Skip to main content
Student Spotlights

Vanessa Bowers: Anthropology

Vanessa interned as a Qualitive Researcher at the Provo MTC during Winter 2022 Semester.

Describe a day in your life as an intern.

On a typical day, I coordinated with MTC teachers whose districts I had been assigned to observe, and I scheduled times to observe class on Zoom or in person. I also messaged the missionaries in those districts and set up times to interview them and to participate in other activities with them, such as planning, studies, and meal times. I took quick, discreet notes during these observations, which I later expanded into longer documents with my findings and personal thoughts. Most days, I spent between 1-4 hours observing, writing notes, coordinating, uploading documents, and analyzing data on MAXQDA.

What industry/job specific skills did you learn?

I learned to hone my interviewing skills by asking more open-ended questions and responding neutrally, and how to separate my personal thoughts from observations in my notes to ensure a level of neutrality. I also learned how to use the basic functions of the data analysis software MAXQDA and how to analyze qualitative and quantitative data in general on my own and in a group. I found a balance between professionalism and friendliness with research subjects.

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

1) Fake it 'til you make it: If you don't know what you're doing and you don't have time to learn or be more prepared, act confident and friendly. At the beginning of this internship, I had little experience with qualitative research methods and I was worried I'd do things wrong. I learned to ask a lot of questions to those in charge or with more experience, but when I didn't have that option, I just acted like I thought a good qualitative researcher and a good person would act like, and things worked out well.

2) Creative problem-solving: I often had to come up with creative ways to collect data, especially when working with a district located in Mexico City while I was in Provo and the missionaries had little access to technology. I learned to try the easiest and most obvious avenues first, like coordinating with teachers to observe class via Zoom, but I also learned that oftentimes, the preferred way isn't available and I have to brainstorm and try unconventional methods, like having missionaries add me to their weekly email list or send me short vlogs of their time in the MTC.

3) It's important to have a plan, but be flexible enough to change it if needed- Fake it 'til you make it works if needed and it builds confidence in one's ability to improvise, but it's better to plan ahead and try to know what you need to prepare in advance as much as you can. Faking it can eventually bring confidence, but preparation brings immediate, solid confidence and success.

What was your favorite part of your internship?

I enjoyed getting to know more people in my major who were also interested in pursuing careers in applied anthropology. It was fun to have more of a community than I've previously had in my major, and it gave me new connections and ideas that I can work with in the future.

How did this experience affect your future goals?

This experience opened up many opportunities for my future career. I plan to work as a qualitative and quantitative researcher in humanitarian organizations in the future, so I needed some hands-on experience to get me started. This internship allowed me to get a job doing the same work at the MTC, which will be another great stepping stone to future work in the development sector. I also learned and sharpened some crucial skills for the industry and I found people who are willing to work with me on a project I'm heading in Armenia.

How did you get your internship?

I received an email from the Anthropology Department informing me of the internship, so I applied and emailed the people in charge of it to ask a few questions. They interviewed me over the phone about my past experiences and skills relating to the internship, but they basically accept any BYU student who applies.

How did this experience contribute to your growth?

I gained confidence, friends, connections, college credit, professional skills, ideas of possibilities for my future, and personal experiences to defend myself next time someone questions why I'm studying a "useless major".