Saturday, February 4, 2017

Starstruck

The only thing I knew going into our tour of the Pentagon was to prepare for extensive walking and tight security. Following suit, I started my morning molding my outfit around a pair of black flats and triple checking I had my license before we left for the metro. Beyond those simple expectations, it was a mystery for what the day would hold. This uncertainty left me curious, anxious, and kind of hoping I would feel like I was on an episode of the West Wing (in a national security scene, of course).

After arriving at the famous, asymmetrical building and getting past its warranted security check, we were able to spend time in the Pentagon’s visitors lobby. Plenty of photos with a Department of Defense podium ensued because forgetting about our loyal Instagram followers is simply not acceptable in this day and age. 


The tour began with a brief introduction and then we were off to explore the headquarters of defense for the most powerful country in the world. With our personable and upbeat guide we saw an exhibit on the history of the building, a retirement ceremony, the 9/11 memorial, and the courtyard at the heart of the campus. Through the tour we were able to see how tragedy and the passing of time forces a government agency to strengthen and evolve. While the experience was insightful and historic, the real excitement began after this tour was over.

Due to our incredible Ohio State network, an alumnus, who currently works in the Pentagon, volunteered to give us a private tour.  With now a smaller group and the workday ending for many employees around the building, we were able to go beyond the typical public experience. We set back out into the massive building, first exploring the public affairs hall filled with historic photos and passing by the press briefing room used for any of the Department’s live broadcasts. Then we made our way over to the offices of all the “big dogs” in terms of national defense. The hall was much more aesthetically pleasing than the rest of the building with its wooden trims, detailed rugs, and large paintings of past secretaries. We stopped and examined a rather updated part of one wall—pictures of the new administration including President and Commander and Chief, Donald Trump, the Vice President, the newly confirmed Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were freshly hung. A sense of realization washed over me—these were some of the key players in our national security and foreign policy. While sitting there discussing the new administration in a little more detail, I noticed a group of men coming out of the doors we had just passed. One of the boy’s in our group began to whisper, “Is that Dunford?” (Note: to be completely honest, I blacked out from excitement over the next two minutes so I apologize if my account is not completely accurate.).

Lo and behold the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford, one of the most powerful people in the country, was in this group standing less than ten feet away. Surrounding him were all four-star military personnel, clearly noted with the gold stars that lined their shoulders. It was in this moment that I became “starstruck.” The group started walking towards us and I was barely able to stand still. I was in no way able to hide the expression of pure awe on my face, giddy with excitement. The General gave a polite “Hello, how are you all?” as he passed by.  In that moment my friend, Vanessa, and I turned to each other, mouths wide open in disbelief.  I probably would have melted to the ground if for not in that moment another voice began to speak to us, “Yeah, we’re those grumpy old men in those photos,” pointing back to the frames we had just been looking at. Clearly identifiable with his shiny, silver hair, it was the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Selva, also one of the most powerful people in the country. The group continued on, but my wide eyes and mouth were frozen in complete shock for at least the next ten minutes. The men who are making some of the most vital and irreversible decisions in the world, causally just said hello to us. Was it a dream? Maybe. Did I act in an acceptable way? Probably not. Will I ever forget it? Never.


Godspeed: 1962 or 2017?

            After November 8th, there was a shift in our country. The person who was elected President of the United States was someone no one expected to win, and Americans felt a sense of fear and uncertainty as to what the next four years would be like – not only for themselves and their families, but also for the world. As the winter holidays ended and the New Year began, the mood in DC was low (as I’m sure it was in a multitude of other places throughout the nation) as January 20th, Inauguration Day, quickly approached.
            The week leading up to the Inauguration, our group was invited, along with the OSU DC Alumni Club, Black Alumni Society and John Glenn College, to attend a screening of the movie, Hidden Figures. The movie depicts a true and previously unknown story about three female African American mathematicians, who brilliantly contributed to the launch of NASA’s first successful space missions (including the late Senator John Glenn’s!) during the early 1960s. This movie can obviously be seen and appreciated at any time, but it was the timing of our viewing in particular that made watching it so special.
            Hidden Figures was a movie that made me proud of America. It told a story of the difficulties that these people faced in their careers at NASA as not only women of color, but as women of color working in the aerospace engineering “all boys club” of America. We watched this movie during a time when I was feeling discouraged, pessimistic, and heartbroken. It’s quite incredible that the story that this film told gave me the ability to feel hopeful going into the upcoming week.

Writing this piece one month later, I have some confidence that this feeling will continue to last… for throughout my time in WAIP, as well as the next several years. But as we all know, time will only tell: so “Godspeed” to us all.

