Student Internship Spotlights
See how some of our current students are kicking off their public policy careers!
Research Associate Intern
American Institutes for Research
The American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a social science research and evaluation firm primarily focused on education, health care and the workforce. AIR’s mission is to “conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation towards improving people's lives, with a special emphasis on the disadvantaged.” The organization seeks to inform public understanding and policymaking decisions through client consultation and practitioner recommendations for best practices and improvements. AIR also values objectivity and nonpartisanship in its research and evaluation efforts. They are headquartered in Washington, D.C., but have eighteen additional domestic office locations and five international locations in Africa and Central America. The organization primarily conducts program and policy evaluation, which employs advanced, always-improving statistical and research methods to assess client projects. Its employees are focused on the design, integrity and functionality of their research and evaluation plans in order to best serve clients, who range from local, state and national governments, private companies, and nonprofit foundations who look to AIR for assistance to best implement their own goals and everyday practices.
As a Research Associate Intern, I was primarily tasked with conducting quantitative and qualitative research for REL Midwest, a regional education laboratory within the United States Department of Education. I was assigned to seven projects over ten weeks, and each one usually utilized one data analysis software or tool to complete tasks. For example, I worked solely in Stata writing code for a project on school choice for the Indiana Department of Education. On another team, I used qualitative methods for the Madison Metropolitan School District by pulling out meaningful codes and themes from interview data using NVivo. Beyond research and analysis of already collected data, I was also able to play a role in the process of gathering data for analysis later on. For example, I interacted with clients on a project called CT4EDU, which is piloting a computer science curriculum program for grades 3-5 in the Oakland School District near Detroit, Michigan. I was tasked with drafting interview questions for participants and conducting those interviews via Skype with teachers, district specialists, and other researchers. was also an expectation for interns to attend all meetings with supervisors and other team members, manage a calendar of events and tasks, and keep up with all literature and background information provided on the project, particularly for initiatives that I jumped into after they had commenced. Overall, my internship at AIR was invaluable in terms of the knowledge, hard skills and abilities in evaluation and research that I was fortunate enough to gain last summer.
Jesus Del Toro
City of Chicago
During the summer I had the pleasure of serving as a Mayoral Fellow at the City of Chicago. The general mission of local government is to serve and protect their constituents. However, every administration is led by an executive who may have different priorities and values that guide their decisions. It was clear from the beginning of the fellowship that as fellows, we too, had to adhere to a system of values set forth by the Mayor. As expected, there are many responsibilities that the city government undertakes. This was also true within the Mayor’s Office. I worked closely with the Office of Public Engagement, which was led by the Chief Engagement Officer, Juan Carlos Linares. This office was created under the Emmanuel administration and its primary role was to serve as a direct link between the Mayor's Office, City departments, Sister Agencies, external partners and communities across the City to make the city government and its resources more accessible. Working alongside the Public Engagement team was a great experience, especially under the leadership of Juan Carlos who is someone with a breath of experience working directly with community-based organizations and residents. I also appreciated his leadership style. I learned how to best run a meeting and at the same time how to create community between my colleagues. During my time at the Mayor’s Office, I had a plethora of projects that challenged me to learn new things, but also reinforced some of my strongest skills. I worked closely with a team of fellows to create an action-plan to prepare the City for the upcoming 2020 Census. This project demanded an all-hands-on-deck approach, it involved identifying and eventually partnering with key government officials, business leaders, community organizers, faith leaders, philanthropic organizations and residents. This project also involved tracking and analyzing federal, state, and local efforts as it related to the census. The latter, supported our team’s recommendation of a $2.7 million investment towards census outreach and was ultimately introduced by Mayor Lightfoot and approved by the City Council, making it the largest amount committed towards census efforts in the city’s history. This accomplishment was definitely one of the highlights of the fellowship and I was proud to be at press conference when the announcement was made in the fall.