Jeff Bell ’14: Taking Liberal Arts Education to the Workplace

Jeff Bell ’14:  Setting about the task of synthesizing these last two months of my life is quite an intimidating feat to attempt, but I will try to do justice to the spectacular experiences that I have found around every corner of my time in California, as I’ve taken part in a job provided by the Small Business Internship Fund.  Before I dive into a fuller explanation of my time here and how it has been spent, I find it necessary to thank those whose generous contributions made my time in this internship possible (although it would seem there are more people deserving of thanks than I have space to write).  First, thanks to those whose generous contributions to the SBIF allow for interns like myself to travel the country in pursuit of furthering their education through workplace experience.  Your faith in us is humbling and your generosity is inspiring.  A hearty thanks must also be extended to Scott Crawford for the tireless hours that he pours into this program, ensuring that it is successful for the numerous Wabash Men who utilize it.  A final warm thank you must be extended to all the friends, family, alumni, and coworkers who I have encountered along the way these past two months.  Although there are far more of you than I can list here, I will always be indebted to you for your never-ending support and interest in the continued education and development offered by my time in California.

I think it important for my reader to first understand that I have been a born and raised Hoosier for my whole life.  Never having lived outside the state of Indiana for more than a month at a time, the idea of sojourning west to California to take part in an exotic and exciting internship inspired a mixture of both curious fascination and nervous apprehension.  The opportunity that had been offered to me by trustee Paul Woolls was a two-month tenure in California.  The first month was to take place in downtown Los Angeles where I would be spending time in his Insurance Litigation firm working in different capacities with the goal of learning more about the legal field.  The second would require that I moved north to the Napa Valley area for a month working in his beautiful Vineyard and Winery.  Now to the average Indiana native, each of these locations brings a certain romantic notion of excitement and joy that can only be brought by adventure and travel.  So needless to say, I was overwhelmingly thrilled to be given the opportunity to move out West and continue honing my talents and pursuing discovery of the career that I wish to spend my life doing.

Plunging into both the legal side of this internship and the slightly more exotic experience of winemaking in Napa Valley, I was expected to display a tremendous versatility in the tasks I was able to perform.  Bouncing back and forth from being a clerk filing legal documents to hand tending the vines of a vineyard required an aptitude for quick learning and a certain curiosity that would keep the steady stream of new tasks from being overwhelming and daunting.  Here the liberal arts education I have received at Wabash College shone through and gave me a special familiarity with learning a variety of tasks and quickly mastering different forms of work.  As an English major, gaining workplace experience has been a critical part of developing my education beyond the great literary works and many hours of writing that fill the curriculum of such students at Wabash.  Internships like the one I have taken part in are a critical part of the growth and development of any Wabash Man, but in particular those whose major might not be deemed “practical” by some individuals in this country.

While I sit and write this blog post I keep looking out the window to my right and breathing in silent awe of the gorgeous Napa Valley landscape.  My employer, Paul Woolls has graciously lent me the guesthouse that sits atop Mt. Veeder and overlooks a certain portion of his estate vineyard.  It is perhaps the most gorgeous part of the country I have ever seen and the peace and tranquility offered by this location stands in stark contrast to the fast paced, vibrant, and oftentimes overwhelming downtown Los Angeles lifestyle.  Getting the opportunity to experience each of these styles of life all while gaining valuable work experience in two drastically different fields is humbling when I stop to reflect on all that it has done for my growth as a person, citizen, and as a Wabash Man.  I now have one and a half weeks before I start the long drive back to Indiana, and in that time I will savor the thrill of living alone in a splendid area filled with new people, places, and adventures.  Although my heart misses my home and family there is something to be said for the thrill that comes from exposing oneself to unfamiliar experiences.  Thank you again so much to all those whose tireless efforts enable these opportunities to benefit young men like myself.

Wabash Always Fights

Ray Stark ’14: Thirsty to End the Water Crisis

At the Beverly Hilton with Chelsie Kent, the Power of Youth award winner. She raised $12,000 for a freshwater well.

Ray Stark ’14:  Life has moved from 0-60 as soon as I arrived in Los Angeles to start my internship with the Thirst Project.  The internship began with the biggest jet lag of my life.  As soon as I arrived in Indiana (returning from a five month study abroad program in Brazil) it was already time to get back on a plane, only two days later, headed for Los Angeles.

When I arrived in L.A., I spent the next two weeks working hard, consistently for 10-14 hours per day in preparation for our biggest event of the year, the 4th annual Thirst Gala.  The Thirst Gala is our biggest event every year held at the Beverly Hilton, where we rent out the ballroom and invite our most prolific supporters in hopes to gain large donations to help build wells.

Even though I currently work with education and outreach for the Thirst Project, I received a lot of responsibilities with event planning/production in weeks prior to the event.  I helped our communications intern manage the live stream during the hour of dead time during dinner.  I helped by timing the arrival of celebrities for their interviews during this dead time, as well as managing logistics of table seating and food orders.  While this was really amazing, my favorite part about working for the Gala had to be getting to “act” in one of videos shown during our awards ceremony.

