Grayce Payne is Education Analytics’ 2022 Marketing and Social Media Intern for the Impact Team.
Every summer, Education Analytics welcomes a new cohort of interns who support several teams and projects at EA. The internship program started in 2014, when our Analyst team wanted to grow their pipeline of future programmers by hiring students who might not have prior programming experience but demonstrated an interest in developing programming skills. The program began with two goals: hire students who are passionate about gaining new, valuable skills in the fields of data analysis and programming; and introduce more diverse perspectives into the field. The program was built on the idea that students don’t need extensive prior knowledge, because the internship is designed to teach students the relevant skills they need to succeed during their internship—skills which they can bring into future career opportunities.
The first few cohorts of the internship program were students who were attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, so they were local to EA’s office. As the program grew—and as EA focused more on expanding the diversity of its applicant pool—recruitment efforts extended beyond UW-Madison. Doing so has enabled EA to include more students in fields that have traditionally lacked inclusion of historically underrepresented and marginalized groups, which is part of our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). We have always believed in the importance of providing full-time, paid internships (plus a housing stipend for in-person interns), so that cost is not a barrier to participating in the program. Although our interns come from many backgrounds, we have had the privilege of hosting several interns who identify as female, Black, or first-generation college students. In addition to the Analyst team, our program has expanded to other teams at EA, including Software Engineering, Data Strategy, Impact, Business Development, Finance & Accounting, Program Operations, and People Operations.
About the Program
Interns participate in a minimum 10-week-long, paid program that includes EA-wide training modules, team-specific training, weekly intern meetings, assigned projects, and the chance to develop their own project over the summer. Interns can be in-person or remote, with requirements varying by team.
Team-specific training enables interns to leave EA with valuable knowledge and guidance that will allow them to succeed beyond their time here. For example, interns on the Analyst team leave their internship understanding the basics of the “R” programming language to conduct statistical computations. EA’s interns are also encouraged to attend weekly meetings with permanent EA staff to familiarize themselves with the basics of our organization and to network. Interns choose and design their own project to work on throughout their internship, with feedback and guidance from their assigned mentor, culminating in a presentation at the end of the summer to the entire organization. These presentations allow interns to practice their public speaking skills, give them exposure to the full EA staff, and provide the opportunity to highlight their contributions during their internship.
Benefits of the Internship Program
At EA, we understand that internships provide postsecondary students with important access to new opportunities and avenues for support in their career. In particular, the internship program at EA represents a paid opportunity for interns to:
While there are many benefits for our interns, we also want to acknowledge the internal benefits EA gains from the internship. One major way interns help EA is through their contributions to projects during their internship. Intern work helps to reduce the amount of time permanent EA employees spend on projects during the summer, when demand for our services is often highest (as it is when education agencies are analyzing data from the previous school year in preparation for the upcoming school year). Assistance from our interns also enables EA staff to devote more time to high-priority products and projects, or those projects requiring high degrees of specialty or expertise. EA also benefits from the diverse range of perspectives and insights that interns bring, which has encouraged EA team members to expand their own thinking and understanding.
The internship program also provides more junior EA employees with an opportunity to mentor and supervise interns. Mentors function as the interns’ main point of contact, help assign intern work, support them as they design their summer projects, answer questions, help them with time management, and provide one-on-one support. The mentorship aspect of the internship program enables EA staff to develop managerial skills that they can take with them throughout their careers.
Applications start to roll out in January and February, as that is when many students begin thinking about the upcoming summer. The program typically aims to bring on 10 interns per summer, but the size of each cohort varies depending on project demands and team capacity.
The application process includes a resume and cover letter, along with a team-specific exercise, which helps team leaders to get a better understanding of a student’s skill level. Because students are not required to have certain training or skills before working at EA, most of the exercises focus on how students can apply the knowledge they already have to think through datasets or problems they would encounter in their everyday work at EA. For example, students applying to work on the Analyst team are sent a series of questions that involve making observations about a dataset, along with explaining how their current skillset would transfer over to their work with the team.
2022 Intern Summer Projects
Along with completing other assignments and projects assigned to them by their mentors, EA interns spend a significant part of their internship designing a project of their choosing to work on throughout the summer. The intern-led projects serve as a unique opportunity for students to explore a certain question or issue they are interested in finding a solution to. Throughout the process of developing their projects, each intern is given guidance, support, and feedback from their mentors to ensure they are on-track and prepared to present their projects to EA staff at the end of the summer.
