Briefing Room


D.C. or Bust! Moritz Students Head to Nation’s Capital

August 4, 2011 | Students

Filtering through the halls of the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy, the Federal Communications Commission, and more than a dozen other government agencies and nonprofit organizations this summer were rising 2Ls from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

Professor Peter Swire, director of the Moritz Washington, D.C., Summer Program, works on behalf of about 20 students each year to place them in externships compatible with their interests.

“Finding that good match is important for both the student and the employer. The employer gets someone who is knowledgeable and motivated, and the student gets experience directly relatable to future employment goals,” Swire said. “I work hard to ensure that every externship is substantive. This is not secretarial work; the externship has to involve real work on legal and policy matters.”

Swire, the C. William O’Neill Professor in Law and Judicial Administration, has served in the Clinton and Obama administrations, working on issues ranging from medical privacy rules to the housing crisis. Building on contacts he made inside the beltway, Swire started the Washington, D.C. program for Moritz students in 2002.

Demand frequently has outpaced externship opportunities. Swire recalled how students camped in the College’s hallways overnight in 2008 to meet the first-come-first-served rules. This year, students signed up during a one-morning window, and the program filled up in the first day.

Kacper Szczepaniak ’13 worked for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is responsible for advising the president on Internet, broadband and other related policy issues. His first day, he was tasked with editing the testimony of Assistant Secretary Lawrence Strickling, which was presented before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“Since then, I’ve worked on four hearings, summarized over a dozen bills and drafted correspondence to senators’ offices. I worked on projects to anticipate how data privacy, cybersecurity, and wireless initiatives will change over the coming decade,” Szczepaniak said. “After my last hearing, I was told to help with drafting questions for review. Sometimes a politician wants additional input on a matter from the head of a department after a hearing or public event, and the QFRs are those finalized, official responses.”

A little more than a mile away, Marisol Aguilar ’13 was working for the third-highest ranking official in the U.S. Department of Education. She focused on accountability measures for schools of education, ensuring questions the department wanted to ask were supported by statute. A second project involved simplifying the financial aid application and determining what prevents students from enrolling in post-secondary programs.

“Apart from learning about issues facing higher education and solidifying my interest in education law, I learned about time management,” she said. “The most surprising part was how much I liked D.C. There is a great variety when it comes to people, things to do, and food, which made the summer fun and educational at the same time.”

Brendan Mysliwiec ’13 learned what it was like to work with senior staff at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “I want to work in D.C. in the federal government. I got what I was looking for: great experience – (the) best in law school,” he said.

Students participate in special events, tours and meetings throughout the summer, in addition to attending classes at night. The seminar on professional responsibility, especially in the context of the nation’s capital, was particularly enlightening, many students said.

Bruce Mehlman, former assistant commerce secretary for technology policy in the Bush administration, led a session highlighting the honorable aspects of lobbying, which, Swire explained, “is the way we can exercise our First Amendment right to petition the government.”

“The White House class was a pleasant surprise,” said Ben Kolansky ’13, who worked with the International Trade Administration on countervailing duties and fair trade.

Ian Bassin, a member of the White House counsel’s office and instrumental in drafting the executive order on transparency rules, guest taught that session in the Secretary of War’s Suite. On a different day, students also received a tour of the East Wing and the White House main floor.

“Seeing how the White House works and how senior officials operate is a great education, pretty much no matter what you do later on in life,” Swire said, adding that the summer experience tends to help students decide how to pursue their studies and, possibly, which direction to take their careers.

Such was the case for Chris Meltzer ’13 and Susan Manship ’13.

Meltzer became engrossed with the topics he encountered this summer at the Department of Homeland Security’s Privacy Office, which surprised him.

“It is really exciting to be a part of an organization, the Privacy Office, that works on such cutting-edge topics such as biometrics, cloud computing, and cybersecurity,” Meltzer said. “I have become so enthralled in it that I have even rearranged my fall schedule and branched out to various firms and agencies that work in the field.”

Manship was exposed to the issues surrounding housing finance reform during her time with the Housing Policy Council of the Financial Services Roundtable. She concentrated on a wave of regulation tied to the housing industry as a result of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, among other issues tied to mortgage market reform and foreclosure backlogs.

“Not only has my understanding of how our nation functions fundamentally changed, but having the former Secretary of the Navy as a boss and interacting with mortgage executives has accelerated my professional development,” Manship said. “At the conclusion of my experience, I have gained a professional confidence that will aide me in my future interactions with corporate clients.”

That kind of valuable experience will be an asset these future Moritz grads take to organizations they join later, Swire said. Program alumni work for federal agencies, think tanks and law firms around Washington, D.C. today.

“We’ve benefited in the past from Moritz alumni who have stayed in touch and helped us locate good externship opportunities,” Swire said. “Because Moritz students have done really well over the years, employers have asked for interns in subsequent summers. They are delighted to have these smart students, who work more seriously when receiving a grade on a related seminar paper.”