The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) recently announced a new three-year gift to extend the Jeffrey A. Finkle Ohio University Economic Development Internship, now in its tenth year, which provides undergraduate and graduate students affiliated with Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs a chance to intern at the organization.
Through the internship, students gain practical experience in local and international economic development issues and trends with the world’s largest membership organization for the industry. Past interns, such as Francis Anagbonu, Maggie Clark, Kendra Green and Hannah Burke, used their IEDC experiences to begin full-time careers in the public sector or as the basis for graduate study. After finishing the internship, Burke joined IEDC staff full-time, while 2020 intern Colton Campbell stayed on as a part-time employee.
The IEDC established the internship in 2011 to recognize Finkle’s 25 years of national leadership in economic development. Finkle, an Ohio University alumnus and University Medal of Merit recipient, asked the IEDC to support a summer intern from his alma mater. The program started with a $25,000 gift from the organization, which recently became an endowment.
“That gift has allowed the program to exist for the past 10 years,” said Finkle, IEDC president and CEO. “With our latest gift, for perpetuity, the IEDC will be taking on interns from the Voinovich School forever.”
Interns work closely with the IEDC staff as they help economic developers do their jobs more effectively and raise the profile of economics as a profession.
“Because of the collaborative culture Jeff Finkle fostered, I felt a sense of purpose and connectedness that many interns never get to experience,” said Emily Burns, a 2014 intern, who received her bachelor in women’s and gender studies in 2013 and Master of Public Administration in 2015, both at OHIO.
Interns conduct and compile research on the latest trends in economic development, which includes phone interviews with practitioners and institutions.
“For us, an internship is a two-way street,” Finkle said. “We want the students to work in a collaborative environment and carry out lots of professional writing. The interns have to meet our standards of helping economic developers solve their problems. And as for us, we get some bright, energetic interns whom we can teach about economic development.”
Burns gained valuable experience from her internship. “One of the first things I learned was that economic development is not a one-dimensional field,” said Burns, who is now a policy analyst with the Colorado Department of Higher Education. “Working on projects big and small helped me conceptualize the globalized economic reality we live in and the ways in which communities, states and nations can work together to become stronger, diversified and more vibrant.”
Students in graduate programs, as well as Voinovich Undergraduate Research Scholars, are eligible to apply. Campbell, a senior-year student studying economics, worked as a scholar on the GIS research team. He was selected for the Jeff Finkle internship in 2020. He said interns are treated as full-time staff and expected to be self-starters to take ownership in seeing projects to completion.
“This was the IEDC’s first experience, same as mine, with a virtual internship, and I think Jeff and the entire staff did a great job with making their interns feel like they were a part of the team from very early on,” Campbell said. “I just want to reiterate my thanks and gratitude for Jeff, everyone at the IEDC and the people that I worked with at the Voinovich School. It’s just a lot of gratitude that I have.”
In addition to on-the-job experience, interns benefit from weekly contact with economic development professionals in the Washington, D.C. area, through activities organized by the internship coordinators.
“Through the internship, our students also get to hone their analytical thinking,” Finkle said. “At the end of the internship, most of students also write a speech or create a presentation that I give, so they get a fair amount of guidance on how to set out a good, professional presentation.”
OHIO interns attend local IEDC conferences, brown-bag lunches and professional development webinars alongside their peers from around the country.
“This was incredibly cool, and especially beneficial to me,” said Rebecca Cochran, who was a 2012 IEDC intern and also graduated the same year with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism. She is now the manager of external communications for the E.W. Scripps Company. “It really helped me link all the pieces together and I've now got a great understanding of government’s role in economic development.”