The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Class of 2021 First-Year Fellow: Valerie Truong

FYF Valerie Truong

As a First-Year Fellow, Valerie Truong ’21 interned at the Smithsonian Institution under the mentorship of Edward Rynne ’77. The following is an excerpt from her final report.

Article Type 

As a First-Year Fellow, Valerie Truong ’21 interned at the Smithsonian Institution under the mentorship of Edward Rynne ’77. The following is an excerpt from her final report.

This summer, I interned at the Smithsonian Organization and Audience Research (SOAR), a central office at the Smithsonian Institution that works with its clients to conduct organization and audience research and analysis. SOAR promotes organizational effectiveness within the Smithsonian and works to improve visitor experiences through relevant social science research approaches.

During my time at SOAR, I worked on a variety of projects. The two I worked on most in-depth were the qualitative component of an evaluation of the Folklife Festival and an evaluation of the Pepper Pilot Program. For Folklife, I conducted qualitative interviews with festival visitors over the two week course of the festival, transcribed the interviews, and coded them for analysis. For Pepper, I helped lay much of the foundation and set-up for data collection. Because this evaluation employed a mixed methodology approach, several steps were required for data collection. This included conducting preliminary observations several times at four Smithsonian units: the Smithsonian Institution Building (The Castle), the National Museum of African Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. These preliminary observations of visitors’ interactions with Pepper the Robot helped inform the creation of an observation form, specific to each of the seven Pepper locations. I created a comprehensive protocols and instruments guide that detailed how to properly fill out the observation forms, then helped trained staff and interns at the Office of Visitor Services so they could help SOAR with data collection. The next course of action was the creation of survey forms. I helped create two different types of forms: a post-interaction survey and an exit survey. While the first would be administered more like an interview immediately after a visitor’s interaction with Pepper, the latter would be administered on tablets using Qualtrics since it contained logic. I was also able to conduct a few qualitative interviews for the Pepper Project before my internship ended. In addition to Folklife and Pepper, I worked on a few other tasks. These included using Microsoft Publisher to create a visual executive summary for a final report, conducting qualitative interviews with interns from another Smithsonian internship program, and doing observational interviews at the National Museum of Natural History at their Narwhal exhibit.

My experience this summer has taught me both tangible and intangible skills. I hope to apply my new knowledge to my academic and professional pursuits by further pursuing social science research, perhaps in areas such as electoral behavior. I would like to further explore a mixed methodological approach to research that utilizes both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods and analysis. I am also grateful for the support of the Rockefeller Center and its staff for all the time and effort they’ve contributed to the administration of this program.

Close
The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences