UConn students across the University, including those from the Neag School of Education, are gaining valuable experiences during summer internships. In the the measurement, evaluation, and assessment (MEA) program at the Neag School, several doctoral students spent the past few months test-driving their future careers, working hand in hand with such prestigious organizations as the College Board, the Law School Admissions Council, and the U.S. Governmental Accountability Office.
This summer, MEA doctoral student Yujia “Eva” Li, received firsthand experience in the social science field through her internship at the College Board Psychometrics Department in Newtown, Pa. Li says she pursued the internship in order to see what it is like to “work outside of academia and meet some professionals in the field.”
Li was part of a research team studying whether participation in advanced placement science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs predicts STEM success in college. She focused on reviewing literature, analyzing data, writing about the results, and putting together a presentation, along with submitting an journal proposal to the American Educational Research Association to share the findings.
“They made an effort to ensure that it was a positive experience,” Li says. “They invited me to team meetings, so I was able to see a little bit about other people’s projects.”
She says she also appreciated that the internship “gave her some freedom to choose which part of the project to work on – and how to do it.”
Learning that “it is important to communicate effectively with people, and remain flexible through changes,” Li found the internship an invaluable opportunity to see how people work in the industry and to make professional connections.
Tanesia Beverly first became interested in the field of educational measurement and psychometrics after taking the Law School Admissions Test a few years back. She was intrigued by the security measures implemented to maintain the integrity of the test. “Similar to airport security, examinees were only permitted into the testing site with a plastic Ziploc bag with certain items: identification, one bottled water, a few pencils, and a snack,” she recalls.
Beverly, who is considering a future career as a psychometrician at a testing company, subsequently decided to pursue an internship at the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) in Newtown, Pa. She wanted an opportunity to work with experts in the field of statistical methods to detect cheating on standardized assessments.
“LSAC is conducting cutting-edge research in this area,” she says. “LSAC’s internship is project-based; however, they allow their interns to carve out a project that is of interest to both parties – the intern and the organization.”
Beverly submitted a proposal for the National Council on Measurement in Education about minimizing errors when using different answer-copying statistics. “We were looking to control the Type I error rate so that the cheating statistics are able to detect cheaters, but not accuse a noncheater of cheating,” she says.
Her colleagues at LSAC, she says, proved supportive and “ensured that I had everything necessary – including the latest cheating detection books – to be successful.” In addition, she received
one-on-one assistance with most of LSAC’s psychometric research team and had the opportunity to network and bounce ideas off of different people. For instance, she says, “We ran our ideas by two prominent researchers in educational measurements, which provided helpful feedback on our research.”
As an MEA doctoral student, Laura Yahn identifies most strongly with the “E” in MEA. “I’m particularly interested in accountability and the intersection between policy and evaluation,” she says. Her summer internship with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in Boston was a natural fit for her interest.
With a background in higher education administration, having previously served as a director of online and hybrid programs at Nichols College in Dudley, Mass., Yahn was assigned to the GAO’s education, workforce, and income security team.
“I assisted a team of analysts and methodologists in conducting an in-depth study of a gender diversity issue in response to a Congressional request,” she says. She assisted in collecting, coding, and analyzing data, and in developing data-based findings and conclusions. She also drafted a portion of the final report, which will be publicly released in December by the GAO.
Yahn commends the “incredibly smart, dedicated people at GAO, who are committed to improving the performance, and ensuring the accountability, of the federal government.”
She had the opportunity not only to learn about the GAO’s efforts to promote good government, but also to contribute as a fully integrated team member. Her responsibilities, and the expectations placed on her, were exactly the same as those of a professional analyst. “Because GAO treats interns like regular staff, it didn’t feel like an internship. It was more like I was test-driving a professional position,” she says. “They made me a better researcher.”
She also learned about effective techniques for construction and supporting arguments, for working with data, and for indexing source material. “These skills are going to make writing my dissertation an infinitely smoother process,” she says. “I’ve also been inspired with several ideas for future research.”