Penguin in politics

While most students at Youngstown State University are getting back to classes, student Melissa Wasser is interning for CNN at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

Wasser’s experience is part of a two-week academic seminar offered through the Washington Center, a politically focused internship organization.

Students from all over the U.S. were involved in panel discussions, guest lectures and fieldwork assignments in preparation for the convention.

Some activities were delayed or canceled due to the looming Tropical Storm Isaac, but the convention still ran from Monday through Thursday.

Wasser is the only student from YSU currently at this event. To the knowledge of the political science department, she is also the first YSU student to attend a political convention through such a program, despite the department’s correlation with the Washington Center in the past.

“I’m really thankful to YSU. I got a very good quality education through the [political science] department,” Wasser said. “There’s people [at the seminar] from Harvard [University] and Princeton [University], and I’m on the same playing field.”

But the praise, one faculty member said, belongs to Wasser.

“[Melissa] went out of her way to secure this internship. … She really deserves a lot of credit for this,” said Paul Sracic, chairman of the political science department and Rigelhaupt Pre-Law Center.

Besides gaining knowledge of the inner workings of a particular career, opportunities like these also give students a chance to network with other people and possible employers.

“She’s able to meet some really powerful and important people. Most of [these] people will be interviewed by CNN,” Sracic said.

Aaron Brown, an award-winning broadcast journalist, guest-lectured the event. Brown is a former reporter for ABC and had hosted his own CNN evening program, “NewsNight with Aaron Brown.” He inspired the group by telling about his experience covering the tragedy of 9/11, despite it being only his first day on the air at CNN.

“For us to hear something like that at 20, 21 years old is amazing,” Wasser said.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 60 percent of 2012 graduates that have had an internship have already received at least one job offer despite the decline in the current job market.

Those interested in a politically based experience like Wasser’s can find more information on the Washington Center’s website,, and through the political science department.

“YSU is very good with working with you. … People just have to go ask,” Wasser said. “You have advisers, but at the end of the day, you’re your own advocate.”

Wasser is a junior and academic scholar who is an active member of Greek Life. She is double majoring in political science and philosophy and plans to go to law school after her time at YSU.

Those interested in learning more about Wasser’s experience can follow her blog at