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Student Spotlights

Grace Burns: International Relations

Grace interned for American Enterprise Institute during 2022 Winter Semester.

Describe a day in your life as an intern.

One of my favorite parts of my day was my 20 minute walk to work each morning because I got to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city. My internship provided breakfast so I would get some food and then have a check-in meeting with my two supervisors to see what our priorities were that day. They would give me assignments and then I would go to my desk in the intern bay and get to talk to the other interns while I worked. I was in constant communication with my supervisors, also known as the research assistants, because we were all working on the same projects so if I had questions I would go over to their desks. Lunch was also provided and I ate with the interns in the dining room. After lunch I would check in again with the research assistants and we would keep working for the rest of the afternoon. Sometimes there were scholar talks, public events, or book clubs I would attend too. At 5 I would walk home and then usually go for a longer walk somewhere around the city. I would spend time with the other Barlow students in the evening either working on the homework or doing something fun together.

What industry/job specific skills did you learn?

I did a public opinion polling internship so I learned how to use online questionnaire databases, create question banks, design questionnaires, build toplines, search for different sources of survey bias, compile literature reviews and background research, do data analysis in STATA, create data visualizations in DataWrapper, do number checks, audit historical media mentions, and draft reports about data.

What are three things that you learned from this experience that could be applied to other settings?

One thing I learned was how to speak up and share my ideas. One of the projects I did was coming up with ideas for our weekly "Facts and Figures" portion of our website where we highlighted interesting data that wasn't in our reports. I searched through the data for things that would be interesting and made sample visualizations to suggest to the RAs and scholar. A lot of my ideas didn't work but a lot also did so I got over my fear of being wrong and learned to not be afraid to speak up. Another thing I learned was how to be a better communicator on a team. I felt like I was a good communicator in the past but this taught me how important it is when I'm working on a team to be more precise in telling others what exactly I'm working on. Usually I like to be a little more independent and do things on my own and check in every so often but to contribute to the efficiency of the team I was always telling the RAs what I was doing so they could know and ask me to do something else if there was something more pressing to be doing. Finally, I learned to advocate for myself and my learning. I was able to learn some extra STATA and other data analysis skills because I was willing to ask so I learned that it is always valuable to speak up for myself. Through this I also learned not to be afraid to take up space in the workday because at first I was hesitant to take time from my RAs for them to teach me things but they taught me that people are willing to take time to help you out if you show gratitude and a genuine interest in what they have to offer.

What was your favorite part of your internship?

My favorite part was getting to explore the interesting data we were working with and find interesting trends to show the scholar.

How did this experience affect your future goals?

I know now I am very interested in public opinion polling so I am seeking out more experiences at BYU to get involved with survey research. I also have a goal of working as a research assistant at a think tank when I am done with my undergrad.

How did you get your internship?

I was talking to a BYU student who did an internship that I was interviewing for, and she said she didn't have the best experience and recommended I look at this internship, which her friend had done and she said she seemed to have a better experience and learned a lot more. I quickly looked and applied for this one and I loved my interview and everything fell into place..

How did this experience contribute to your growth?

It contributed a lot to my professional growth because it taught me a lot of good practical skills for working in survey research, such as Roper, STATA and DataWrapper. It also allowed me to build my professional network a lot and meet young professionals doing things I was interested in. It also helped me grow a lot personally to see my strengths and weaknesses in a professional setting and improve on those, including things I mentioned earlier like speaking up and advocating for myself.

This is me on the last day of my internship with my supervisors, who are both research assistants at the institute. On the left is Bea, I (Grace) am in the middle, and on the right is Dana.