In case you were wondering, the Gala was an amazing event and it went off without a hitch. We ended up raising $200,000!

Even though I have gotten to do some incredible things through this event and the internship, I want to make it clear that it wasn’t the anticipation of these experiences that brought me to L.A., rather, it was the Thirst Project’s Mission.  Ever since I heard about their goal to end the world water crisis back during Sophomore year, specifically their goal to provide the entire nation of Swaziland with fresh clean drinking water, I knew that I had to be a part of this mission in some capacity.  I can now honestly say that I’m a pivotal part of our goal to provide nearly 1 billion people with access to safe clean drinking water.

While this is a dream come true, the point is that you, the reader, can also make this a reality.  The crazy statistic that always gets thrown around the office is that for $25, one person can be provided fresh clean drinking water for a life time.  Even if you can’t afford to donate, just spreading the word could be enough to convince someone else to donate, thus saving another’s life.

It is this purpose in my work that has made the work so fun and rewarding I believe.  It is the reason that I chose this internship.  Ever since I was young, my father always said that if you find a job that you go to and love doing it, then you will never have to work a day in your life, and with the Thirst Project, I have found that love for my job.  I can honestly say right now that I’m excited to get up in the morning to work for this cause and will continue in any capacity that they allow for me to help in.

I’m excited to see what the upcoming weeks have in store for me and the Thirst Project as I get into the “nitty gritty” of my Internship.  My main projects as the Education and Outreach intern will be the expansion of our school tour and development of a week-long curriculum about the human water crisis.

I just wanted to thank The Wabash Callings Program and Career Services for making all this possible.


Taylor Neal ’14: Learning the Intricacies of a Biomedical Startup

Mixing my own ballistic gel formulation

Taylor Neal ’14:  Everyone at Wabash has heard stories about how amazing our graduate network is, but only recently did I fully understand the extent of that reality.  During the Celebration of Student Research, Scholarship, and Creative Work in January, I presented a poster over some research I had conducted with Dr. Porter a couple summers ago.  Just before my fellow researchers and I took down our poster towards the end of the hour, we were approached by Mr. Khurram Tahir  ‘01.  He looked over our poster, asked a few questions, and discussed our research with us.  Then, in the single greatest deus ex machina of my Wabash career (and possibly of my entire life), he offered to set us up with an internship at a company he invests in.

Three months later, thanks to the Small Business Internship Fund, I found myself arriving in San Francisco at a small biomedical startup company called PROFUSA.  PROFUSA seeks to develop a sensor technology capable of continuous glucose monitoring.  My original assignment at the company was to assist the synthetic chemists in their day-to-day operations, but as time went on, I acquired more diverse responsibilities.  By my third week, I had been tasked with designing and creating a coating for the sensors.  My coating was required to be biocompatible and mechanically durable, but it also had to dissolve easily after injection into the body.

That task is now complete.  I have since moved on to other projects involving the composition of the sensors themselves.  In just nine weeks, I have worked in a full-blown organic synthesis lab; operated a CT scanner, an SEM, a high-frequency ultrasound, and an autoclave; attended and analyzed a 6-hour live pig study; and even created my own batch of sensors.  My project this week was to help the company cut costs on ballistic gel, which is used to test injection methods.  I have just finished optimizing a formula for homemade gel which will save the company roughly $400, and next week I will conduct my own independent in vivo study through a contact at Duke University.  Needless to say, no two days are alike at PROFUSA.

Aside from the great diversity of my work, one of the greatest benefits of working with a small company is the visibility of all of its operations.  PROFUSA currently employs only twelve people, and after the first two weeks I knew all of them on a first name basis.  Most of my lab work involves modifying our finished product, but I share the same lab space with the people who synthesize the very organic molecules that make up the sensor technology.  Every day I am exposed to the various facets of the company, and because of that I am able to see clearly how each individual project contributes to the overall goal.  There is a tremendous sense of camaraderie, and more importantly, everyone here is fully invested in the company’s success.  A small triumph in one area motivates the rest of us to work even harder, and any problems that arise are quickly and decisively dealt with by the conjoined effort of the entire team.  It has been a truly inspiring experience so far, and I couldn’t imagine a better use of my summer as I prepare to apply to graduate schools.

Preparing to climb San Pedro Rock

When I’m not working, I often spend my time exploring the city and its mountainous outskirts. I live in the Mission District, which is known for its exceptional Mexican food.  I’ve walked through the nearby Daly City, hiked to the top of San Bruno Mountain, dove to the bottom of Lake Merced, and even climbed San Pedro Rock in Pacifica.  The collective experience has been without any doubt the best summer of my life, and I couldn’t be more thankful to PROFUSA, Mr. Tahir, Career Services, and of course Wabash for making it possible.

Jon Laird ’15: The Life of a Trial Lawyer

Jon Laird ’15:  Going into my internship I had very little knowledge of how a law firm was run and what the day to day life of a trial lawyer entailed.  When I first connected with Patrick Becherer ’65, who is a trial lawyer for the firm Becherer Kannett and Schweitzer, I knew that by interning for his law firm my knowledge of law would expand exponentially.  Patrick has specifically practiced civil litigation law for over 40 years.  His ability to teach and educate a novice legal intern like myself has enabled me to become much more informed of the legal process.  Mr. Becherer is a man that, to this day, still reflects upon his liberal arts education from Wabash and credits Wabash for his success as a lawyer because of his ability to constantly learn and adapt to new cases.

