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START Intern Jumps at Opportunity to Develop New Skills in Data Analysis

START Intern Jumps at Opportunity to Develop New Skills in Data Analysis

Friday, January 9, 2015

Alexa Wesley, Fall 2014 Risk Communication Intern

Interning at START has been a refreshing and enriching experience – unique from any of my past internships.  While the workdays of other interns are often monotonously spent in a copy room, START takes full advantage of its wealth of exceptional interns and engages them through innovative projects and opportunities.

I began my internship with an eagerness to start my work on the Risk Communication team and challenge myself in a field to which I had little exposure. As a government and politics major, I have always had a particular interest in the science of human behavior, yet knew little about the qualitative depths of risk communication and resilience.  

During my first meeting with my program manager Holly Roberts, I voiced my desire to be engaged in the data analysis process of our department’s research ventures. Despite having extensive research experience from past internships, this was my first opportunity to really sink my teeth into any substantive analysis work.

Holly met my request with mutually enthusiastic determination and agreed to help me get the most out of this internship as possible. The entire Risk Communication team approached my personal goals with genuine support and positivity, and thus, my experience at START exceeded my expectations.

I have taken on an array of exciting projects that honed my qualitative measurement and analysis skills, while learning valuable programs such as NVivo and Qualtrics. My work focused on the analysis of public perception of rhetoric as a counterterrorism strategy tool, a subject with which I previously had little experience.

Despite being on a smaller team at START, I still feel that my projects play an important role in START’s research. One of my favorite things about START is the strong sense of community and cohesion between the staff and interns.

I also enjoyed the fascinating seminars offered throughout the semester. These seminars gave me a chance to explore the dynamics of terrorism more broadly.

Being a part of the Risk Communication team has been an amazing learning experience, and I plan to continue as a peer mentor next semester in the First-Year Innovation & Research Experience (FIRE) program. As a peer mentor, I will use what I’ve learned from my time at START to help students achieve their research goals.

Ultimately, my work with START has ignited my interest in the value of communication in counterterrorism and has broadened the spectrum of my professional and academic opportunities.


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This blog represents the opinions of the author, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of START or any office or agency of the United States Government.