Finding the right internship opportunity can be stressful and difficult. Just as I was getting discouraged with the process, I landed what seemed like the dream opportunity working as a Data Analyst Intern in the Office of New Schools at Chicago Public Schools. It was the perfect marriage of my interest in education that I’m exploring in SESP and the analytic skills that I’m acquiring in the MMSS program. My internship exposed me to a host of new experiences. Some were incredibly exciting (summer in Chicago, working in the Loop), and some not so much (commuting on the L, working 9-to-5). Regardless, this summer has been extremely rewarding.
I found the job through an email that went out over the MMSS listserv in October 2012, advertising the internship opportunity. Being a busy Northwestern student, I ignored it the first time I saw it in my inbox. However, when I was starting my internship search over winter break, I stumbled upon the email and decided to respond. After a series of emails and a couple of interviews, I had the job and was both excited and nervous to start.
The Office of New Schools (ONS) is responsible for incubating new schools, authorizing new charter and contract schools, holding schools accountable to their contracts, and acting as a liaison between charter schools and the rest of CPS. It’s a multifunctional office that uses, maintains, and reports a lot of data from a variety of sources. In recent years, ONS has been downsized even as more charter schools continue to open. Data management was put on the back burner as the focus shifted to completing more critical work functions, resulting in a disorganized data environment.
My summer project was to scope out the ONS data landscape, analyze it, and provide a recommendation for the development of data management infrastructure. As far as I’m concerned it was the perfect project for an intern. I spent no time working on menial or mundane tasks. Rather, I interviewed all of my coworkers so that I could develop a deep understanding of how the office functions, researched data management practices that would guide my recommendation, analyzed the data I collected, and thought critically about big and real problems. At the end of the project, I created a presentation to get my team members and supervisors to buy into my recommendation. It was a challenging project, one that kept me busy and forced me to step out of my comfort zone. It was an excellent opportunity to explore an organization while also developing some career skills.
In addition to this, working in the CPS Central Office put me in a great position to explore Chicago. As Northwestern students during the year, it’s easy to let cold weather and a huge workload take precedence over experiencing life in one of the world’s best cities. Over the summer, these barriers disappear. All of the concerts, festivals, sporting events, restaurants, bars, and shops that Chicago has to offer can have your full attention after work and on weekends. If you go to Northwestern, you definitely owe it to yourself to spend a summer in Evanston or Chicago.
This internship has encouraged me to continue exploring, taking chances, and seeking out new adventures. I think this attitude is a central aspect of the college experience, and finding internships in new places is a perfect way to indulge it.
Matt Kendall is a Data Analyst Intern in the Office of New Schools at Chicago Public School this summer. He is a rising junior studying Learning and Organizational Change in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. He is also seeking an adjunct major in Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences.
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