Summer Intern Meg Rierson ’18 plans National Democratic Convention for the Minnesota DFL

BinderHello! My name is Meg Rierson and I am writing about my SEC-funded summer internship. I’m currently working as an intern for the Operations Director of the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party, which, MN is the Minnesota branch of the national Democratic Party. As an operations intern, I am helping my supervisor, Heidi Kraus, plan the Minnesota delegation’s role in the National Democratic Convention, which I will also attend as a delegation page. My job involves a lot of emails and phone calls between me, the national delegates, and the DFL staff. The thrill of professionalism and adulthood that comes with answering your personal DFL phone line with “Minnesota DFL, this is Meg,” quickly wears off once you realize just how many strangers have your phone number, which is about right after the second phone call.

This is an extraordinarily exciting, albeit terrifying, time to be working for the party because it is a presidential election year, so I get the opportunity to attend major party events with lots of established and up-and-coming Minnesota politicians. Minnesota is famous for being a staunchly Democratic state with prominent legislators like Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, but one of my favorite parts of the internship so far has been interacting with politicians that operate at a more local level. Working for the DFL has definitely crystallized my appreciation for our local politicians who work to make Minnesota such a politically progressive state. In fact, on my first day in the DFL office, I was given a list of the state House and Senate representatives to become familiar with—creepy, but a cool kind of creepy.

DFL ConventionI’ve only been on the job for a little over a week and I’ve already attended some incredible events. Last Saturday was the Minnesota DFL State Convention, where I helped register delegates (read: herd cats) and operate one of the microphones on the floor of the convention when delegates had questions or wanted to participate in debate. It was a contentious convention to be sure, with a lot of spirited debate between the passionate supporters of Hillary and Bernie. There were even some boos coming from the crowd when Governor Mark Dayton and Senator Klobuchar endorsed Hillary. That’s a big deal for Minnesotans, because booing at a Minnesota gathering is about the equivalent of arson in any other state in terms of offensiveness.

WomenWinning LuncheonOn Monday, I volunteered at a luncheon for WomenWinning, an organization centered around the goal of recruiting and endorsing pro-choice women for Minnesotan political positions. There was a literal parade of lady leaders from Minnesota, Madeleine Albright spoke, I almost passed out from sheer joy, good times were had by all.

My big projects for the next few weeks are to get all of our staff booked on flights to the convention in Philadelphia, organize the entire delegation’s housing and travel plans, give my input on some cool souvenirs for the delegate goodie bags (there was talk of flash tats…), and help my boss with any other projects that will help the convention go smoothly. Thanks for reading! Democracy! Yeah!

Summer Intern Matthias Argenyi ’18 updates benchmarks at Garde Capital in Seattle, WA.

I have been working as a summer associate intern at Garde Capital in Seattle, WA. For background, the firm provides fee-only investment management services for a variety of clients, from high net worth individuals to corporate retirement plans and non-profit endowments. Garde serves as a fiduciary for its clients, meaning they always act in their clients’ best interests. Because of this, their services are focused on the client: providing wealth management counsel, managing portfolios, and reporting on performance.

Argenyi Garde

My project this summer at Garde Capital has been to revamp their performance reporting methods used to show progress and returns. As a fiduciary, the firm has a duty to report performance in the most accurate and transparent way possible. Therefore, Garde is held to a high standard for what they show, and crafting reports that are both understandable and comprehensive is a careful process.

The first part of this project involved updating the benchmarks used to measure investment performance. By “chaining” the benchmarks so that they change to reflect small allocation differences, they better represent actual market behavior and returns. I worked with the Chief Investment Officer and Portfolio Manager to introduce the new benchmarks for all portfolios and ensured they accurately reflected the actual investment strategy.

In the next few weeks I am preparing to create new reports that best represent the client’s true performance. As previously mentioned, this requires a balance between providing all relevant information and doing so in a way that clients can easily understand their actual portfolio returns. I will be constructing new reports using their performance reporting software, and getting feedback on each revised version until we are confident the report is as transparent and comprehensive as possible. The reporting Garde Capital uses is institutional quality, and quite robust in what information can be shown.

