Experiential Learning at its Best: AU Triple Major Lands Internship With Research Organization

By Jill Wilson | July 14, 2021
Rebekah Fyfe Headshot

Augustana student Rebekah Fyfe ‘22 is a triple major in government & international affairs, data science and Spanish. The Pella, Iowa, native is involved in the Committee of Undergraduate Political Scientists (COUPS), Math Club, Augie Green and enjoys volunteering and participating in intramural sports. Fyfe is currently working as an intern for a research program sponsored by Fulbright Canada and Mitacs-Globalink — a research organization that was founded in Canada in 1999. 

Q: Where or how did you hear about Augustana?

A: My dad is a professor at Central College in my hometown, so Augie showed up on my radar when I was looking at partner schools in the Council of Independent Colleges. I also knew a couple of people already attending the university, which helped solidify my decision to visit.  

Q: What is/are the reason(s) you chose to come to Augustana?

A: When I was graduating from high school, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to study, so I appreciated that Augie had a Student Success Center designed to help students find both academic and career interests. Even though I hadn’t decided what to major in, I knew that I wanted to study abroad, so the IPO and Augie’s study abroad opportunities were a big draw. In addition to those factors, I liked the small size of campus within a city setting, as well the liberal arts core that Augie promotes.

Q: What is the name of the company in which you are interning?

A: I am working as an intern for a research program sponsored by Fulbright Canada and Mitacs-Globalink. Mitacs is a research organization that was founded in Canada in 1999.

Q: Where is the internship located? 

A: Originally I was supposed to travel to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to work at the University of Saskatchewan. Due to uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and international travel, however, the internship was moved to a virtual format.

Q: What do your job duties include?

A: I am a research assistant on a project titled, “Behavior in Everyday Life: The Economics of Language.” This involves writing literature reviews and finding gaps in previous research on this topic. I will also assist in the formation of hypotheses and experiments to test these hypotheses, as well as analyzing data related to the subject. 

Q: How did you get the internship? Did anyone help you? What did that journey look like?

A: I began the application process back in September. One of my academic advisors, Dr. David Golemboski, helped me with editing my personal statement. The Writing Center and Student Success Center also aided in the creation and revision process of both my personal statement and resume. After a months-long wait, I heard back in December that I had been selected to move on to the next stage of the process, where I reviewed the research projects available and selected the ones I was most interested in. The professors in charge of each project then decided which students they would like to interview. To prepare for my interviews, I again received help from the Student Success Center, namely Mary Toso. Finally, both students and professors ranked who they would like to work with, and a matching algorithm was used to determine who would be offered a position and what project it would be on. I found out in March that I had been chosen to work on one of my top projects.

Q: What do you like most about your internship?

A: I like that I’m involved with formulating a research question mostly from scratch. Doing background research on a topic isn’t always the most exciting part, but it is giving me great experience for how to build a solid foundation for research as we move forward. As we get further into the project, I’m looking forward to seeing our ideas come together.

Q: What do you hope to learn/gain from the internship?

A: I’m hoping to gain experience with the research process. Although I’ve worked on research projects for some of my classwork, it hasn’t been as expansive as what I’m working on this summer. Since I would like to go to grad school, I think this internship is going to be a good learning experience on how to create a solid research question, especially since I’m working with an established professor.

Q: What are your career goals/aspirations?

A: After graduation, I’m hoping to go to grad school to get either a master’s degree in data science for public policy or a PhD in political methodology. My ultimate goal is to do some sort of quantitative analysis related to public or foreign policy, whether that is in a research/academic context or government or business environment.

Q: Why is experiential learning so important in preparing for future endeavors?

A: I think experiential learning is important because it gives you an opportunity to apply what you’ve learned in the classroom to a new environment. You also get to learn new skills that can’t always be taught in a school setting. As I look towards graduate school, doing research over the summer is a way for me to get a taste of how that experience is different from undergraduate work. It also provides an opportunity to create realistic expectations for the kind of work that I could be doing in the future. This internship is structured in a way where I will have opportunities to reflect on the experience both during and after the project, which is especially beneficial when deciding whether I am interested in continuing this type of work.

Q: How important is building relationships/connections?

A: Building relationships and connections is important because it provides you with people you can turn to for advice. During my first year at Augie, I spoke to a few alumni who were working in fields I was interested in. Because of this, I was able to make a more informed decision about my academic plan and long-term goals. The relationships I have formed with professors have also been invaluable during my time at Augie so far because they have helped me formulate plans for reaching my goals. Their help, and the help of other connections I have made on campus, have been incredibly beneficial in finding opportunities that will help me pursue my academic and career endeavors.

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