Grad Internship Program Students

Meet some students who have had graduate internships.

Paula Armendáriz Miranda, PhD candidate

Department of Political Science

Internship: University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing Services

During my internship at the University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing Services, I worked on several projects involving journals’ policies, preservation procedures, and formatting files for digital publishing platforms. I implemented two projects. The first one involved collecting and analyzing journals’ policies and compare these to the publisher’s goals and guidelines. As a result, I provided a set of recommendations for journals to update, change, or implement policies that go in line with the publisher’s open access policies. For this project, I also developed a series of recommendations for journals to improve their peer review process and authors’ submission guidelines. 

For the second project, I implemented a preservation plan for the publisher’s journals. I collected and analyzed existing data from Portico (a digital preservation service) regarding preserved articles. Based on this data, I developed and implemented a plan to improve articles’ preservation procedures. As a result, I updated and improved the preservation system across all journals by identifying issues that prevented articles from being exported to Portico. The publisher now has a clean dataset detailing which articles were successfully preserved and identifying articles with errors that prevented them from being uploaded. 

My internship with the University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing Services will contribute to my career in several ways. First of all, the internship has helped me identify the career path that I want to pursue. Second, this experience has helped me strengthen my project management skills by implementing and improving two crucial projects for the publisher. Finally, the internship adds to my experience in publishing, which provides me with the necessary resources to apply for a job in the near future. 

View Paula’s profile

 

Elizabeth Badger, PhD candidate

Department of History

Internship: UMN libraries / Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine, Charles Babbage Institute 

When the internship was first established, nothing about it seemed like it would be overtly challenging. At the time, the biggest logistical issue was booking archival appointments to look into sources and determine their appropriateness for the guides in question.

However, a series of challenges have made this internship go less smoothly than it should have. One was just the late start of the internship, starting in June rather than in May. In addition, the Wangensteen was in the process of moving its collections to a new building, thus making access to those collections unavailable for about a month. Given this, I had planned to work primarily virtually for the first month, which would allow some personal time to visit family I had not seen since the start of the pandemic.

Logistics were another major issue. Finding meeting times for two different organizations, as well as creating agreements which worked with both groups, was more time-consuming than expected. On top of that, the pandemic limited the degree to which archives were open and available, and I had to schedule around those limitations as well as time schedules and the simple practical matter of how much material could be retrieved at a time.

In the end, one completely unexpected factor ended up making the biggest impact: my own health. Much of May was already lost to illness both natural and post-vaccine. This, plus high heat, resulted in my gallbladder beginning to malfunction a day before I was to fly out to visit family. By the middle of July, the prognosis was clear: the gallbladder would have to come out. As a result, I had major surgery at the beginning of August, and lost about two weeks of work time recovering from that. This has resulted in the end time of the internship overflowing into a teaching assistant position for the University.

I had certainly been aware that challenges would be present. As a woman on the autism spectrum, I have neurological and mental quirks I need to navigate around to work effectively, and anything that causes disruptions to my coping mechanisms slows me down. The gallbladder situation, however, complicated things in ways I nor anybody else could have anticipated.

This writeup may seem like this internship was unproductive, and certainly, I have gotten less done than I would have—as of this writing, the fourth libguide seems unlikely to be finished. But this has still been an excellent internship, affording me the opportunity to learn how to curate and evaluate items for usefulness in specific topics.

It has also afforded me the opportunity to help discover interdisciplinary potential between two archives with drastically different collecting goals and eras, and I am glad to get the chance to help others find the same. Finally, I have been able to develop smaller skills, such as tracking work times and utilizing specific web programs, all of which will help me in non-academic careers. Overall, this has been a positive but challenging experience.

 

Nathan Stenberg, PhD candidate

Department of Theatre Arts & Dance 

Internship: Disability & Aging Policy Intern with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Office

As a first-generation disabled college graduate from rural Minnesota, I found myself not in a doctoral program by design but by happenstance. Growing up, I spent my childhood in the care of people called “Dr.” Hence, I went to graduate school not because I loved thought for thought’s sake, but because I sought the social legitimacy of those same people. 

As my research focus became clear (understanding the historic and ongoing segregation of disabled Americans in custodial institutions), my question of “what’s next?” grew fuzzy. While I found myself immersed in the debates within my discipline, I also questioned if I had made the right choice. What if teaching isn’t for me? Would gaining a doctorate in theatre historiography truly provide me with the skills I need to succeed in the professional world? Did I doom myself to an unintentional fate of self-doubt and career pessimism? Now, after completing the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) Graduate Student Internship program, I can tell you, my dear reader, I learned more than what the difference between a résumé and a CV is. What I learned is a simple, but an often-elusive concept for graduate students: to believe in myself.

This summer I served as the Disability & Aging Policy Intern with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Office (D-NY). I worked directly with the senator’s senior advisor to draft legislation that will provide funding for and technological support to direct support workers (DSW). DSWs provide essential in-home care supports to disabled people. (Everything from helping someone get dressed in the morning to taking notes for a student in class.) In addition, most DSWs are women and people of color from lower- and working-class backgrounds. The legislation I helped create will not only help bolster federally funded wages for DSWs but also create a program to train DSWs in how to use new assistive technologies.