To demonstrate the range of work from this year’s cohort, below we highlight the projects some of our interns have been working on.
Carly Benson, Research Analyst Intern
Carly’s intern project is a report that summarizes various quality control metrics for the Hillsborough County (FL) Public Schools’ growth model and compares these metrics over multiple years. She chose this project because she is interested in the communicative, visual, and aesthetic aspects of creating a data report. Carly hopes her report will be replicated for years to come to help EA ensure we are delivering quality results to our partners on the Hillsborough project and beyond.
Sergei Mundt, Finance & Accounting Intern
Sergei’s intern project involves analyzing EA’s credit card statements for recurring transactions and moving those vendors to direct billing instead. A receipt is necessary for each individual credit card transaction, requiring a significant amount of the cardholder’s time. He chose this project because direct billing allows the finance department to receive and pay invoices either by check or ACH (bank transfer), saving EA staff members’ time, as they are no longer having to personally manage those transactions. Sergei’s project will also help EA to reduce the risk of approaching or exceeding its monthly credit card limit as an organization.
Brennan Maynard, Research Analyst Intern
For Brennan’s intern project, she is creating an interactive dashboard that will compare results from two different growth models. She is interested in observing how a change in the growth model used could impact the actions states or districts may consider to support school improvement. She hopes her project will shed light on how big or small those changes are and, in turn, will further inform EA and our partners about the strengths and weaknesses of different growth models.
Meghana Bommareddy, Business Development Intern
Meghana’s intern project involves designing pricing options for EA’s burgeoning public data product offering, with a focus on making sure the product is both affordable and helpful to our partners. She is excited about the focus of her project because she accepted this internship position to learn more about business development and social impact technologies, and her intern project has provided her with an in-depth understanding of what those two things look like in practice.
Abhinav Krishnan, Research Analyst Intern
Abhinav’s intern project involves designing a series of functions that can automatically “back out” data from suppressed cells using row and subgroup totals (in other words, figure out what the original numbers of a table are when those numbers have been hidden due to small sample sizes). Historically, this process has been individualized to each state and, as a result, can take hours to code. Instead, Abhinav’s project will allow the Analyst team to call a single line of code to a generalized function, saving analysts hours of coding and manual quality control checks. He has enjoyed working on this project because he is interested in developing robust code-based solutions to optimize EA’s production process and overcome recurring issues.
Grayce Payne, Marketing & Social Media Intern
My intern project involves designing an external EA newsletter template that the Impact team can use to send announcements about recent blog posts, press releases, and product updates directly to subscribers via email. The newsletter will serve as a new way to keep our key audiences engaged with our content, especially if they don’t follow our social media accounts or regularly check the website. I am interested in working on this project because I have never built my own templates from the ground up, so I am excited to have the opportunity to become more familiar with the design process involved with creating the newsletter.
What’s Next for The Internship Program?
EA’s internship program will keep evolving to meet the changing needs of the data and technology fields by updating the training modules and assignments we give to our interns. We want to ensure all our interns leave EA with relevant and marketable skills that will enable them to find success throughout their professional careers. We also hope the internship program will continue to steer interested and passionate students towards a career path in the fields of education, data, and technology. In the past, EA has been fortunate enough to bring on several of our interns as part-time or full-time employees after the completion of their internships; whether with EA or other organizations, our primary goal of the program is to help students find meaningful and impactful work.
The internship program will continue offering remote internships to students, as well as housing stipends for those interested in working in-person at our office in Madison. Remote internships help EA to maintain its DEI commitment, because remote work removes costs and barriers associated with moving to and living in Madison that might hinder students from lower-income backgrounds from applying to work for EA. Currently, we have three in-person interns and five remote interns who are working for EA this summer.
Intern projects will remain a key aspect of the internship program, because some intern projects go on to serve vital purposes for the partner projects they are a part of, and other projects go on to have an impact on the way we do work at the organization more broadly. The long-lasting influence of each cohort of interns demonstrates how the internship program at EA continues to supply our organization with innovative ideas and fresh perspectives that enable us to evolve to meet the ever-changing demands of the data and programming fields.
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