Data Science for Social Impact in Higher Education:  First Steps

Mia Lopez

Undergraduate student in Applied Mathematics at NC State who completed the Internships for Social Good course.

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I chose to take Internships for Social Good because I was a junior looking for internship experience.  Knowing how competitive getting an internship was, I wanted to find as many resources as possible to help me. I knew it was important for college students to have hands-on experience so that when they graduate they are more equipped to get a job, so finding an internship was really important to me. What I liked most about the class was that for the assignments we had to find internship listings we were interested in and create a resume and cover letter for that specific internship. This was really helpful to me because I was able to get feedback on something that was relevant to my job search and the types of jobs I was searching for.

When I found out about Rural Works, I wasn’t sure where or who I wanted to work for, but I knew that I was passionate about the environment and that I wanted to pursue data science/data analytics after I graduated. I reached out to The North Carolina Arboretum, which is in my hometown because I knew any work I did there would be interesting to me. I was able to work with my supervisor at the Arboretum to form my own internship around data analytics. I searched for job listings that I would be interested in applying to in the future and took note of the skills and requirements listed under these applications. Using this list, we came up with data projects where I could learn these skills and further my resume. I was able to explore many of their databases and run reports where I analyzed the data to find patterns that I could report on. An important skill that employers look for in data analytics is the ability to work in databases and extract relevant data, and because I knew this going in, I was able to develop that skill throughout multiple projects.

One of my projects during the internship was to analyze their marketing data for a new event. I used Google Analytics to analyze their website traffic and the sources of traffic. I looked at their social media posts, ads, and articles posted about the event to determine which source brought the most traffic to their website. The goal of this project was to increase event attendance and engagement for future events.

Internships for Social Good was super helpful to me in finding an internship and also preparing me for job searching once I graduate. Overall, I suggest taking the opportunity to figure out what skills are most important to you to learn and using this to help set goals. An important thing to remember is that your internship doesn’t have to be exactly what you’re planning to pursue after graduation. It’s a chance to develop your skills, network, and work in a professional environment which will help tremendously when you’re searching for jobs.

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