12:52 PM

​Expo highlights real-world experience for Ohio State students

A program for second-year students at The Ohio State University is helping them get ready for their post-graduate future, and an annual celebration of that work gave participants a chance to showcase what they’ve learned.

Posters detailing the results of the Second-Year Transformational Experience program filled a ballroom in the Ohio Union Tuesday. The annual STEP Expo highlighted work from more than 150 students.

Dean Klimczyk, a fourth-year finance major, spent 14 weeks in an internship program for Key Bank for his STEP project. The internship helped Klimczyk better understand the bank’s operations as he spent time with investment bankers and branch managers and worked as a teller.

“I saw the day-to-day tasks that I would be doing if I went into that field,” Klimczyk said. “I was able to network and meet Key Bank employees, get their experience and see what they liked about the industry.”

He said the experience was invaluable and helped prepare him for his career.

Dean Klimczyk poses with his project poster

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Klimczyk said. “Once I got more comfortable with being uncomfortable, I was able to go up to my managers and learned they just wanted me to succeed.”

As part of the university’s STEP program, students work with a faculty mentor to develop projects that can include internships, research experiences or overseas travel. Students can earn a fellowship of up to $2,000 to fund their effort and come away with leadership skills and a deeper understanding of their place in the world.

Klimczyk finished his experience at Key Bank with a job offer. He’ll work there this summer after graduation.

Danielle Culpepper, a third-year psychology major, worked as a volunteer research assistant at the university’s Nisonger Center. Her STEP project poster described her work aiding the treatment of children with autism and ADHD.

Culpepper said the experience helped her visualize the next step in her career.

“I thought it was cool that I could see how to do research, how they follow protocols and as a whole, what research means,” she said.

“The most important letter in the word STEP is T, for transformational,” said STEP program manager Vicki Pitstick. “We really try to work with the faculty and the students to realize what that means.”

Pitstick said the STEP Expo celebrates the real-world experience for these students.

“Having this event and having people come to the expo just really reinforces the culture of the program: that experiential education is important at Ohio State and that it’s being supported,” she said.

Emily Daugherty, a third-year social work major, said her transformational experience came as a camp counselor for One Heartland camp in Minnesota.

“The camp that I worked at was designed for youth that were experiencing social isolation, discrimination and health challenges,” she said. “It was a camp for youth who were infected or affected by HIV/AIDS, kids who were experiencing homelessness and kids who identified as LGBTQ.”

As a student working toward a career in social work, the camp experience prepared Daugherty for some of the challenges she might face in the future.

“It was a really great experience and I learned a lot about what I can handle, because I didn’t think that I could handle that. But I could.”