What I Did Over Summer Break

September 8, 2015

Kasey Cheydleur

Photo credit: Yingran Zhang

Classes may not be in session during the summer, but that does not mean Oberlin students stop learning. Many students choose to spend their summers pursuing personal, creative, and professional projects that engage their interests in real-world settings. In the fall they return to campus with innovative ideas about their future plans and for the future of the Oberlin community.

Going Green at the White House

This summer fourth-year Machmud Makhmudov traveled to Washington, D.C., for an internship at a famous address—1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Makhmudov served as an intern for the Office of Energy and Climate Change of the White House Domestic Policy Council. The office coordinates efforts related to the President's Climate Action Plan, the administration's comprehensive strategy for mitigating and adapting to the threat of climate change. Makhmudov, a politics major, supported the office by drafting memos on numerous executive agencies’ initiatives to lower greenhouse gas emissions across the United States, and by helping organize various public events intended to raise awareness of environmental sustainability.

Makhmudov says this summer reinforced the importance of getting involved and speaking up. “I think for younger people in particular large institutions like the White House, or global trends like climate change, can seem daunting and beyond our reach. I've felt that way a lot during the past three years. But once I got the opportunity to sit at the same table as the policymakers who ultimately set the United States's national agenda for combating climate change, it finally sunk in that anyone can make a difference if they're willing to do what it takes to get in the room and speak up.”

He says this summer also taught him the role patience plays in policy making. “President Obama speaks often about taking a long view on politics and history. Though I felt extremely lucky to be in the White House when same-sex marriage was recognized as legal, the Affordable Care Act was upheld, and the Clean Power Plan was released, I also heard about the experiences of staffers who had been working on these projects for decades. I knew so many others who had dedicated their lives to ensuring justice and equality for others and would never see the full fruits of their labor, which is why it's important to have your ambitions be tempered by the humility that time and history bring when working in public service.”

Makhmudov hopes to use this experience as a springboard for a career in public service in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia.

A Summer Spent Scouting

Tristam Osgood, a fourth-year politics and East European studies major, watched a lot of baseball this summer. He worked as the Major League Baseball scout liaison for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod Baseball League and an associate scout for the Baltimore Orioles. Osgood plays varsity baseball at Oberlin and plans to pursue a career in professional baseball scouting after graduation.

“Oberlin has given me an opportunity to play baseball at the collegiate level, think creatively, critically, and analytically, and pursue a well-rounded education that has set me up well to pursue a career in baseball,” says Osgood. Last spring Osgood created, with institutional support, a course entitled Baseball Scouting and Sabermetrics. In the class he learned the computer database programs essential to the analytical side of baseball as well as the basics of writing scouting reports on potential professional players.

This summer, Osgood used the skills he learned in the course to create daily stat sheets and scouting reports on every member of the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, which were then distributed to the MLB scouts visiting the Cape Cod League in search of future stars. He also developed a temporary player database for Red Sox Head Coach Scott Pickler, which identified potential players in other collegiate leagues whose college statistics and credentials would warrant a temporary contract with the Red Sox. Additionally, Osgood assisted the Baltimore Orioles scouting operations on the Cape by providing video and scouting operations to members of the Orioles front office.

This fall, with the support of Oberlin and On Deck Digital, a multimedia company that captured every Cape Cod League game on film, Osgood will be continuing the Scouting and Sabermetrics class and working to use the data he collected over the summer to compile scouting reports on players from the Cape Cod League. He will then market these reports to professional teams looking to hire new players at the "Baseball Winter Meetings" held in Nashville this December.

Rock On

With funding from the STAMPS Scholars, second-year student Emily Stanford spent part of her summer in Phoenix helping Jack Hoehn ’14 complete his geology field research on the South Mountain Metamorphic Core Complex. The project analyzed the low-angle normal fault lines and the abundant pseudotachylite veins in the South Mountain, with the goal of improving current earthquake models and enhancing the understanding of fault mechanics.

For three weeks in June, Stanford awoke at 4 a.m. to try and beat the 120-degree Arizona heat. She worked on the mountain marking and writing down observations, measuring the thickness of the visible veins, taking samples, and measuring the strike and dip of the rock’s surface. Once the heat became too intense around 11 a.m., the team would either rest or venture out to explore more of Phoenix.

Stanford says she feels like she now understands the feel of geology fieldwork. “I learned what it’s like having to scramble over hot rocks while wearing a big floppy hat. I learned what it’s like trying to balance yourself precariously on a ledge while reaching outside of your comfort zone with a hammer and chisel to collect a sample. And, most importantly, I learned what it feels like to get excited when you see an irregularity in the colors or surface of a rock and try to determine the cause.” She says after this experience she is now confident when she says, “I’m majoring in geology.”

Investment with an Impact

Fourth-year Sakina Lavingia spent time designing ways to invest money profitably and responsibly. Lavingia interned for Veris Wealth Partners, a San Francisco wealth management firm operating on the principle that sustainable and impact investing are the best ways to achieve strong business performance while simultaneously benefiting future generations. Lavingia, a politics and economics major, discovered Veris Wealth Partners during a winter term she spent with the Oberlin Business Scholars. The Pakistan native says she became interested in impact investing after working for several nonprofit organizations.

“I spent my first summer working with several nonprofits in Phnom Penh and Karachi and was repeatedly frustrated by the fragility of their income streams. These organizations, existing donation to donation, were not self-reliant, and therefore not sustainable in the long run.”

