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Six Students Complete Prestigious Summer Internships

“I think the resiliency and perseverance we have seen from the American people in the face of the health crisis gives me hope towards unifying our nation,” said Taylor Radell, C’22, a political science and economics major who participated in the American Enterprise Institute’s Summer Honors Program—an intensive, fully funded educational and professional development opportunity for top undergraduate students.

Radell is one of several Mount Fellows and Honors Program students who secured prestigious internships this summer. Despite changes, challenges, cancellations and the coronavirus, these students continued to thrive as they adapted and learned from their experiences.

Taylor Radell, C’22

taylor-radell_headshot.jpgRadell attended the virtual one-week seminar alongside students with diverse ideological backgrounds to discuss and debate the most pressing issues facing the country and the world with the goal of providing students with a deeper understanding of contemporary public policy, appreciation for dialogue across ideological divides and networks to pursue a career in policy. Radall attended virtual classes alongside 15-20 students from around the world. Her class, taught by Mary Hirschfeld, Ph.D., of Villanova University, examined “Are Markets Moral? In Search of a Humane Economy for the Initiative on Faith and Public Life series.

“Throughout the weeklong seminar, my class and I dissected papal encyclicals, foundational articles in the field of economics and the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas as well as other prominent sources to uncover how foundational moral principles can better coexist with a flourishing market economy,” she said. “The intensive pushed us to consider capitalism in a moral context and how we as Christians can better engage with markets while adhering to Church teachings.”

Radell also participated in the United Nations Intensive Summer Study Program, a weeklong virtual intensive which she says gave her an opportunity to directly interact and engage with current U.N. practitioners, peacekeepers, and ambassadors. Each day she heard from speakers on different topics ranging from U.S. and U.N relations to the U.N.’s inner workings.

“I found talks with the former ambassadors and the press secretary for the secretary general to be most interesting and insightful as to how the assembly actually operates,” she said.

Rachel Wheeler, C’22

rachel-wheeler_headshot.jpgFellow classmate Rachel Wheeler, who also participated in the United Nations Intensive Summer Study Program, was the one who told Radell about the opportunity. “I believe programs such as this one, which encourage people to stay informed and stay educated about the current state of the world will help unify the nation as we work together to acknowledge and resolve problems,” Wheeler said.

The international studies and English major with a minor in Spanish said the program was supposed to take place at Seton Hall University and the United Nations headquarters in New York.

“I believe the work of the U.N. is extremely important in world peace, improving standards of living across the globe, and social progress, and effective in that all the U.N. member states have agreed to develop and work for the sustainable development goals,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler currently serves as a first responder; she’s a patrol ranger for a private lake community, Lake Naomi Club, in the Pocono Mountains.

Matthew McDonald, C’21

matthew-mcdonald_headshot.jpgJust as Wheeler and Radell completed their program, Matthew McDonald was beginning his eight-week hybrid summer internship as part of the Cyber and SIGINT Solutions Division of the Intelligence group for Leidos. The mathematics and computer science major with a minor in data science was originally accepted, and planned to attend, a summer program with the National Security Agency. When the program was canceled in March due to the pandemic, he contacted the program manager at Leidos, where he interned last summer, and was welcomed back.  

As part of the Cyber and SIGINT Solutions Division of the Intelligence group for Leidos, his on-site work was for a government contract and his at-home work explored Android research.

“The goal was to create a comprehensive outline of the behaviors of the biometric authentication mechanism running on Google Pixel phones while looking for any vulnerabilities that could be exploited,” he explained. “We learned to use reverse engineering and analysis software such as Frida and Radare2 to decompile and analyze low-level behaviors of the biometric mechanisms.”

He says learning binary and low-level code in the Computer Architecture course helped prepare him for this project. “Thank you to Dr. (Brian) Heinold and Professor (Rebecca) Portier for writing more letters of recommendation than I can remember and Dr. (Jamie) Gianoutsos who has been an amazing mentor throughout,” he said. Associate Professor of History Jamie Gianoutsos, Ph.D., is director of the Office of Competitive Fellowships.

Portier connected him to the National Security Scholars Program, whose partners include Geon Technologies, Leidos, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, the National Security Agency, and more.

“Being anywhere in person feels like a special opportunity at this point,” McDonald acknowledged. “The pandemic has slowed down my life during my time as a college student, certainly when it feels it is moving the fastest. It has helped turn person-to-person interaction into a real source of joy for me.”

Collin Nji, C’23

collin_feature-2.jpgCollin Nji completed a 100% remote internship at CSET, a policy research organization within Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. The internship selection process involved four rounds of interviews over the span of three months.

Nji, who studies computer science and data science, already has a plenitude of impressive internships and accomplishments. Last summer he interned at Enforme Interactive in Frederick, Maryland. He also completed internships at FunNode, a startup in San Francisco, JUV Consulting, a marketing company in New York, and Google DeepMind Technologies in London where he was a visiting student.

“CSET produces data-driven research at the intersection of security and technology, providing nonpartisan analysis to the public community. Its current focus is on artificial intelligence and government policy recommendations for emerging technologies,” he summarized. Daily tasks included writing and testing code, attending meetings with his project manager, learning about Natural Language Processing models and preparing data for machine learning tasks.

“I learned how to approach problems from the standpoint of breaking down the problem and looking for multiple solutions rather than looking for a single solution to a more complex problem,” he said. “I also learned how to run various experiments using data, which was quite fun.” Nji said he was afforded various career-enhancing opportunities from attending talks about cybersecurity and the involvement of China in American foreign policy to talking with coworkers about their graduate school experiences. 