Friday, February 3, 2017

A Transcendental Trip Through D.C. (Micha Kerbel)

Moving to D.C. invigorates any newcomer to the nation's capital. Finding our way around the numbered and lettered streets divided into four confusing quadrants in addition to navigating the perplexing, colored Metro lines poses a challenge in itself to any visitor.  Toss in the plethora of monuments and statues, familiar and strange, which fill the urban city, D.C. leaves a hunger to see and explore a new area each day. After an exciting, but long and exhausting first week of interning-- and an exciting day touring the National Archives and Air and Space Museum--the third floor quad woke up Saturday morning absolutely depleted of any energy we mustered from the first few days. Grey and dreary clouds filled the  D.C. skies hinting at a rain to come, and nothing stood in our way of staying in bed to enjoy a lazy day. A few hours after lunch however, something kicked in. Whether it was Capitol Hill cabin fever or an insatiable thirst to discover the hidden gems of our new town, three of the upstairs young men decided to take in a few hours of fresh air. Inspired by former president and enthusiast of the great outdoors Theodore Roosevelt, we set our hearts, minds, and the GPS on our phones to head for the island dedicated to the namesake of America's 26th commander-in-chief.

As we left the building for what we knew would turn into quite the trek to McLean, Virginia, our worst fear became reality. The heavens opened up. While my roommates questioned the reasoning for the uncanny timing, wondering whether God wanted to heed us caution of our foreboding journey across the Potomac River, a different vision came into mind for me. Suddenly, as we passed the Capitol Building only a block from the start, my inner Tim Robbin's overcame my spirits and I lifted my face up toward the downpour. I finally escaped the Shawshank cell of our house, and the time for my redemption had arrived. We carried on and drudged our way across the mall. Over a mile later, we reached the Washington Monument, the first major site of the evening. By now, the sun had fully set, though in honesty its light never pushed through the clouds that now blocked all stars (if the pollution did not take care of that job already). We snapped a few photos as we stood in awe at its base. From there we continued toward the World War II Memorial in search for the Ohio pillar. After several minutes of walking in the wrong direction around the 7.4 acre memorial, we eventually identified the unmistakable four lettered name for the Buckeyes State engraved in granite: O-H-I-O. As we approached the pillar, we found a group of visiting middle school students in our way. Dripping wet, with fear of pushing our way through the throng of preteens, our luck came through when a teacher kindly split his students like the red sea to make a path for us to our beloved Ohio memorial. Once we made it through the seemingly never-ending crowd, I had my two roommates capture me forming an an "O" over my head to document the our first major D.C. adventure. Despite two different teachers mistaking us for students on our way out, reminding us to "hurry to the bus, boys!", we walked onward to finish what we started.

We crossed the 2,163-foot Arlington Memorial Bridge, only getting slightly lost, and walked a lengthy distance of dark sidewalk along busy roads until we stood before a tiny footbridge. We had arrived to the entrance of the island, marked by a sign "Open until 10 PM" though truth be told the reigning 7 PM darkness merited an early close in my mind at least. Despite my protests to wave the white flag and head back, we walked across the final footbridge, into the pitch-black, straight out of a horror film woods that filled the deserted park. We followed sign after sign that we could barely read, truly hoping no trouble would obstruct our path. At long last, it stood before us. The seventeen foot statue of Teddy, right arm extended fiercely in the air towered over us both physically and mentally. As we stood in silence taking it in, we questioned for a moment, is this it? We walked all this way... for a statue? Though other plaques marked the grounds, they remained invisible to us in the darkness, and eventually we left.

In truth, I admired the lack of material presence. After what surprisingly turned out to be thirty minutes, I felt myself leave the woods with a Walden revelation. I found myself appreciating the lack of objects and memorial words, taking in the nature to which President Roosevelt devoted much of his leisure time. Humbled by the nature surrounding us, we cross back over the sketchy footbridge, walked up the road, and agreed to give our soaking feet a rest and succumb to riding an Uber home. We returned dripping wet into the warm dry building, and changed our clothes. Once again in safety, light, and dryness, the indoors comforted us. Yet, the yearning for fresh air soon returned to me. I understood that before a night passed, there was no better time to start planning our next D.C. odyssey.

Please don't use my eyeliner.

