Washington state government agencies and local software companies have joined together in a public-private partnership to create an innovative virtual Data Visualization Internship program for seven college and grad students and recent grads from across the state. To the organizers’ knowledge, this is the first internship to ever take place virtually. Bringing together industry, government, and education is what we do at WTIA and we got to organize the kickoff event for this summer internship program on June 23 at Tableau Software. After the kickoff, the interns toured Microsoft and Socrata, which are two of the software partners in this internship. Check out the photos from the event here.
Each student team will be matched with a mentor from a government agency and a data visualization software company. Will Saunders, senior program manager for Washington State’s Chief Information Officer, said the program is “using student time and cool software to produce a better visualization of what’s going on.”
Participating government agencies include the state departments of Employment Security, Labor and Industries, Early Learning, Ecology and Financial Management. Private companies were mainly chosen based on suggestions from agencies, and companies that either have prior contact with the state or interesting tools. Software companies participating include Live Stories, Tableau, Socrata, and Microsoft. Students at Washington schools were introduced to this program and encouraged to apply. Interns come from all over the state, including University of Washington, Gonzaga University, and Washington State University.
Joneil Sampana, Community Technology Advisory Board member for the City of Seattle and Public Sector Program Manager at Microsoft, described this program as a collective effort made possible by government, non-profit, university and corporate leaders. “I’m amazed at how quickly we were able to come together and mobilize our resources to provide this meaningful work-based learning project. Students and Agency leaders will work to develop compelling data-rich stories on important legislative issues. We are using 21st century technologies in our government to engage our next generation of leaders! We are creating a space for our government leaders, eager students, and data analytics mentors to collaborate and learn from each other.”
Two-thirds of the students come from Eastern Washington and only two are from the University of Washington. Based on a new model, this virtual internship is designed to have everything done remotely from wherever the hired interns and involved companies are located. The virtual nature makes it easier for students who have other work and family obligations to participate. Washington companies saw the need for a low impact way to get student interacting with government differently.
One of the interns, Alexandra Tester, a recent Gonzaga University graduate, said, “I applied to this program because it offers an amazing learning opportunity in an area that I do not have much experience or knowledge in. I feel as though it will teach me skills that will be applicable and useful in my future work experiences. I currently work for Gonzaga University, so being able to intern from Spokane would not have been possible without the virtual aspect of the program and willingness of the mentors to remain involved through technology. I hope to gain a knowledge in an area that I have not been involved with previously and explore new opportunities.”
The interns will meet again on September 15 at an exhibition at WTIA’s Full ConTech.