From day one I was thrown into helping the attorneys with their cases.  The first case I was introduced to, forced me to use my critical thinking and problem solving skills to analyze accounting invoices for a case that involved a collision accident.  I had to make sure that there were no fraudulent numbers in the invoices that could cause the case to swing the wrong way.  The hardest part of my first project was comprehending the documents that I was reviewing for my analysis.  The law terms were like a foreign language to me and I found myself reading the documents a few times to ensure that I had comprehended the material.  I am excited to see how this trial settles knowing I had a very small integral part in the case.

Throughout my internship at the firm I have mainly contributed in research and analysis of cases.  I have participated in investigating and exploring potential cases for the attorneys at the firm and broke down the information so the lawyers had a baseline of information to expand on for their case.  In interning at the law firm for little over a month now, I have noticed that being a lawyer you must stress the attention to detail.  Every document must be read and fully comprehended because the information is vital.  No matter how tedious the document may seem it must be read completely.  In examining depositions and writing up reports on them I fully understand the importance of detail because there is no room to skip a page and lose out on key information for the summary of the case.

Lastly, one of the most interesting and exciting experiences of my internship was when I had the opportunity to attend court with Mr. Becherer.  It was a settlement for a case in which Patrick was representing a company that was being sued over a “trip and fall,” situation.  During the settlement process the plaintiff attorney would first be alone with the presiding judge providing to her the amount they expect to be paid.  Then the defense attorneys would meet individually with the judge to place their bid.  It essentially was a bidding war of negotiations.  Eventually this settlement did not settle and is scheduled to go to trial later this month.

Through my experiences at the law firm with Patrick Becherer I have grown to cherish what Wabash College has to offer.  With the generosity of the Small Business Internship Fund I had the opportunity to expand and grow on my understanding of the law process.  Wabash College truly has been a blessing for me in growing my education and honing in on my skills to become a better man.  The experience I have had this summer strengthened my ability to overcome challenges and will help me through my future endeavors.

Carter Adams ’15: The Military Voter Protection (MVP) Project

Carter Adams ’15:  This summer, I am out in Washington, DC working for the Military Voter Protection Project (MVP Project).  The MVP Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the voting rights of military personnel and their voting-eligible dependents.  It was started in 2010 by Wabash grad Eric Eversole ’94.  Eric is a former U.S. Navy JAG officer and then went on to work for the Voting Section of the Department of Justice.

The MVP Project’s goal is to protect the voting rights of military voters.  Military voting has not been an issue in the forefront or one people usually consider.  However, military voters are one the most disenfranchised groups in the electorate.  Many factors contribute to this but consider the difficulty of registering to vote, applying for absentee ballot, receiving it, filling it out, returning it on time, and not messing it up for it to be counted…then add being in warzone halfway around the world.  The aim of the MVP Project is to improve the current electoral system that seems to be disenfranchising America’s military.

This is the fourth week on my internship and I will be here until the beginning of August.  In my first week it is safe to say I was bombarded by every piece of legislation passed that had anything to do with military voting.  From the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act to the National Voter Registration Act to the Military and Overseas Empowerment Act, you name it; I have read and learned about it.  It has definitely been a quick learning curve.  And since, my internship has involved applying this knowledge to drafting testimony for congressional committee hearings and papers to be published.

There have been a lot of exciting things happening around the MVP Project this summer.  With a large military population, Virginia and their 2013 election has been our focus, helping us develop the Heroes Vote Initiative, a new organization started by the MVP Project. Working alongside the Virginia State Board of Elections, the Heroes Vote Initiative and our Boots and Ballots Campaign will help put on on-base registration drives throughout the state.  With registering alone being one of the largest obstacles for many military voters, these military voter registration drives we are organizing will aid military voting participation.  Next month, we are having a kickoff event for our Boots and Ballots Campaign in Richmond, VA, where Bob McDonnell, the Virginia governor, is going to speak.

One of the highlights of my internship so far was having a breakfast meeting with Jason Kander, the Missouri Secretary of State, and his chief of staff, Abe Rakov.  Mr. Kander is the youngest elected statewide official in the U.S.  He is also a former Army Captain, so he has personally experienced the issues the MVP Project fights for.

I am currently going through Officer Candidate School for the United States Marine Corps. I spent last summer in Quantico, VA receiving training and will return next summer.  And upon graduation, if I make it through the program, I would be commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps.  Thus, the MVP Project fights for issues that I care deeply about and have a great deal of interest in and I am so thankful to Wabash and Career Services for connecting me to this internship.  I would like to also thank the Small Business Fund for giving me the opportunity to live out here and work for a cause that is tremendously important.  Personally, I would like to thank Laurene, whom I work directly with, and Eric for working tirelessly for the MVP Project and being so great to me here in the nation’s capital.