I am very neat. I am a light sleeper. I love doing nothing. Throughout college, I actively worked to live with as few people as possible. My freshman year, I chose to live in a dorm very far away from campus because the room was a double with a private bathroom. Sophomore year, I refused to live in a house on campus and opted for a small two-bedroom apartment. In my sorority, Kappa Delta, I was approached by our council to run for president of our chapter. I said no. I said no because the thought of living with 40 girls sounded like a living nightmare.
            Not surprisingly, I was very anxious about starting WAIP. I knew that I would be living with sixteen people and sharing a room with three other girls. Que mental breakdown. In addition to my apprehension about sharing a living space with so many other people, I was also exhausted. This marked the fifth time that I moved this year. Though I often boast about my spontaneous nature and love of traveling, moving the fifth time took a toll on me. I needed to create an entirely new life, routine, existence for myself, again, for the fifth time this year.
            When I pulled up to the townhouse with my family, I was anxious to drop off all of my things as quickly as possible and drive away. I cooked up all sorts of shenanigans to avoid going back to the house. I took my family for a tour of DC, we went out to dinner, and I dragged out our time at Walmart until even the staff was nudging us out the door. After we unloaded the car, I considered sleeping at the hotel room with my family as to have one last night of silence and space.
            Thankfully, I decided to stay. Maybe I felt comfortable because my fantastic, wonderful roommates immediately welcomed me into their lives, maybe it was because my love for DC and excitement about WAIP had finally set in, or maybe it was because Katy has better matchmaking skills than eHarmony. Whatever the reason may be, I just know that I am insatiably happy. We ended up being the most compatible foursome imaginable. We wake up at the same time. We go to bed at the same time. We have the same standards of cleanliness. (And my personal favorite) we all shower at different times.

Basically, we’re soul roommates. Katy, you should sell your algorithm to a dating site, it’s worth billions.

-Elexa Diktas

The First Month- Tommy Sodeman

The first month has been a whirlwind of activity.  Being in DC during the Inauguration is a unique experience.  Watching the peaceful transition of power was a truly amazing experience.  Working in DC is another amazing experience.  Being able to do something other than classes and sight seeing is helping me decide what I want to do with my future and learning the ins and outs of a Senate office is really cool.  I never knew just how much work goes into being a Senator of the United States, nor did I realize that there are many more opportunities relating to policy.
Being present at the Women's March in DC was incredible.  I had never seen so many different people gathered together in one place.  The atmosphere of the march was friendly and full of energy, ready to fight for the next four years.  I spent most of the March with my coworkers and getting to know them better was really fun.
One of my favorite Study Tours so far was The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.  Mark was an amazing tour guide and his stories and insights made the tour really interesting.  Looking at all the history that has been accomplished was amazing and the seeing all the different kinds of air crafts was very interesting.  Seeing John Glenn's capsule from his space mission from 1962 was incredible. Being able to see something that has touched the stars and brought back stories to keep whole generations interested in learning more about the Universe was incredible.
Another Study Tour I found fascinating was the Smithsonian African American History Museum. They had so much history I did not know about.  There were so many more civil rights leaders I did not know existed and to really see that the fight for civil rights was never an off and on thing, it has been a continuous fight so that America can truly live up to the name sake of All Men Created Equal. There was so much history and knowledge that I did not know about that it was incredible to see it and to learn about it.
The first month has been an incredible experience and I am really looking forward to the next couple of months and seeing what DC has to offer.  

Young Women in the Workplace



Young Women in the Workplace



Always have your hair done. Look awake and refreshed, please wear makeup. Oh, but not too much makeup. Don’t show too much leg, heaven forbid they see too much of your legs. Are those heels too high? Cover up any cleavage, can’t let the world know you actually might have breasts. Cover up your shoulders. Cross your legs when you sit in meetings. Don’t wear anything too tight or anything that makes your curves prominent. Don’t look overly feminine but you shouldn’t look too manly either.


I've had a lot of time to reflect on what it takes to be a young woman in the workplace and how we are treated by superiors and coworkers alike. Granted, at my internship with the US. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, I don’t feel this pressure to look or act a certain way due to the progressive nature of the work environment.  Although, in my experiences with other internships and jobs, I haven’t been as lucky. At other jobs, I have been told that I am too passive for more competitive job markets. “You need to be more assertive”.  As I moved up in the professional field, I found myself overcompensating for this, now on the other side of the hiring process. While interviewing candidates for internships, I was told that I am intimidating. Me? Intimidating? I am a five foot tall, barely pushing 100 lbs woman, how on Earth could anyone find me intimidating?!  Do you think a male would ever be told, “You need to be more assertive” from a superior? Maybe on the rare occasion, but I contest that women are held to a higher standard in the professional world. Research suggests that more attractive people earn better salaries/wages and often earn more promotions. For women, this definition of attractiveness is often based on unrealistic beauty standards.  


According to the Pew Research Center Report on “10 Findings about Women in the Workplace”, “Today’s young women are starting their careers more educated than their male counterparts”,  yet woman on average are less likely to ask for a raise or to be considered for a promotion when compared to men.  However, women are becoming heads of agencies, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and innovators in all variations of career fields. It's about time we are treated accordingly in the professional world. This isn't the 1950’s, there is no room for misogyny in the workplace, not anymore.

In my short time working for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, I have realized that the inequality between men and women in the workplace does not need to be the norm.