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

Notes from the Field: Renee Haughton ‘15

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Rockefeller Center-funded interns reflect on their experiences as part of our Notes from the Field series. The Rockefeller Center helps students find, fund, and prepare for a leave-term internship experience in public policy research, public policy analysis, issue evaluation, or activities which help shape and determine public policy.

Student Intern: Renee Haughton '15

Internship Organization:
FSW Inc.,Workshops in Business Opportunities – Bridgeport, CT

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch?
FSW is a nonprofit organization that works with individuals in the greater Bridgeport area and southern Fairfield County each year to help them build brighter futures. FSW runs the Workshops in Business Opportunities (WIBO), Bridgeport program. Founded in Harlem in 1966, WIBO assists people with the drive to become successful entrepreneurs by enabling small business owners and budding entrepreneurs from under-served communities to obtain financial success by starting, operating, and building successful businesses.

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization?
I have become somewhat of the "survey-expert" for WIBO. I have been tasked with designing and disseminating surveys to past, future, and potential WIBO participants. My primary responsibility is designing and analyzing the responses from a survey that measures the long-term outcomes of past WIBO graduates. My first few weeks involved reviewing the previous outcomes survey and deciding how we might make the survey better at measuring the outcomes we were interested in. Discussing the length of the survey, the wording of questions, and other survey aspects with some employees in the Economic Empowerment program at FSW took some time. Now that the survey is finally out and we have received a few responses, the next step will be to collect the responses and input the data into statistical software to start analyzing. By the end, I will hopefully be able to make some recommendations for the WIBO program.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
The first day of my internship was a little slow because I was just given some readings so that I could orient myself with the project. We didn't have any other interns at the time, so I couldn't socialize with anyone, which tends to break up the monotony for me. A coworker in a nearby office walked by me, and I guess she noticed my struggle because she offered me some chocolate. I will say that after that first, slow day I became comfortable with my project and the office environment.

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
The most rewarding part of my internship is the freedom I have to make this experience as intense as I want it to be. I really appreciate that it isn't as if I have to keep going back and forth with someone to make sure I'm doing things the "right" way. Instead, I feel a sense of trust from my supervisors on the best way to handle my projects. I have met with some other employees as well as my supervisors to discuss how our surveys are being designed, but I always feel that we are collaborating, where everyone is pretty much on the same level. So in that sense, I feel like I own this project and that I'll be able to turn it into some equally fun and scholarly research by the end.

What challenges have you faced so far?
At the end of the first week, after I'd gone through orientation and talked the CEO about what he was hoping to achieve with my project, I sat down with my immediate supervisors to discuss my proposed timeline. It was a pretty aggressive schedule, and they acknowledged this, but they actually welcomed the idea of moving things along quickly. I personally wanted to move things along quickly because the more interesting part of the internship for me would come after we'd received all of our responses. The challenge that I've had to deal with is that there have been huge delays in that proposed schedule for various reasons. I have responded to the situation by taking on smaller projects, things I could complete in 20 minutes, from my supervisors and doing them very thoroughly. I've also made myself one or two other small projects that I could pursue in the meantime that would enrich the results from my primary project.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
After some of my classes at Dartmouth, I realized that I'm interested in research, particularly in social science research. It would be ideal for me to do research for a think tank in the future, and this internship is a great way for me to learn what skills are needed for doing that. I learn best by doing, so though I know this experience and my project won't come out perfectly, just having it to refer to in the future for "do"'s or "don't"'s is fantastic. I may even stumble upon a topic for a senior thesis!

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship?
First, make sure that you thoroughly research all your transportation options. I thought I did, but I got caught up in a conversation with a stranger on the train the other day who told me about a ridiculously cheaper option for my commute. In general, I would suggest talking to as many family and friends as possible as well as speaking to transportation offices before taking the leap and buying that monthly pass. Amtrak trains are notorious for being late. But it's also kind of cool that if you call Amtrak customer relations, they can offer you a refund credit for the trains you were on that were late, even by 10 minutes! So though lateness may be inconvenient, you could receive a couple free rides that way.

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