications also help students with the selection of their internship, housing arrangements and scheduling of classes.

Kent State alumna Jennifer Guerrieri, who participated in the program in the fall of 2006, said she never had a big interest in politics.

“To be honest, if you would have asked me when I was a freshman if I would do a political program, I’d say no,” she said. “It wasn’t anything I’d even think twice about.”

But, she said, politics affects people even if they don’t like it.

“It will affect you no matter what,” Guerrieri said.

She said the Columbus Program helps students understand how much it affects them.

“You can like it or not like it,” she said. “But the fact that you understand how it affects everything you’re going to be doing is something that’s going to be really advantageous to you in the future.”

She said she recommends it to everyone, including people with no interest in politics or the government.

“Everything touches government in one way or another,” she said. “Whether you’re a teacher, doctor, or graphic designer; there’s a little bit of everything in government.”

Sykes said a semester in the Columbus Program is different than any other semester.

“It’s intense,” he said. “You’re practicing your profession three full days a week.”

Sykes said students have a hard time coming back to Kent.

“They’re treated as professionals and live in that environment for a semester, and once they do, they’re spoiled,” Sykes said. “They love it.”

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Anna Duszkiewicz at [email protected].