Nevins Fellows make the most of remote internships

July 21, 2020
Annabelle LaRosa completed a remote internship with Healthy Democracy, an Oregon-based nonprofit that coordinates deliberative democracy programs.

Annabelle LaRosa completed a remote internship with Healthy Democracy, an Oregon-based nonprofit that coordinates deliberative democracy programs.

IMAGE: Penn State
Mark D'Ostilio is completing a remote internship with the Center for Civic Design, an organization that aims to make interactions between government and citizens easy, effective and pleasant.

Mark D'Ostilio is completing a remote internship with the Center for Civic Design, an organization that aims to make interactions between government and citizens easy, effective and pleasant.

IMAGE: Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Annabelle LaRosa is working with a team in Oregon to implement democracy reform, without ever leaving her home in Pennsylvania.

LaRosa is one of six College of the Liberal Arts students working remotely for democracy organizations this summer as part of the McCourtney Institute for Democracy’s Nevins Fellows program. She is interning at Healthy Democracy, a Portland, Oregon-based organization that coordinates deliberative democracy programs across the state and beyond.

This summer, LaRosa is compiling public testimony and legislator recommendations for citizen panelists to use in online assemblies on how Oregon should respond to COVID-19.

“Healthy Democracy’s mission is to bring Oregon’s politically and demographically diverse citizenry together to effectively communicate and deliberate about relevant and complicated political topics,” LaRosa said. “This is something that I really admire. Their team is smart, efficient, kind, and energetic and working with them has been a great experience.”

Established by a gift from alumnus David Nevins, the Nevins Fellows program provides funding for students to complete internships at organizations that are working to strengthen democracy throughout the U.S. Students take a one-credit seminar in Democratic Leadership during the fall semester and apply to be matched with an organization of their choice in one of 10 internship slots.

John Gastil, professor of communication arts and sciences and political science, was LaRosa’s instructor in the Democratic Leadership course in fall 2019. He participated in one of Healthy Democracy’s virtual forums and was delighted to see one of his former students in action.

“They talked about the research she did for the assembly summarizing public comments given to the legislature on COVID-19, Gastil said. “What a great use of a virtual fellow. The whole assembly is in Zoom, so it doesn't matter that she's not in Oregon.”

Nevins Fellow Mark D'Ostilio is completing a remote internship with the Center for Civic Design, an organization that aims to make interactions between government and citizens easy, effective and pleasant.

D'Ostilio is part of a team designing envelopes for absentee ballots. He is researching each state’s requirements and providing that information to colleagues who are designing new envelopes to be used this fall.

He said he’s enjoyed the remote working experience much more than he anticipated.

“I was worried that I would struggle to connect with my co-workers, but I could not have been more wrong,” D'Ostilio said. “I am surrounded by interesting and hardworking people with similar aspirations and have gotten to know staff members better through one-on-one virtual coffee and team happy hour Zoom calls.”

Spaces are still available in the Democratic Leadership course this fall, which will meet in Zoom on Thursdays from 3:05 to 5:05 p.m. and be taught by Lori Bedell, associate teaching professor of communication arts and sciences. Students can register by looking for CAS or PLSC 209 in LionPATH.

For more information on the Nevins Fellows program, watch this video produced by the CommAgency in the Bellisario College of Communications.

Last Updated July 21, 2020