Joint Program in Survey Methodology (JPSM) at the University of Maryland
Austin Aldag, Class of 2016

1. Where are or did you intern? Briefly, what does/did your internship entail?

  • During the summer of 2015, I was a Junior Fellow though the Joint Program in Survey Methodology (JPSM), which is an initiative through the University of Maryland, the University of Michigan, and Westat. Primarily, I worked as a Statistical Assistant at the Bureau of Economic (BEA) in Washington, DC. In conjunction to this job, I attended seminars, sponsored by the university, regarding assorted aspects of survey research, methodology, and statistics; including response weighting, imputation, sampling, and factors of survey error. Us jr. fellows also had weekly visits to offices within the Federal Statistical System of the United States, and the university covered a few fun events such as museum visits and sporting events.  

2. What aspects of your internship do/did you enjoy most? Find most challenging?

  • First off, just being in Washington DC with free housing, a paid internship, and travel subsidies was quite a plus! It gave me the ability to really see the city along with network with the IWU alumni network, which is very strong inside the beltway. I was able to meet with potential employers such as the Urban Institute along with professors from graduate schools I may want to attend. Easily the most challenging part of my internship was using the SAS software and being in a program with mostly mathematicians.

3. How does/did your internship relate to what you have been studying at Illinois Wesleyan?

  • The JPSM program greatly relates to my coursework in political science being that surveying populations is a popular methodology for collecting data. I was reminded of the class Empirical Political Research during my summer, and I could make many comparisons from my internship with the work I do as a Research Assistant for the Political Science Department.

4. Has your internship given you any insight into what you would like to do upon graduating from Illinois Wesleyan?

  • I would say that this internship gave me an indirect insight to what I would like to pursue after I walk across the stage at graduation. I want to go into urban planning/studies, which may not, on first glance, relate to my summer work. However, it does when you really think about it. Much of what planners and analysts do with cities is gather data, usually in the form of surveys or administrative data, and make judgement calls from there. With that in mind, I think my internship helped me understand how powerful good and reliable data can be in the decision making process on many different levels!

5. What advice, if any, would you give to Political Science majors looking for, or even just considering, an internship?

  • I would say two major things. Firstly, if you like a class that you have taken here at IWU see if you can find an internship that is related in some capacity. For instance, if you enjoyed Dr. Tari Renner’s American Elections course or Professor Shaw’s Congress course, try and find a position on a campaign or within the walls of Capitol Hill. Lastly, I would say throw your net wide and be open to any and all opportunities. You really never know what doors a seemingly obscure position can open. If I did not give this position a try, I think I would not have learned as much as I did about surveying, DC, or just how data may be widely used!