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Creating Opportunities

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WAIP student Kira Jones (left), with U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty and Vada Stevens, a legislative intern, was the first recipient of a scholarship established by Leslie Gant.

By Joan Slattery Wall

Leslie Gant’s early career experiences in human resources and management, along with her Peace Corps service in Western Samoa, led her to an appreciation for ways public policy determines people’s success.  

Considering an advanced degree upon her return from her work as an economics teacher in the Polynesian island country, she landed on the idea to explore public policy at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs.  

Leslie Gant, Glenn College Masters Degree Graduate

“After the Peace Corps, I wanted to know why we do the processes and procedures we do and who makes those policies,” said Gant, who received her in-career master of arts in public policy and management in 2003. “I had a more worldly view, and I wanted to make change in people’s lives, not just the bottom line.” 

Now supporting faculty and staff as an organization development leader and human resources manager at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teacher College, Gant is also helping Ohio State students through her establishment of the Gant Family Scholarship for participants in the Glenn College’s Washington Academic Internship Program (WAIP)

Turns out the first recipient of her scholarship also wants to make a difference in people’s lives. Kira Jones, a senior, studies environmental policy and decision making at Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources in the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. 

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“While environmental justice is the main focus of my academic work, intersectionality is extremely important to me. There are multiple social justice issues of importance within my communities that I’m interested in learning more about and contributing to the eradication of,” said Jones. During WAIP this summer, Jones learned about the inner workings of Congress as a communications fellow in the office of U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio.  

“My long-term career goals are to attend law school and practice at an environmental law firm. I hope to focus on cases dealing with environmental health and environmental justice issues and utilize my academic background to support marginalized communities with environmental concerns. I believe that everyone, no matter their background, deserves access to clean air, land, water and food,” Jones said. “After participating in WAIP, however, I plan on coming back to D.C. after graduation, ideally working for a congressional committee or a member of Congress to continue contributing to the social issues that matter to me.”  

Gant wonders how her career path might have changed had she had the opportunity as an undergraduate to go to D.C. and see where policy is made.  

Nonetheless, from her first internships to her post-master’s degree career path in human resources and organization development, Gant has been grateful to others who evaluated and implemented policies that gave her opportunities she would not have had otherwise. By establishing the WAIP scholarship, she hopes to open those doors for today’s students. 

Someone gave me an opportunity, and I now give back to someone else an opportunity.

Leslie Gant
Glenn College Master’s Degree Graduate

That’s how you ensure future success. You have to be intentional, especially for encouraging diversity at the policymaking level,” she said. She herself might not have been able to establish a scholarship unless someone at Ohio State wrote a policy allowing a gift of $4,500 annually over five years to establish a named and restricted scholarship fund, which allows for more inclusion to the scholarship process. “In public policy, it’s important to ensure that we educate, include and encourage representation from minoritized communities.”    

Jones has set a personal goal to graduate without debt before she heads law school.  

“Receiving this scholarship from Ms. Gant has allowed me to make incredible connections in D.C. without having to worry about any financial anxieties,” she said. “I’m incredibly grateful for this financial assistance, and I’m hoping that this scholarship will assist other students to apply for future cohorts!”