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College of Arts and Sciences Newsroom

University of Dayton students work virtual internships for Ohio Statehouse offices

By Dave Larsen

University of Dayton Flyers running back Richie Warfield is working this summer as an intern for the office of Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted ’89, who earned All-American honors as a cornerback and kick returner for the Flyers, and was a starter on UD's 1989 NCAA Division III national championship football team.

Warfield, a management information systems major from Orland Hills, Illinois, pursued the internship through the College of Arts and Sciences’ Statehouse Civic Scholars program after several inspirational talks by Husted to the team.

“Transitioning the values that you learn in football into either the business world or politics is something that caught my eye,” said Warfield, who is entering his senior year and has a 3.94 grade point average. “On top of that, with my major being management information systems and the lieutenant governor’s big focus advancing technology in the state is what made me the most interested in trying to land a position in his office.”

Warfield was slated to work full-time this summer in Husted’s office, but like a hard hit from a linebacker, those plans were leveled by COVID-19. He now works part-time, remotely from his home near Chicago.

“Technology has made it really easy in 2020,” said Warfield, whose projects for the office have included researching and making recommendations for the modernization of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles website. “It’s not ideal, but we’ve been using Microsoft Teams and everyone is a chat away or a click away.”

A total of 12 students were selected for the competitive Statehouse Civic Scholars program, which was put on hold in April because of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the setback, program director Eileen Austria and former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft were able to arrange five virtual internships for students in the 2020 cohort, in the offices of Husted, Gov. Mike DeWine, the Ohio Supreme Court and Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

“Luckily, this is the 10th year of the Statehouse Civic Scholars, so I think most of these offices know these are high-performing students, that they are motivated and easy to work with, and that they’ll do whatever they need to do to be productive for the office,” Austria said.

Cohort members who are entering their junior year and did not get internships this summer were guaranteed positions in next year’s class. Students whose positions didn’t lend themselves to virtual work were encouraged to still include the program on their resumes.

Traditionally, the program offers an eight-week, summer residential internship in Columbus. Scholars receive three hours of internship credit, a fellowship stipend and accommodations in apartments near the Ohio Statehouse, along with networking and mentorship opportunities in state government offices. It is funded through donor support of the College Dean’s Fund for Excellence, and grants from the AT&T Foundation and Dayton Power and Light Company.

Hannah Heil, a communication major from Columbus who is entering her senior year, is an intern for DeWine’s office. She tracks Indiana, Pennsylvania and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s response to COVID-19 in comparison to Ohio, and compiles that information into a day-by-day timeline. She also researched and wrote a brief biography of Dame Karen Pierce, the UK’s ambassador to the U.S., in advance of DeWine’s meeting with the diplomat.

“I have learned a lot through my internship experience,” Heil said. “The experience has enhanced my communication skills, as I regularly communicate with my supervisor, and it has taught me to accomplish tasks in a timely manner with weekly deadlines. I also better understand how Governor DeWine’s office operates by being able to interview members of his staff, such as his press secretary. The internship has broadened my horizons and given me a professional experience, which will be especially beneficial after graduation.”

Teresa LaBello, a history and philosophy major from Dayton who is entering her senior year, is an intern for the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Children and Families section. Much of her work involves research, such as summarizing new bills from the Ohio House of Representatives and tracking changes to legal statutes to ensure that bench cards on the court’s website are up-to-date.

The internship advances LaBello’s plan to attend law school after graduation. She said there are many available law careers beyond becoming an attorney and working as an intern in state government allows her to explore one such option.

“I am really grateful that I got this opportunity, and that I got to work with such great people,” LaBello said. “I never felt out-of-touch, despite the virtual barrier, and I have my mentor, Kyana Pierson, to thank for that. She was very inclusive and welcoming, as were all of the members of the Children and Families section.”

This summer’s virtual interns also include Samantha Lonsinger, a criminal justice studies major from Avon Lake, Ohio, who is an intern for the state Supreme Court, and Abigail Bruns, a political science major from Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, who is an intern for the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

Austria hopes to connect this year’s cohort — in-person — with a small group of state legislators, alumni and former Statehouse Civic Scholars during the fall semester, if public health measures permit.

“We are very hopeful that in October or early November, we can take one day with these 12 students and do an immersion in Columbus,” she said.

For more information, visit the Statehouse Civic Scholars website.

Image above, l to r: Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted '89 and 2020 Statehouse Civic Scholar Richie Warfield '21.

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