I am also given research assignments targeted at furthering my understanding of different financial concepts. These have been extremely helpful at filling in the gaps of my previous knowledge of the wealth management industry. During the course of work we identify a topic of interest, and my supervisor assigns me guiding questions to research and answer in a report style. After the report has been turned in, we review the responses and discuss them in further detail. Having a space to get my confusions sorted out has been invaluable for strengthening my understanding of the industry as a whole.

So far my experience at Garde Capital has been excellent. I have had autonomy over the projects and work that I do, and because of that I have found my work both meaningful and relevant. As someone interested in financial services, I have been extremely lucky to have the opportunity to work the professionals here at Garde Capital.

Summer Intern Lindsay Hodgson ’17 manages events at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Seattle Guild, WA

Lindsay at desk_smilingIn June I began my summer internship at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Seattle Guild. JDRF is passionate about curing diabetes and in the meantime, they seek to develop ways in which diabetics can live easier, safer, and healthier lives. The Seattle Guild is a group of inspiring, motivated individuals who fund-raise to provide the resources to put these goals into action. Their events such as their annual Gala and golf tournaments in the Seattle community have raised millions of dollars for the research foundation.

I have been looking forward to this opportunity for numerous reasons, but primarily because I have a deeply personal connection to JDRF. I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when I was eleven years old. I know I am one of millions of children and adults who cope with the daily challenges of monitoring blood sugars and I have always wanted an opportunity to feel connected with the diabetic community and be actively involved in the fight for a cure. I felt a sense of purpose from the moment I stepped into the office. My co-workers are passionate and make me feel inspired, not to mention that it is comforting knowing that some of them are also diabetic. One coworker said that she has enjoyed working within the JDRF office more than in corporate because there is a greater cause behind all the work she does.

Lindsay at desk_front

The office environment is relaxed and causal, but the dynamic is active and collaborative. I am learning that it takes a tremendous amount of work to organize their events and that the extensive planning, pro-activity, and teamwork is what contributes to their success. Even though the JDRF Seattle Guild is in between events, there has been much to do around the office. I have learned how to use their event management software and I have been updating both their sponsor and donor financial records based on the contributions from this year’s Gala. One of my other projects the past couple of days was sorting through the storage closet, organizing past donation items, and taking inventory of their leftover wine and generating spreadsheets so we will know how much we will have for the golf tournament coming up in September. With the help of my supervisor I also began to assemble wine packages for the tournament and I filled out the procurement forms. The golf tournament will be the main focus moving forward and soon I will reach out to last year’s golf tournament sponsors about continuing their support and I will help design the event catalog.

In simply a matter of days I have learned so much from my supervisor and coworkers and I have felt so supported by them. Thanks to the Summer Whitman Internship Grant, I am able to gain experience working in a non-profit office, in event planning, and to play a role in diabetes research fundraising. I am excited to see what challenges and rewards my internship at JDRF has in store for me.


Summer Intern Ian Bania ’19 Studies Star Disks at the Imamura lab at U of O, OR

Ian at deskThis summer I am working in the Imamura lab at the University of Oregon Physics Department, supervised and mentored by Professor James Imamura. We are doing theoretical research on gas dust interaction within various nonaxisymmetric instability modes of circumstellar disks. Our research is relevant to discovering how these disks evolve and to understanding the mechanisms behind how gas giants and terrestrial planets form.

Before I go deeper into the research, our methods, and its ramifications, I first hope to clarify some basics for non-physics minded folk who may be reading this. Stars are born from gigantic plumes of hydrogen (and a few other things, but almost completely hydrogen) which we call molecular clouds. Within these clouds, small regions of higher density known as knots form.  The self-gravity of these knots causes collapse, pulling gas and material from the cloud in with it. The center of this knot will soon become dense enough to be considered a protostar, and overtime fusion within its core will slowly turn on. As this knot collapses random fluctuations of gas motion in the cloud causes our high density region to spin. One can observe this phenomenon in everyday life; spinning, fluid-like materials have the tendency to flatten out and form disks (this is how your pizza dough works). At this point we have a spinning disk of gas (and a few heavier things) with a baby star in the center, which is slowly turning on. Once the star arrives fully to the main sequence and turns on completely, most of the remaining gas will be blown away leaving only any planets that may have formed.

