This fall, the Gephardt Institute welcomed 14 new student staff members to the team. The institute employs a range of student staff including undergraduate coordinators, graduate assistants, and master’s research fellows who fulfill essential roles and benefit from professional and personal development. Student staff members play a crucial role in the Gephardt Institute, bringing energy, talent, and fresh ideas to the team. Get to know the new student staff members below.
David Blount, from St. Louis, is currently in his first year as a Master of Social Work candidate at the Brown School, concentrating in domestic social and economic development. David serves as Engage Democracy Fellow, working to engage students through programming to promote a more robust civic culture on campus. On civic engagement, David writes, “Everyone’s voice matters. Each day decisions are made that impact our rights, liberties, and access to resources we need to live full lives. Through robust civic engagement, we can help ensure our policies and decision makers more closely reflect the shared vision and values of our communities. As a person of color, I have experienced the harms of inequitable policies and practices. Now, I hope to engage communities, especially those who have been marginalized from democratic institutions, to help create a healthier, more representative civic discourse and empower people to have their voice heard.” This semester, he is excited to learn what issues are most important to students, faculty, and staff on campus and how they would like to engage each other through civic learning and action. Fun fact: “I love to cook and cook often. Food is my love language and the best times are spent around a table with good people and good food.”
Taylor Brown, Master’s Research Fellow, is a first-year Master of Social Work advanced standing student, concentrating in domestic social and economic development and specializing in policy and research. Taylor’s hometown is Paragould, Arkansas. In his fellowship, Taylor mostly works to support the GEAR team’s strategy and evaluation for Engage STL, Meet the Leader, and “What Does Ferguson Mean to Me?” panel discussions. His favorite aspect of the role is learning from his supervisor, Jillian Martin. Taylor says, “I believe that a healthy democracy is fueled by the civic engagement of its constituents and is vital to ameliorating socioeconomic inequity.” Fun fact: Taylor has a Labrador retriever named Indigo who loves to cuddle and chase squirrels.
Khy Chestnut, a third-year law student from Atlanta specializing in business law and corporate taxation, serves as Engage Democracy Civic Engagement Fellow with the role of designing and executing workshops to educate the community about civic engagement. This semester, Khy looks forward to learning more about the Gephardt Institute and sharing strategic initiatives with established campus communities. On the importance of civic engagement, Khy says, “I enjoy connecting people with the government and learning how governments represent the needs of their constituents.” Fun fact: Khy is on the club gymnastics team.
Hannah Levin is a dual Master of Business Administration and Master of Social Work candidate from Washington, D.C. As a Graduate Research Fellow, Hannah’s role is to manage research, evaluation, and analysis for a portfolio of programs. She is looking forward to learning from supervisor Jillian Martin and the other members of the Gephardt Evaluation, Assessment, and Research (GEAR) team this semester. Hannah explains her interest in civic engagement: “Civic engagement is essential for equity and justice, two qualities I care deeply about. The result of civic engagement is communities dedicated to uplifting and empowering all of its members.” Fun fact: “I love tinkering with bikes! If your bike needs some love, always happy to help get it back up and biking.”
Emma Nordmeyer, from Warrenville, IL, is a first-year Master of Social Work student in the domestic social and economic development track. As a Graduate Research Fellow for Engage Democracy, Emma studies how engagement programs work at other institutions. She learns about the successful components and the more challenging pieces, and shares that knowledge with the institute. To Emma, civic engagement means “being aware that you are part of local, state, national, and even international communities. Civic engagement is important because it pulls you out of your bubble and connects you with your neighbors.” This semester, she looks forward to helping the institute build its connections with similar institutes at other universities. Fun fact: Emma has been playing the viola since she was 9 years old.
Aaron Pevitz, a first-year Master of Social Work advanced standing student from Naperville, IL, is a Master’s Research Fellow. He works specifically to collect and analyze program assessments and interventions for cohort-based programs such as Civic Scholars, Goldman Fellows, Each One Teach One, and Arts as Civic Engagement. Aaron’s goal this semester is to develop his qualitative analysis skills. Aaron explains his view on civic engagement, stating, “The work at the Gephardt Institute is important to me because I really like how they connect the university to the community, and vice versa. I find it really important that higher education institutions play a role in the community so more students can get engaged with it. The Gephardt Institute does a great job fostering a relationship, and this drew me to work for the institute.” Fun fact: “I actually have a grey spot on the back of my head (it’s a birthmark), but I get a lot of questions about my age because of it.”
Abby Coco, class of 2020, is from Warrington, PA, and majoring in comparative literature. She serves as the WashU Engage Intern, working in conjunction with the Alumni Association and the Gephardt Institute to continue to build and support WashU Engage. In her position, Abby looks forward to making younger alumni more aware of the opportunities that WashU Engage offers as they transition from college life to the work force. Abby says, “The work of civic engagement is important to me because through deep and meaningful engagement, we can all learn so much from the people in our communities. It is this knowledge and understanding gained from listening to each other that will lead us to making the world a better place for everyone.” Fun fact: Abby has never had a pet!