Unlike one-time donations, money in impact investing is constantly recycled and reinvested. “While I do not think impact investing is by any means the only solution, or even the superior solution," says Lavingia, “my time at Veris has highlighted its importance as a sub-field that is able to merge principles of finance with those of social justice.”

As a research assistant, she worked with the Veris team to develop thought pieces on subjects including fossil fuel divestment and community wealth development. Additionally, she assisted with a range of projects including working with the Salesforce platform, developing proposals for potential clients, and contributing to the organization's newsletter.

She says her internship has inspired her to pursue impact investing after graduation. In the future, Lavinia plans to attend graduate school and then return to Pakistan and use the skills she has learned this summer to pursue sustainable development.

Fresh Food Education

Molly Powers, a fourth-year biology major and sociology minor, explored the world of public health while working with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program- Education (SNAPEd), a program run by the Washington D.C. Department of Health (DOH). She says her rigorous course load at Oberlin prepared her for full-time work and her experience as the captain of the varsity volleyball team helped her develop valuable interpersonal and professional skills.

“My coach and teammates constantly challenge me to hold myself and others I rely on accountable, which I carried over with me into my internship. I've also learned how to take feedback from my coaches and use it constructively, which was a great skill to have in a professional setting when working with my superiors.”

While at SNAPEd, Powers learned how to effectively educate and promote healthy behavioral changes in target populations. She also interacted with other departments in the DOH's Nutrition and Physical Fitness Bureau, such as Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Farmers Market Program. Through this experience, Powers gained exposure to the importance of social media sites for an organization's visibility and success.

She says this experience has reaffirmed her desire to enter public health after graduation and pursue a master’s degree in public health with a focus on nutrition. She hopes to one day become a licensed dietitian or nutritionist.

Seeking an End to Depression

Caroline Oehlerich, a neuroscience major, spent her summer in Los Angeles contributing to the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge, a campus-wide initiative to research the cause, course, and treatment of depression, with the ultimate goal of terminating the disease by the end of the century. Oehlerich worked with the UCLA Center for Neurobehavioral Genetics to organize and interpret information from research projects concerning an array of mental illnesses—including depression, Bipolar I disorder, and schizophrenia—in ways that can help inform the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge. Using a database system known as UCrex, she computed statistical analyses and determined the significance and prevalence of certain symptoms, diseases, and treatments in the UC’s healthcare system. Additionally, Caroline observed clinical trials and attended weekly lab meetings to further understand the overall goals and progress being made in the labs.

She says her summer has helped her choose her future career path. “This experience has helped me realize how passionate I am about understanding and assisting those with mental illnesses. Overall, my experience at UCLA has encouraged me to further understand the growing field of neuroscience, while helping others in the process through psychiatry and the Depression Grand Challenge.”

Oehlerich, a third-year student, says she plans to return to UCLA next summer and after graduation to continue working on the Depression Grand Challenge before attending medical school.

Teaching Finance for the Future

Annie Goodridge, a second-year student from Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, put their knowledge of statistics and finance to work while interning for NorthStar Asset Management. Goodridge used modeling and statistics in order to analyze stock performance as well as skills in communication, teaching, and organization to co-teach two financial literacy classes for young women, one for those ages 13-15, and another for those 16-21 years old. Goodridge organized games for the classes on a range of topics, including how to discuss stocks, and a “fishing” game that taught players how to protect the 16 most important pieces of personal information from phishing.

Goodridge says their statistics class with Professor of Mathematics Jeff Witmer helped prepare them for the experience, and their time in Oberlin’s financial literacy course taught them “a lot about how a curriculum for financial literacy should and should not be organized.”

One key piece of financial advice Goodridge learned this summer is, “When saving for the future, you need to ensure your goals are specific, measurable (how you will know when you have achieved it), attainable, relevant to your life, and time-bound.” They hope to bring this piece of advice and many more back to Oberlin and teach financial literacy at Oberlin High School during the summer or over winter term.

Fighting for Fairness

Jasmine Anderson, a third-year politics and German studies major, describes her internship with the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law as “very busy” to say the least. The Lawyers’ Committee is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works with the private bar to bring civil rights cases to court. The Lawyers’ Committee’s Voting Rights team works specifically on defending African Americans and other minorities from discriminatory voting laws, bringing forward cases that violate the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act, and the 14th Amendment. As an intern, Anderson worked specifically with the Voting Rights team on voting rights litigation and policy. She contributed to the team by preparing research for potential cases, as well as helping to organize and push the many initiatives of the Election Protection Project.

Anderson says her time at Oberlin helped think about voting rights issues with more nuance. “Voting rights are in many ways a quintessential representation of a lot of the conversations we have on campus: oppressed communities, the issue of space, the effects history has in shaping each and every one of us, and how systems of oppression manifest themselves in today’s world.”

After this summer she plans to study urban demographics more closely and incorporate what she has learned into her future courses at Oberlin. Looking forward, Anderson says the internship has made attending law school seem more feasible and applicable. “Seeing the work civil rights lawyers are doing convinced me to seriously investigate the idea of law school and, while I’m not entirely decided, I’m much closer to a decision than I was at the beginning of this summer.”

Makhmudov (Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation Career Ready Grant), Osgood (Peter Goldsmith Internship Fund), Lavingia (Class of 1968 Leadership Fund and Career Development Office Fund), Oehlerich (Career Ready Grant), and Anderson (Career Ready Grant) all received funding from the Career Center’s Summer Funding Scholarships. To learn more about Career Center opportunities and summer funding please visit the Career Center page.

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