Francis Estrada, a senior at Baruch College majoring in economics with a minor in law and policy, held one of two paid internships in the MDRC Judith Gueron Scholars Program this summer. Francis was born in Tela, Honduras, and now lives in the South Bronx. She is passionate about educational access for low-income students and how local education funding becomes a barrier for low-income districts. She plans to pursue a PhD in economics or public policy. As one of MDRC’s first “virtual” interns, she learned about how high schools approach preparing students for college and careers.
Why did you choose to apply for and accept an undergraduate internship at MDRC? What drew you to the internship?
I chose to apply to MDRC because I was interested in doing research specifically in education policy. When I found MDRC and learned about all the work the organization has done from welfare reform to P-TECH, I knew this is where I would like to apply. I accepted the internship because I wanted to gain insight on what research is and confirm my interest in education policy. I also wanted to meet with associates and senior associates to learn about their PhD experience since it is the path that I am trying to take.
What skills did you develop — or new content knowledge did you gain — during your internship at MDRC?
When working on P-TECH with MDRC research assistant (and former Gueron Scholars Program undergraduate intern) Fernando Medina, I was able to learn qualitative coding. Before I was mostly interested in quantitative data, but after this task, I realized that I really enjoyed working with qualitative data. While reading through interviews, I got to learn more about P-TECH from a different perspective and came to understand how important the P-TECH model is in preparing students for college and careers.
What advice do you have for students who are interested in applying to be an intern at MDRC?
For students who are interested in applying to MDRC I would say, go for it, especially if they have such passion in policy and research. I was afraid of applying because I felt that my major wasn’t applicable, but after this internship you learn that the MDRC staff all come from different backgrounds. My advice for students during the internship is to never be afraid to ask questions. The MDRC staff are open to answer your questions and you will also learn more about the organization.
How did your internship experience influence your thoughts about your future career aspirations?
MDRC has influenced me to apply for research assistant roles with a quantitative focus after I graduate. Prior to MDRC, I only wanted to apply to graduate programs in New York. After meeting with associates and senior associates, I am now considering applying to graduate programs outside of New York.
Overall, I had a great experience at MDRC. I would like to thank everyone who made this opportunity possible, especially during the pandemic. Staff definitely did an amazing job adjusting the internship around COVID. I also would like to thank all the staff who met with me to discuss MDRC and provide advice. I am forever grateful for this opportunity because it confirmed my interest in education policy and research.