Finding her place: Gabrielle Woodberry found her Ohio State home in Mansfield
In The Ohio State University, Gabrielle Woodberry found a friend — several friends, actually.
Impressing faculty members with her initiative at the Ohio State Mansfield regional campus, Woodberry worked her way through classes, internships and volunteer positions to her latest achievement — selection as one of only 24 applicants statewide for a fellowship with the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.
“I was chosen out of 153 applicants,” said the 22-year-old Boston-born Woodberry, who graduated from Ohio State with a bachelor’s degree in criminology and Spanish in December.
Her selection to the paid 13-month fellowship position serves as another example of the enterprising spirit she showed throughout her first two years on the Mansfield campus, said Pam Schopieray, director of career development and internships at Ohio State Mansfield. Woodberry also was in Schopieray’s career readiness class.
“I think when you think about 23 or 24 spots for the whole state of Ohio, I think that’s pretty fabulous,” Schopieray said. “It’s a position that could launch you further in your career, networking with those people.”
A Mansfield beginning
Woodberry enrolled as a Buckeye after graduating from high school in suburban Boston.
“Even in Boston, I knew about Ohio State,” she said. “I liked the atmosphere around sports. I also heard it was an accredited university.”
She was disappointed not to be accepted as a first-year student in Columbus and found the transition to the smaller Mansfield regional campus from her diverse neighborhood to be a bit challenging.
“Orientation felt weird, being black and masculine-presenting,” said Woodberry, adding that her family is West Indian. “It’s very different from where I was from. Although I went to a high school in a suburban neighborhood, there’s a lot of diversity within my neighborhood. Once I got there [Ohio State Mansfield], it was cool because I found my friends.”
One of those friends was Renee Thompson, diversity and inclusion coordinator at the school, who led a seminar for students of color.
“She really cared about people,” Woodberry said. “She would always talk to me, and we’d always have deep conversations. I just got to build a relationship with Miss Renee. She’s a cool instructor. And then also there were people of color, like black students in the class. It was just nice having a place to hang out, really.”
Thompson inspired Woodberry to pursue her interests.
“Miss Renee was a huge part for my wanting to be in leadership,” she said. “She saw something in me. She encouraged me to be a good leader by having me do things like the black history committee.”
Other faculty members saw something in Woodberry, as well.
“My Spanish teacher [Lindy Camacho] told me [the Conard Learning Center] was looking for a Spanish tutor,” she said, adding that Andrew Mueller, director of the learning center, helped her take on that new responsibility.
Rachel Bowen, an associate professor of political science, asked her to assist her with research on gender violence in Central America.
“She approached me,” Woodberry said. “She had heard about me through Miss Renee.”
Access to such individuals is a key benefit to attending Ohio State Mansfield, Woodberry said.
“I like the fact that [Mansfield] was intimate, the class sizes,” she said. “You could really be one-on-one with your teachers.”
As a freshman, she found out about an internship in the Boston office of the U.S. Department of Defense and approached Schopieray for assistance with her application. She found the experience valuable.
“I worked on an Air Force base at a grocery store,” she said. “It definitely taught me a lot of discipline.”
While at the Mansfield campus, Woodberry also volunteered with the Richland County Prosecutor’s Office.
Transitioning to Columbus
She made the move to Ohio State’s Columbus campus after, at the encouragement of Camacho, she decided to add Spanish as a major in addition to criminology.
“I started Spanish in the sixth grade,” Woodberry said. “[Camacho] said, ‘You really should major in Spanish. You’re good at it.’”
Once in Columbus, she completed a NEW Leadership Ohio program and a Women in Politics class, which “sparked my interest in politics.” The class required her to complete an internship in the Ohio House of Representatives, where she served Rep. Alicia Reece, D-Cincinnati, and learned about the Ohio Legislative Service Commission fellowship.
After two rounds of interviews, she was selected as a fellow to work in the Ohio Senate for Sen. Sandra Williams, D-Cleveland.
“Every day is different,” she said. “We answer constituent calls and work with constituents in our district who are having any trouble with state agencies.” She also has opportunities to write resolutions and to do research.
The array of experiences has replaced her plans to pursue a law enforcement career with thoughts of pursuing politics or returning to school to study Hispanic linguistics.
Ohio State Mansfield and its faculty and staff set her up to pursue a world of options, she said.
She said Ohio State Mansfield offers valuable possibilities to all its students.
“Take ahold of the opportunities that you’re given, because you never know where they’re going to lead,” she said.