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NAEP Summer Intern Blog Series: Making Connections, Meeting Leadership

December 8, 2021

Throughout the summer, we’re highlighting the experiences of some of our NAEP interns, in their own words. 

This week’s post is from the perspectives of both Christopher Terrazas and Grace Eke. This summer, Christopher is collaborating with ETS research scientists, Geoffrey Phelps and Cara Cahalan Laitusis, and senior program advisor of the NAEP program, Jhan Doughty-Berry, on a project analyzing the potential of exploring teacher and student perspectives in NAEP using empathy maps. Grace is collaborating with ETS senior research scientist, Danielle Guzman Orth, on a project to unpack strategies to address opportunity gaps among historically marginalized populations in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Here’s their latest view about making connections in this year’s program and meeting leadership:

Christopher Terrazas:

ETS is a company that provides opportunities for interns to network with employees across a variety of respected fields with different kinds of expertise. These opportunities offer interns, like me, the chance to explore the many facets of the company. 

For the last five weeks, I have prioritized time with other employees at ETS. Their titles vary. Some include research scientists, learning scientists, and assessment specialists. During these meetings, I had the opportunity to listen to experienced employees who are all working on projects that will impact education in the future. One research scientist I met this summer is Tenaha O’Reilly, who shared his work with his team at ETS. Another research scientist, Beata Begiman Klebanov, willingly shared her work with ETS and its potential to support teachers and students in classrooms through an application known as Relay Reader™. 

In addition to these opportunities, Dr. Jhan Doughty-Berry has been instrumental this summer in connecting interns with leadership including ETS President and CEO, Walt MacDonald, and Ida Lawrence, senior vice president of Research and Development at the organization. These conversations open opportunities to share our own lived experiences with one another. In these moments, everyone is hoping to help others in the field of education be successful at the end of the day. 

My mentors have been instrumental in building these connections and fostering a nurturing environment for me. The connections with my mentors are super important to me and I value their time, support, and empathy through these times. They are inspiring and motivating in so many ways. It is intimidating coming to a new space where you are surrounded by incredible talent; however, my mentors Cara, Geoff, and Jhan have eliminated those intimidations because they are invested in my success and future. This is very clear and that is the nice thing to witness when you are an intern at ETS. 

These small windows of opportunity motivate me to continue this educational journey. Life has many challenges and being part of ETS and witnessing exceptional talent encourages me to be the very best version of myself every single day. 

Grace Eke:

When I began my first summer at ETS, I was a little worried that I would not be able to fully connect with others because of the virtual format of our internship. That fear was quickly replaced with surprise at how much I was able to interact and learn from my peers as well as others at ETS. This level of connection has been no different during my second summer here. I’ve had the privilege of learning so much all while having time to argue with my peers about whether Nigeria or Ghana has the best food. The correct answer to that is always Nigeria. 

As I attended extra meetings to learn more about what ETS does, I also got to see so many familiar faces. Two people that I was especially lucky to see again were ETS President and CEO, Walt MacDonald and Senior Vice President of Research and Development, Ida Lawrence. During a morning session, my fellow interns and I got to hear about their journey to success at ETS. They answered so many questions and encouraged us along our journey as well. The meeting left me feeling reassured that I am on the right path to discovering what I want to do after college. 

Christopher Terrazas is a NAEP-Summer Pre-Doctoral Research Experience (SPRE) intern who is currently pursuing his PhD at the University of Texas at Austin. Grace Eke is NAEP-Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) intern who is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans.