Centre News

Parent Fund internships give students top-notch opportunities

July 18, 2013 By Mariel Smith        
Centre College, Vice Presidential Debate 2012, Joe Biden Alison Epperson ’15 met Vice President Joe Biden during the 2012
Vice Presidential debate at Centre and is now interning in Iowa
senator Tom Harkin's Washington, D.C., office.

This summer, Centre students are delving into a whole new world of research and internship opportunities, thanks to generous funding from the Centre Parent Fund. Four of the 11 students that were selected to receive a portion of this funding are Alison Epperson ’15, Lu Han ’14, Blaine Lewis ’14 and Caroline Snell ’15.

Alison Epperson ’15

Epperson will be working in Iowa Senator Tom Harkin's Washington, D.C., disability office.

As a member of the Centre College Democrats, Epperson was very involved in the 2012 Vice Presidential Debate at Centre, where she was interviewed by CSPAN, worked with Vice President Joe Biden's team in Spin Alley and organized and participated in the Vice President's motorcade to Danville.

Epperson sees the internship with Senator Tom Harkin's office as a valuable addition to the wealth of political experience she has been gaining throughout her Centre career.

"I've discovered that experience is one of the biggest advantages people can possess when starting a career in politics," she says. "One of the best ways to gain experience is through interning; Senator Harkin himself began his political career as an intern with a member of Congress."

Epperson's internship includes a mixture of administrative and legislative duties. She runs office errands as well as attends hearings, drafts memos and researches information for current projects and legislation.

For Epperson, interning with Harkin's office was a perfect fit on several levels.

"I chose to pursue an internship with Senator Harkin not only because I'm from Iowa, but also because of his work on agriculture, education and other significant issues facing the United States," she explains. "After interning in Senator Harkin's office this summer, I will have gained more of the knowledge, skills and passion required to further my eventual career in U.S and international politics."

Lu Han ’14

Epperson is not the only one using her internship to forge a path toward a career — Han is also gaining valuable job experience working for Development and Training Services, Inc., (dTS) in Washington, D.C.

Centre College, dTS, Washington, D.C. Lu Han ’14 at work with Training and Development Services, Inc.
(dTS) in Washington, D.C.

This internship adds to Han's already extensive experience in international development. Her work at a Chinese e-commerce store taught her valuable financial management skills, while a summer job with a Chinese media company introduced her to the world of online marketing and social media. This summer's internship, though equally international in nature, has a more humanitarian objective.

In essence, dTS works with governments and other organizations to improve economic and social conditions for people all over the world by increasing gender integration, improving monitoring and evaluation methods and providing training for new technologies and services.

Some of dTS' recent gender integration projects include improving female Iraqi access to the legal system; pursuing land reform in Afghanistan so that more women can own property; training female ex-coca growers for new career paths in Peru; and providing technical assistance to female farmers using irrigation systems in Moldova.

As a bilingual international student, Han feels this internship will utilize her strengths as well as broaden her horizons.

"This internship can help me define myself as a global citizen and benefit my academic prospects," she says. "The experience as an intern at dTS will give me a richer perspective on how different countries interact and provide me with the ability to understand the influences of my own culture.

"I'm also very excited to work with a company that leads initiatives in social and economic development with the goals of promoting equality and accountability," she adds.

Blaine Lewis ’14

While Han's work focuses on political and social development, Lewis' centers on development of a more cognitive nature. The behavioral neuroscience major is interning with the University of Cincinnati Center for Imaging Research on a study titled "The effects of recreational marijuana and ecstasy use on brain activation during visual-motor associative learning support aberrant learning theories of addiction."

Centre College, University of Cincinnati Center for Imaging Research, fMRI Blaine Lewis '14 analyzing fMRI data at the University of
Cincinnati Center for Imaging Research.