Lily Cohen, class of 2022, is majoring in anthropology: global health with a computer science minor. She is from Washington, D.C. As Community Engagement Coordinator, Lily works as part of a team to foster relationships between the university and community partners. She is most excited to get to know the Gephardt staff team. “Civic engagement is important to me,” she shares, “because I have always learned more from engaging with others in my community than taking notes on a lecture. There is so much to learn when you engage with your community and there are so many relationships to be formed.” Fun fact: Lily is a yoga instructor.
Lizzie Franclemont, class of 2020, is from Zion, IL, and double majoring in American culture studies and religious studies. Lizzie is the Engage Democracy Communications Coordinator, and she helps to engage different social media platforms and support with events for Engage Democracy. On her civic engagement path, Lizzie shares, “I grew up in a family that was incredibly passionate about civic engagement, and so I knew it was something I would want to get more involved with during my time in college. My freshman year, WashU hosted the presidential debates, and ever since, I’ve wanted to get more involved with the Gephardt Institute’s work with programs such as Engage Democracy or events for WashU Votes.” In this role, Lizzie looks forward to merging her experience with communications with her interests in civic engagement and the greater St. Louis community. Fun fact: Lizzie is the youngest and only girl of seven children.
Trinidi Prochaska is a first-year student from Maple Grove, Minnesota, majoring in biology. As a Gephardt Intern, her role is to learn about civic engagement and all that it entails at the Gephardt Institute. On civic engagement, Trinidi says, “This is important to me because I have always valued giving back and just doing for others. It is nice to see all of the positive effects civic engagement and volunteerism has on the community.” She is looking forward to getting to know the institute and gaining some real-world experience with civic engagement. Fun fact: Trinidi is the first person in her family to attend a four-year university.
Katie Roop, class of 2020, is majoring in political science and history and hails from Rockville, Maryland. Serving as a K-12 Connections Coordinator, Katie helps organize trips to campus for K-12 students in the St. Louis area where these students learn more about higher education and participate in educational activities. This semester, Katie looks forward to welcoming students to campus and developing new activities as well as building a leadership team among the K-12 Ambassadors in order to have a more expansive array of tours and activities tailored to students’ grade levels and academic interests. On her work in civic engagement, Katie says, “I have developed a greater sense of connection to my community and feel empowered to be part of its growth. It is incredibly fulfilling work that continually challenges me to be a more active community member and grow in my empathy for those around me.” Fun fact: “I love personality tests, and will happily share all about being an Enneagram Type 1 or Myers-Briggs ISFJ.”
Audrey Santora is a first-year student from North Riverside, Illinois, and serves as the Engage Democracy Coordinator, supporting the Engage Democracy Fellows by assisting in planning events, brainstorming ideas, and working with Common Ground Grants. One of Audrey’s goals is to increase the reach that Engage Democracy, particularly WashU Votes, has over the student body at Washington University. On civic engagement, she states, “The work of civic engagement is extremely important to me because it is the backbone of our country’s democracy. I believe every individual should have a say in the political process, whether I agree with their views or not, and I value empowering others to get in touch with their democratic rights.” Fun fact: Audrey prefers winter over summer.
Cameron Thompson is a first-year student from Columbia, Missouri, currently serving as a Gephardt Intern as she learns about and explores different roles through the institute. On civic engagement, Cameron says, “I think it’s really important for WashU students and staff to work hand-in-hand with the St. Louis community so we can learn from one another.” Her goal this semester is to learn more about the Gephardt Institute and find out more about how she can work with the institute to contribute to my community. Fun fact: “I draw! I also do Computer-Aided Design and digital renderings.”
Leah Witheiler, class of 2022, is from Dallas, Texas, and majoring in American culture studies and design. As Development Assistant, Leah supports tasks related to fundraising, donor stewardship, writing and outreach, event management, and communications strategy. On the importance of civic engagement, Leah says, “I want to make the world a better place. But wanting to change the world simply is not enough; on such a large scale without the proper resources or accumulated wisdom, taking a step back and actually interacting with my local community—actively participating in all forms of civic engagement—is what truly impacts peoples in both potent and tangible forms.” Her goal this semester is to immerse herself in the culture of the Gephardt Institute and to familiarize herself with a set of skills that cannot be learned within the classroom. Fun fact: “I’m a middle child (which explains a lot).”
In addition to their substantive responsibilities, the team will receive routine access to mentorship, training, and professional development opportunities. The Gephardt Institute professional staff is grateful for the energy, talent, and professionalism that our students bring each day. “We take great pride in our Gephardt Student Internship Program,” said Stephanie Kurtzman, Peter G. Sortino Director of the Gephardt Institute. “Our interns have the opportunity for hands-on learning in a professional environment that aligns with our shared values, and we gain incredible talent and capacity to advance our mission. It’s a win-win program that we value immensely.”
Learn more about the student internship program and view open positions here.