Summer Internship Spotlight: National Education Association
Diane D’Costa is a fourth year at the University of Virginia studying Youth and Social Innovation in the Curry School and Leadership and Public Policy in the Batten School. This past summer, Diane explored D.C. as an intern for the National Education Association and synthesized work on the Every Student Succeeds Act.
How did you hear about NEA and what was the interview like?
I found out about the internship through the education policy career treck through the Career Center, when they took us on a trip to D.C. I found out about the NEA’s internship program there, and after submitting an application and resume online, I had a single phone interview and it was a done deal. I even got my first choice of division which was unexpected.
The timeline to apply for this was really late in comparison to other majors: I applied around March, found out about it in late April, and accepted in early June. I feel like people think they have to find their internships right at the start of the fall semester, but that’s definitely not the case.
Tell us a little more about your internship…
This summer I interned in the education policy and practice division of the National Education Association and worked on projects about equity and state plans for ESSA, the Every Student Succeeds Act. While I interned, I worked on tailored projects for the organization, travelled around DC, attended different panels, and was invited to several different events that exposed me to aspects of the education policy sphere. The specific project I was working on for most of the time was on equity provisions in ESSA: I did policy analysis of state plans and proposals and wrote briefs and one-pagers on both comprehensive and targeted school improvements.
I was essentially another employee in the division of the education policy practice and had a direct supervisor that I would report to. I also had the opportunity to sit in on department meetings. Essentially, I was there to absorb what was going on, and if I had things to say, I was always guaranteed a voice.
How is this program unique from others out there?
What set this internship apart from others is that the position was compensated and I was able to work in a division I wanted alongside sixty other interns total. That made a huge difference, because while NEA was big, I was able to tap into an infinite amount of resources to network across the board. I was able to see the vast opportunities there are to make an impact in education just from one organization.
What did you gain from the experience?
Working with the NEA allowed me to get first-hand experience with policy analysis, so it was really awesome to apply and see how tangible my Batten skillset is in a professional field. I even had exposure to organizations in D.C. I hope to work for in the future. In addition, I also created a running list of potential employers and graduate school programs through my experiences. Because of my internship, I now have more direction in terms of the work I like in the policy field and the different facets education policy includes. Also, who does what kind of work is really interesting to figure out personally as well as the different workplace environments available. Something about the NEA is that they have older employers, and while that’s great for mentorship, it’s not the youthful atmosphere I’m looking for full-time. Location and offices are important to consider, and not many people think about those factors.
I think that if you want to go into policy, having some experience in teaching gives you credibility. People trust you and believe in your decisions, which is so valuable. It’s important that more people in policy have experience in classrooms because that disconnect is where problems usually arise.
Do you have any advice to people pursuing internships in education?
I sat on a panel about careers earlier this month for Batten, and something really important to remember when applying for jobs is that if you’re really passionate about your field and genuinely show it, that will resonate with your interviewer. You don’t necessarily need to reach out to alumni or be super into LinkedIn constantly. Show you care, speak to your passions, and that will resonate with employers.
I would recommend that people put themselves out there and don’t get discouraged by other opportunities their friends are pursuing. Don’t get discouraged by applications not coming out until March, or by your friends having things set by the end of September. Know that different industries work on different timelines and that there is a wealth of opportunities in your field. Consulting isn’t the only option available to policy students; sometimes students think that to be successful they can only work in one of four companies, but that’s not true at all. There are so many different avenues you can take to make an impact in education, so never limit yourself.
Did you have a great summer experience in the Education, Counseling, or Youth Development field? Share your story with the UVA Community! Email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com with “ECYD Blog” in the subject line.