August 16, 2010
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Each day Darwin Brack steps into the sultry air to walk or ride his bike to the nearest metro station. A 30-minute ride takes him from Chevy Chase, Md. to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
It's all part of a summer of learning for the Indiana State University economics, math and psychology major as Brack interns at the center assisting two scholars with their research.
"This is the first opportunity to use what I've been learning in a real world experience. I've wondered how much economics I would be using," the Cincinnati native said. "The answer is I've been using every class that I've taken."
Brack was the first Indiana State student to intern at the prestigious center.
"Certainly for Darwin it's going to open up the world in ways that you can't do on campus," said John Conant, chair of Indiana State's economics department, who selected Brack for the internship. "The engagement aspect brings a whole different level of understanding."
Lee Hamilton, president and director of the Woodrow Wilson Center, said the internship arose from a conversation with Indiana State President Dan Bradley and Brian Hasler, ISU executive assistant to the president for external relations.
"They wanted a strategy to unify the international economic program," Hamilton said.
Interns work with one or two of the 150 scholars at the center. In return, the students "get a very practical course" in research and methodology, according to Hamilton.
"Woodrow Wilson had a Ph.D.," said Hamilton, a former Indiana Congressman. "He always thought a scholar could learn from the politician and vice versa."
The center tries to exemplify President Wilson's ideals by putting scholarship at the service of the world's public life. The Wilson Center brings scholars to Washington to interact with policymakers through nonpartisan programs and projects.
When Brack arrives at the center, he goes to the intern work area, which includes a room with 20 computers and a sitting area where interns research and read reports and articles for the center's scholars.
"In a 400-level class you're reading constantly and writing," Brack said. "That's pretty much what I'm doing here. It's really intense."
For William Krist, a senior policy scholar at the Center, Brack researched international economics and development economics.
"More of the former than the latter," Brack said. "Many of the things that I have worked on as a part of international economics have revolved a lot around international trade, finance and accounting. All of the research and data entry that I have completed has been for his new book."
He also has worked with Devin Fergus, a fellow at the Center, on several projects. One project included research around suburban America.
"It was focusing on something that Devin calls the ‘Ghetto Tax,' referring to the amount that poor individuals in this country pay as a result of being poor," Brack said. "This occurs through a lesser ability to travel to wealthier parts of a city to access larger club stores that often give steep discounts."
Brack also researched the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act for Fergus. The bill's goal was to provide consumer financial protection through oversight of banks and businesses.
"The language of the bills is so precise for them and unclear for us," he said. "Most economists say we'll have to wait and see."
Through such research Brack has broadened and deepened his learning.
"The student gets an introduction to the world of learning and academia and public affairs," Hamilton said. "Through scholarship and dialogue they get a better understanding and we get better policy."
Brack said while he felt honored to be selected for ISU's internship slot it wasn't until he journeyed to Washington that he realized the magnitude of it.
"When I saw the Ronald Reagan Building and saw that I was working essentially next to the Washington Monument, I was like ‘wow,'" he said. "Once I saw where I was working, I sure was in awe."
On the weekends, Brack travels around the area to see the sights and make the most of his time in D.C.
"I never thought I'd enjoy seeing the sights so much. I never was big on sightseeing," he said. "I'm inspired by the size and magnificence of it."
With everything from arts to sports and to a city filled with young people, Hamilton said Washington has vitality.
"It's a tremendous experience for a student to come from Indiana and get to spend time at the nation's capital," he said.
Brack's internship also has allowed him to attend conferences at the center and presentations called "On the Hill," which take place on Capitol Hill. His work also means research time at the Library of Congress.
"I will never forget to use the Library of Congress again," he said.
Brack said he has learned a great deal during his internship, including about international trade, economic development and history.
"Dr. Conant said in our last meeting that this will stay with me a long time, and I think it will," he said.
Contact/Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or Jennifer.Sicking@indstate.edu
An Indiana State student spent his summer conducting research at the center that puts scholarship at the service of the world's public life.