Columbus program gives students a taste of the professional world

Christina Stafford

Every fall, up to 28 students spend the semester studying and working in the state’s capital. Two days a week, they take classes and attend briefings at the Statehouse, and three days a week they spend getting a taste of what a professional life in Columbus is all about.

The next group of students participating in the program will be the sixth group to go.

“We just started heavy recruiting,” program assistant Kathleen Loughry said. “We have probably two-thirds of the students already.”

The application, which can be completed online, is on a rolling admission, so there is no deadline. Loughry said interested students should apply as soon as possible. They will know in about two weeks if they are accepted.

“We try to get everyone in by the end of April, or as close as possible,” Loughry said.

Students do not have to be political science majors to participate in the program, and students of all majors are encouraged to apply.

“Government is not made up of political science students only,” Loughry said.

The only requirements are that the students be a junior or senior while attending the program and have at least a 2.5 GPA, Loughry said. A scholarship opportunity is available for students who have a 3.5 GPA or higher.

“(The program) gives students the chance to earn 15 hours of upper-division credits in another environment,” said Vernon Sykes, director of the Columbus program. “Internships are proven to be the number one method for students to get relevant work experience in their field.”

The internships students are placed in are designed specifically for them. The only interview they go through is with Sykes.

“After an in-depth interview, we craft an internship,” Sykes said. “We craft internship opportunities to cater the needs and interests of the students academically.”

For example, Sykes said, an accounting student could work at the state auditor’s office. They will work with the state government and within their profession at the same time. They will spend three full days a week working a job that, in most cases, is paid.

“Students will learn to be successful in the real world of work,” Sykes said. “We teach them to be professionals. They dress and live in a professional environment.”

While in Columbus, students live in luxury apartments within walking distance to the Ohio Statehouse.

“Two faculty members live, work and study with the students,” Sykes said. “They reside with the students.”

Sykes, a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, is one of the faculty members who teaches the classroom portion of the program.

Students are enrolled in a three credit-hour class about state government. The classroom is a hearing room in the House of Representatives.

There is also a six-credit-hour course that includes a pre-departure colloquium and briefings in Columbus. Students conduct research on public policy issues and talk to officers in the state government such as the secretary of state, state treasurer and lieutenant governor.

After completing the two classes and internship, if students decide to take two or three more classes in political science, depending on their catalog year, they can earn a minor in political science.

The Columbus Program in Intergovernmental Issues is a sister program to the Washington Program in National Issues that has taken place every spring for 33 years in the nation’s capital.

Sykes said several students have participated in both the Columbus and Washington programs. He said it is an invaluable experience to work with and see government at the state level and then at the national level.

Students interested in participating in the program can apply online at

Contact College of Arts & Sciences reporter Christina Stafford at [email protected].