10 Questions With Wendy Patton, Director of the Columbus Program in State Issues

As the director of the Kent State Columbus Program in State Issues, Wendy Patton sets students up for valuable experience and future success in public policy. A 35-year career in state and local government – including 15 years with Policy Matters Ohio – prepared Patton to teach about public policy and state government in Ohio. She is a Kent State alumna who came back home to Ohio after getting a master's degree in city planning at UC Berkeley and working in Washington, D.C. She’s looking forward to helping students find career interests that can make a difference on the local, state and federal level. Learn more about Patton’s experience that led her to this role as she answers these 10 questions. 

Describe your role at Kent State and with the Columbus program?

The Columbus Program in State Issues is a “travel away” program that takes Kent State juniors and seniors to our state capitol for a semester. As part of the program, they will be living and working in and around the Statehouse in Columbus and learning about the political process. 

As the new director of the Columbus Program in State Issues, I’m working with other members of the department to get the program up and running after a two-year pandemic hiatus. We are busy recruiting students, finding internship sites and housing, assembling the teaching team and letting the legislature know that Kent State students are coming back to the Statehouse this year!

Why is the Columbus Program at Kent State so important?

Students learn about the political processes that affect everyday life and establish a network of contacts in their chosen field. The program can provide a foundation for many different types of careers. 

What will students do as part of the Columbus Program?

This program provides valuable work experience that will look great on your resume and prepare you for the workplace of the future. At the same time, it provides 15 senior-level academic credit hours. It will open your eyes, boost your confidence and provide you with great contacts, new friends and lifelong memories.

What is your favorite part about working with students and providing them with opportunities?

Students are eager to learn. I’m looking forward to learning with them and gaining fresh insights into Ohio politics and policy as the program progresses. 

How do you apply your past experiences in the field of politics when connecting students to the Columbus Program?

I’ve worked in and around the Ohio Statehouse since 1987. Before that, I worked in Washington, D.C., for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees International union, serving union locals and councils in 13 states. In the 1990s, I worked for the city of Columbus development corporation. My work at different levels of government has given me a broad background that I can share with my students.

How did Kent State help set you up for success in the world of politics?

I have always been involved with Kent State: first as a political science major and later as staff for the Ohio Employee Ownership Center, a division of the Department of Political Science. Coming back now to head up the Columbus Program in State Issues feels like a natural move for me because I feel like I never really left. Kent State has always been a part of my life.

What kinds of policy have you written in the past that contributes to experiences you can share with students?

My research has been in public finance, health and human service programs and economic development. I can direct students to resources in many different aspects of policy. For those interested in seniors’ issues, I can put them in touch with the elder justice community. Severance taxes? There are experts and resources throughout the state. Criminal justice policy? New policy recommendations are coming from many voices and many organizations. I look forward to working with students of diverse interests. 

What kinds of policy-making will student interns be studying as part of the Columbus Program?

It depends on the kind of internship the student gets. We provide students with recommendations for internships based on their interests, but the student will apply for and select their own internship site. That said, everyone will leave the program with a good understanding of the legislative process.

Does the history and culture of student activism at Kent State apply to what you do in your role?

Yes, it does. Kent State has a history of community activism and student leadership, and I look forward to working in that environment again. 

What is your favorite Kent State tradition?

When I went to Kent State many years ago, a professor from the business college would come out of his building – maybe around noon on warm spring days, in full Highland regalia – and play his bagpipes. You could hear the tune throughout campus. I recently heard that the bagpipes still sound in Kent in the spring. I hope so, and I look forward to hearing them again some warm spring day soon.

For more information about Kent State’s Columbus Program in State Issues, visit www.kent.edu/cps.

POSTED: Tuesday, July 12, 2022 - 11:34am
UPDATED: Wednesday, July 13, 2022 - 11:37am
Austin Monigold