“I’d like to thank Dr. Gianoutsos for introducing me to Dr. Sulmeyer. Without that initial introduction, I don’t think all of this would have been possible,” Nji shared.

Gianoutsos and Sulmeyer, who spoke at the Mount last year, are both Marshall Scholars. Sulmeyer, is the Belfer Center’s Cyber Security Project director at the Harvard Kennedy School. He served as the director for plans and operations for cyber policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and previously worked on arms control and the maintenance of strategic stability between the United States, Russia and China.

Nji admitted the pandemic gave him time and space. He learned to play a musical instrument. “Although I did have moments of personal growth, it was initially tough to accept the fact that the pandemic has changed the fabric of society, and things will simply never be the same.”

Unsure of what his undoubtedly bright future will hold, he does know he wants to use his knowledge in technology to help the people in his community. “My dream job is any job that can make this aspiration a reality,” he said.

Harry Scherer, C’22

harry-scherer_photo.jpegHarry Scherer, who is studying philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) and history with minors in theology and Latin, had a busy summer. His work with Vision for Life was mostly remote, but in-person work included attending board meetings, visiting pregnancy medical centers and assisting with the production of video advertisements. Scherer says Vision for Life is an all-volunteer nonprofit headquartered in Pittsburgh that provides advertising for pregnancy medical centers. His research centered on a study of abortion and STD statistics in the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia areas.

“The most convincing finding from my research is that incidences of abortion in the Pittsburgh area have declined more rapidly since 2010 when Vision for Life started advertising than incidences of abortion in other large urban areas in the same time period,” explained Scherer.

This summer Scherer also participated in the Richard Macksey National Undergraduate Humanities Research Symposium hosted by Johns Hopkins University. Scherer’s participation was funded by the Office of Competitive Fellowships. Scherer presented his scholarship, which was submitted and accepted, based on a paper he wrote last fall in Associate Professor of Philosophy Richard Buck, Ph.D.’s Liberalism course. The paper was titled “Capitalism as the Bride of Liberalism: How Philosophy Impacted Economic Thought.” 

“The thesis of the paper was that classical liberalism and modern capitalism are inseparably linked and that the economic inequality that can be attributed to modern implementations of pure capitalism harms the liberal claim that its system promotes freedom, equality and fairness,” he said. “In order to make this argument, I used the writings of John Locke, John Rawls, C.B. Macpherson, Pope Pius XI, Bishop Fulton Sheen and some other recent scholarship.” The paper is currently under review by the editorial board at The Macksey Journal and pending approval.

Scherer was also part of The American Enterprise Institute’s Summer Honors Program that Taylor Radell attended. His course about “Liberal Education in an Age of Distraction” was part of their Initiative of Faith and Public Life. The virtual, one-week course was taught by professors of political science at Baylor University, David Corey, Ph.D. and Elizabeth Corey, Ph.D.

“Throughout the course, we read and discussed foundational texts written by Pieper, Oakeshott, Marcuse, Friere and others. I marveled at the knowledge and eloquence of my professors and peers and I was blessed just to be part of such a cohort,” he added.

Finally, he participated in the Gilder Fellows Seminar. Organized by the Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth, Poverty and Morality, two three-hour seminars with two one-hour lunches were held with George Gilder, co-founder of the Discovery Institute and a prolific writer and economist.

“It was an honor to be able to learn from national thought leaders on some of the most pressing issues our generation faces,” Scherer said.

“This coronavirus experience has taught me a little bit (or a lot) about patience, the importance of real social interaction, the fact that not everyone thinks in the same way about common experiences and the importance of balancing a recognition of my own ideas with a charitable consideration and encounter with those of others,” Scherer reflected.

Rebekah Balick, C’22

rebekah-balick_photo-2.jpgAn international studies and history major with a minor in Spanish, Rebekah Balick completed a summer internship with The Heritage Foundation. Due to the pandemic, rather than a more traditional internship role, her work included reading and research, similar to a class experience or fellowship program.

“I felt very welcomed in my program and felt inspired to pursue a higher level of intellectual scholarship due to the influence of the people I met,” she said. “They have outstanding research fellows and staff who have some of the best minds in D.C., and their policy proposals are thorough, sensible, backed by research, and published with a genuine care and concern for this nation.”

Through readings and recorded lectures, she familiarized herself with the policy world and the work of the foundation. “Our main task was the completion of our capstone project in a chosen policy area, where we worked with Heritage fellows and used our own research to present a policy proposal for an issue we are passionate about,” she shared.

Balick credits her success and contributions to the capstone project, which she led, to her classroom experience because she was comfortable talking about policy and expressing her views. “I also think my experiences in church and different communities have encouraged me to form strong, informed opinions on controversial issues—so I was familiar with different sides of certain topics and the discussions happening,” she said.

Balick learned how a think tank operates, the different jobs in the policy world and many research, editorial, communication and leadership skills.

“I strongly believe in America’s model of democracy and its commitment to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and equality,” she said. “The principles in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are timeless in my opinion and represent a higher calling to virtue for American citizens. I also am passionate about civil society in America and believe that building support for solid families and small communities is the best way to heal divisions and solve problems in our country. Despite our failings, I believe we are indeed ‘One nation under God’ and ought to lead the world by our example.”