The internship program equipped me with invaluable skills. It provided me with the soft skills I needed—like networking and learning the minute differences between academia and the rest of the world. But it also taught me technical skills—like understanding how to convert a CV into a résumé and how to draft policy memorandums. Ultimately, I learned the ins and outs of getting a piece of legislation into draft form. (Turns out it’s not nearly as simple as I thought.) 

In a rather ironic way, this program also helped me to appreciate my research, my dissertation, and my program more. In hindsight, I found that my doctoral studies had already equipped me with most of the skills I needed. Fundamental research and teaching skills—like verbal and written communication, data analysis, and synthesizing lofty concepts into easy-to-understand deliverables—proved invaluable to my time working on the Hill. I connected my research with “real-world” problems faced by the constituents I served this summer. In doing so, this helped me address those problems at a national, systematic level. But, to my surprise, it also helped me find new joy in the often-perilous process of writing my dissertation.

Finally, this internship taught me not to put so much stress on choosing between academic or non-academic jobs. As I mentioned earlier, I did not understand that getting a PhD traditionally means entering academia after graduation. While my advisor and my program (thankfully) emphasize career professionalization early, I felt like I could only choose one or the other. This internship program showed me I can let my professional work inform my scholarship and vice versa. I now know what I want (and do not want) to do when I graduate. 

Most importantly, it has reminded me why I continue my doctoral education: I do this not just because I want to be called “Dr. Stenberg” one day. I continue with my doctoral education because I want to serve the people from my community. My doctoral training, along with this internship, has given me the tools to do just that.

 

Ilana Turner, PhD candidate

Department of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies

Internship:  Researcher, UNITE HERE Local 11

As part of the CLA Graduate Internship, I interned as a researcher with UNITE HERE Local 11, which is a hospitality workers’ union representing 32,000 members across Southern California and Arizona. 

This internship provided invaluable experience conducting nonacademic research to organize issue-based campaigns and build a progressive political movement. I learned practical skills researching and writing a white paper, conducting voter outreach, communicating with local government, organizing actions, and tracking local politics in 20 cities on a weekly basis.

Working with the research team, communications team, legal team, and labor organizers was an incredible opportunity to learn from their wealth of expertise, and also showed me that I work best in collaboration. 

Just as importantly, I learned that academic skills truly do transfer to nonacademic jobs. The ability to quickly locate, read, evaluate, and synthesize multiple sources of information on an unfamiliar topic and communicate it to a variety of audiences is extremely useful to organizations operating on that information in real-time. Even mundane academic skills, like using research databases or uploading final grades with csv files transferred to working with other types of data. 

After my internship, I was asked to stay on as a part-time researcher, which has since become a full-time offer. I’m reluctantly passing, in order to finish my dissertation. I hope I will have the opportunity to work with this organization in the future. But, even if that doesn’t work out, knowing that nonacademic research jobs exist and that my academic training has given me the basic skills to do them is valuable in and of itself.

 

Ashley Walters, PhD candidate

Department of Psychology

Internship: Federal Judicial Center

I worked as a graduate student research assistant at the Federal Judicial Center (FJC), which is an independent research and education agency within the judicial branch. My past research experience on workplace harassment and representation made me a good fit for a project on workplace conduct in the federal courts. I worked with senior researchers at the FJC to develop a survey template that can be used and adapted by the courts to measure workplace conduct and culture. 

Also, I worked with the American College of Bankruptcy to help the newly created Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Commission. I collaborated with the DEI Commission to create a survey assessing diversity and inclusion in the College. Over the summer, I gained experience in how research differs in a non-academic setting and how to balance stakeholders’ preferences with research interests. I’ll be continuing my work at the FJC part-time throughout the academic year, and I’m excited to continue working on impactful and interesting projects at the FJC.

After graduate school, I am interested in further developing my skill set at the intersection of science and policy by working in government or the nonprofit sector. I am interested in applying my research and data analysis skills to understanding consequential problems and to develop and test interventions. In particular, my goal is to work in an area where I can develop approaches to reducing prejudice and enhancing fairness in the legal system that are both theory-driven and practical to implement. 

My summer at the FJC is an important step towards learning how to adapt my past research experiences to a new setting in government. In federal and state governments, there are opportunities for scientists to use their expertise to engage directly with the legal system, such as working at the FJC. At the level of state government, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) conducts research to improve the administration of justice in state courts. For example, the NCSC is currently studying whether a video on implicit bias during jury orientation is effective in educating jurors. 

There are various career paths within government, both at the federal level and state level, that would allow me to use my research and analytic skills to study stereotyping and ways to enhance diversity in organizational contexts, including the legal system. 

Similarly, in the non-profit sector, the Pew Research Center conducts public opinion polling to understand attitudes and inform policymakers on a variety of issues. By using social science research and methods, the Pew Research Center studies and reports on data-driven trends and issues, including issues related to diversity.

Through my internship at the FJC, I hope to gain a foothold in policy research, either in government or nonprofit organizations, that will continue after graduate school. I hope to escalate my efforts to gain the necessary experience to pursue my goal of advancing psychological theory while also finding ways to improve the administration of justice in real-world settings.