The Ohio Education Research Center — a collaborative of the John Glenn College and the Center for Human Resource Research — offers the Public Sector Data Internship Program for students interested in exploring careers in policy research and evaluation. Students receive instruction on data based methods to investigate policy problems, and work at a state agency in Columbus for the summer. The program allows students to discover the exciting work that the Ohio Education Research Center and its affiliate partners are engaged in, and gives students practical experience with theory they learn in college classes. To date, three cohorts of students have completed the internship program. The OERC has asked some of this year’s interns to write about their experiences. The first blog in the series comes from Maddie Dewhirst, a senior in the John Glenn College of Public Affairs, majoring in Public Management Leadership and Policy with a specialization in Policy Analysis and a minor in Society and Environmental Issues. Maddie’s reflections on her summer experience are below:

This summer I participated in the Public Sector Data Internship Program through the Ohio Education Research Center located in Page Hall here at OSU. I was placed in the Office of Research and Analytics at the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) where I spent my summer working on a research project looking into equity among Ohio high schools for Advanced Placement (AP) courses.

I was going into my senior year and looking for an internship that would give me experience in the world of data analysis. I had started taking a few general data courses for my specialization in policy analysis and was thinking that policy and data analysis would be something I would want to do after graduation. This internship program was a great way to see what data work in the public sector is like.

From Monday through Thursday I went into the ODE offices which is where I did all of my research and data analysis under the supervision of an ODE employee. Friday mornings we would have group meetings with all the interns in the program to go over any issues, programming or otherwise, we had come across during the week. I found that this was a great way to learn because each intern was working on a different project and were all doing different things with data that I could still learn from.

All of the data I was analyzing came straight from ODE’s EMIS for my project. On top of the weekly meetings with OERC and interns, I also had regular meetings with my supervisor and others at ODE to check that my work was good by their standards. As I was dealing with student data, I had to make sure to comply with the agency’s data procedures to make sure I was keeping student information safe.

I would recommend this internship program for anyone with an interest in data and policy analysis, especially if you may not be 100% comfortable with the statistical programs involved but are still interested in seeing what it is like. The OERC staff do a great job of helping with problems along the way. The internship was great experience as I really got to see what it was like to work full time in an office setting. I had my own cubicle and attended meetings not related to my project with my supervisor regularly which gave me a good sense of all the projects a data and research analyst works on in a governmental agency. As someone who couldn’t decide between the public or private sector for work after college, this really changed my view on working for the government in a positive way.

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