To study these disks we use the UO’s high performance computing system known as ACISS, and within this system we run a FORTRAN code known as CHYMERA. CHYMERA is an extremely complex program but what it essentially does is simulate the evolution of these disks over long expanses of time. It does this by numerically solving a handful of continuity equations that dictate the hydrodynamics and other physical interactions of the disk, and then repeating this process for up to a million iterations. Just recently CHYMERA was improved to allow the simulation of dust particles within the disk, but this section of the code is still young and we continue to troubleshoot issues as they arise.


A mass density plot of one of our simulated disks developing a higher order Jeans-like instability.


Currently, we are using CHYMERA to study dust within disk for two different types of instabilities: Jeans-like instabilities and one arm spiral modes. As we refine our simulations more and more we begin to understand much better how the dust affects the disk evolution. Ultimately, we hope by the end of the summer we will have achieved a publication quality simulation from which we can draw significant conclusions. Our findings will likely be published as the 4th paper in a counting series on these disks.

Overall I could not be more satisfied with how my summer is progressing so far; I am getting valuable computer science experience and learning physics that Whitman doesn’t even offer classes for. In the long run I hope to pursue a career in research, and so far this experience has made me ever more confident in that endeavor. I am very grateful for the Student Engagement Center, my Astronomy and Physics professors, and Whitman College as a whole for affording me this invaluable opportunity.

Summer Intern Genean Wrisley ’19 Gives Interpretative Talks at Olympic National Park in Port Angeles, WA

Genean with waterfallMy Internship with Olympic National Park has been a whirlwind of new experiences and information. I am a seasonal Interpretive Intern for the park, which means that I create a twenty-minute interpretive talk and hour interpretive walk for visitors at the park. In addition to these presentations I am staffing the Visitor Center in Port Angeles and on Hurricane Ridge, answering the questions of excited visitors.

Before I started working I had about three weeks of training, some days were spent mostly attending large lecture seminars filled with information about the park, including its history, ecology, and biology. Other days were spent with fellow interpreters listening to example talks and walks, exploring areas of the park, learning specific plants and animals, and gaining tips on how to answer visitor questions. During training I was also provided with time to research and work on both of my presentations.


Can you see the bear?

My twenty-minute talk is on the decrease of snow pack in The Park due to climate change. This has been a fascinating topic to research because snow pack is such an important part of The Park and the surrounding areas. It provides water during the summer which helps power the dams for electricity in Washington and allows for summer agriculture. The decrease in snow pack also means that plants and animals are having a hard time surviving due to an increase in stress levels without the water supply of snow pack in the summer.

My hour walk is on National Park management, what parts of The Park they have control over, and what things are out of their control, such as climate change. It will include a discussion about the different choices that The Park has made over the years in order to preserve the beauty of the land for future generations, while allowing for enjoyment of the environment.

park with waterThe research that I have done for these presentations has been incredibly interesting, but the knowledge that I have gained from this internship has gone far beyond these programs. I have attended other interpretive programs and learned about bugs, the endemic Olympic Marmot, and various other Park specific topics. This internship has also developed my skills interacting with people. When the Visitor Center gets thousands of visitors each day I have become accustomed to answering all types of questions coming from different types of people. While some days at the front desk can feel long; each new person or family brings with them an interest in Olympic and it is exciting to hear the different questions they have and to challenge myself to provide the best information possible.

I feel very lucky to be able to spend a summer in such a beautiful place where I get to walk through the woods to work every morning and can see The Park through the window as I work. I have the opportunity to educate people about this incredible National Park while learning both from visitors and my fellow coworkers. This internship has proven to be an amazing opportunity and I am excited to see what the rest of the summer brings.