The research theory and experimental design are complex, but the basics involve understanding how recreational use of drugs like ecstasy and marijuana affect associative learning, which occurs when a person learns to associate a particular stimulus with a specific physical response, such as pressing the correct button. This learning happens in conjunction with either positive or negative feedback (in this case, participants being told their action is correct or incorrect).

Lewis explains, "Previous studies have examined the changes of the reward system in the brain using fMRI [functional magnetic resonance imaging], but much less is known about how learning is changed in the brain as a result of drug use.

"So far, it appears that there may be some pivotal changes in brain activation for recreational drug users during our associative learning task," he adds.

Lewis' main research task is to analyze the data that has been collected over the course of several years; specifically, he has been analyzing participant reaction times and number of errors made, as well as learning how to interpret fMRI data. He will also be assisting in writing the manuscript that will be submitted for publication.

Lewis' interest in behavioral neuroscience has been focused and defined by his time at Centre, where he has had multiple opportunities to complete research at a very high level.

"Throughout my short time being involved with research at Centre, I have presented at three conferences, one of which was an actual competition for the Kentucky Psychological Association — my team and I won first place there," he says.

The current opportunity to work at a prestigious research institution like University of Cincinnati only deepens and expands Lewis' experience in the field of neuroscience. He sees this internship as a vital steppingstone in his long-term career plans.

"With the research opportunity that I have procured for the summer, I am one step closer to being accepted into graduate school and obtaining the first Ph.D. my family has ever seen — an honor that I can't even begin to express in words," he says.

Caroline Snell ’15
Centre College, Mitch McConnell Caroline Snell ’15 is shown here with Kentucky senator Mitch
McConnell. She will be working for Kentucky Congressman
Brett Guthrie for the remainder of the summer.

While Blaine's internship studies people who break the law, Snell's summer work involves the people who make them: specifically, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and Congressman Brett Guthrie. A double major in government and history with a minor in international relations, Snell feels these Washington, D.C., experiences are the perfect fit for her career interests and her passions.

For the first part of the summer, Snell worked in McConnell's office, where her work centered on the Farm Bill; she researched legislation on agriculture, attended policy briefings and committee hearings and ran office errands.

Her favorite part of her time with McConnell's office was seeing how her education applied in the real world.

"As a government and history major, I learn relentlessly of the issues that affect our country, but from a classroom perspective, everything is distant," she explains. "This internship has allowed me to go beyond that. I explored our nation's capital, met national and international leaders and debated some of the most challenging political, social and economic issues facing our country."

Currently, Snell is working in Congressman Brett Guthrie's office, where she attends briefings with other staffers, sorts mail, researches legislation and attends seminars. This experience has given her a huge networking opportunity.

"In the short time I've been here, I've attended events featuring speakers such as Congressman Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Speaker of the House John Boehner, Communications Strategist and Former Counselor to George Bush Ed Gillespie, political satirist Stephen Colbert and many other Congressmen," says Snell. "I was also given the opportunity to go over to the Supreme Court as they announced their decisions this summer. The Congressman and his staff have presented me with opportunities that I will never forget."

Mindy Wilson, assistant director for employer relations and internships, also recognizes the doors this funding opens for motivated Centre students.

"The Parents' Committee Internship Fund raises our level of support to a degree that allows our students to do top-notch internships and not have to wonder how they'll pay rent while interning or pay for books for next semester," she says. "We've also seen the quality of internships jump drastically because students are able to travel farther from home to great places like Washington, D.C., Los Angeles or even abroad; with this funding, they can afford to travel to and live in these more expensive areas."

For a complete list of Parents' Committee Internships, click here.

Centre College, founded in 1819, is a nationally ranked liberal arts college in Danville, Ky. Centre hosted its second Vice Presidential Debate on 10.11.12, and remains the smallest college in the smallest town ever to host a general election debate. For more, click here.

Have comments, suggestions, or story ideas? E-mail centrenews@centre.edu or contact the Communications Office at 859-238-5748.

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