Howard University student Ashley-Danielle Bickerstaff shares how her experience with the Summer Transportation Internship Program for Diverse Groups gave her clarity and confidence about her future career path.
Life for many of us hasn’t been the same since February 2020, when schools across the country began to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
All of my professional development opportunities over the past few years had been virtual. I was barely acquainted with the students at my university and had limited opportunity to make connections. I had been stuck at home and in a dorm room and didn’t know how to even begin to branch out.
When it was time to apply for internships, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Summer Transportation Internship Program for Diverse Groups (STIPDG) popped up on my Handshake timeline. This presented an opportunity for me to explore the federal government, get hands-on experience, travel and meet new people. This was absolutely perfect for me and offered a new perspective for my psychological interests.
When I received my acceptance offer, I was excited and terrified all at the same time. I felt like my social skills had really taken a hit since the pandemic, and I had always lived close to family, so this would be a drastic change for me. This internship opportunity was a huge leap of faith. And I am so glad I took that leap!
I spent my summer as an intern for the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) Region 6 in Fort Worth, Texas. I was greeted with the friendly faces of my NHTSA team, and my contacts at The Washington Center were available every step of the way if I needed support. I immediately felt like I belonged there. My original fears drifted away, and I really enjoyed shadowing, traveling and working with my team.
As part of my internship, I represented NHTSA at several events, including a heat stroke awareness media event, the Texas Child Passenger Safety Conference and a Traffic Safety Conference on Texas A&M’s campus, which was an especially great opportunity for me to make connections with people from different departments and government levels. Another opportunity I really enjoyed was a K9 Decoy Training at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. I learned that these dogs are considered government employees and they are tasked with sniffing out explosives, drugs and more.
I feel so fortunate to have participated in the DOT's STIPDG internship program. The opportunity to expand beyond my academic institution and experience the in-person programs that tackle critical issues of health and safety in the country was an unbelievable experience.Ashley-Danielle Bickerstaff
In addition to supporting my NHTSA colleagues at a range of events and transportation safety programs, I had the opportunity to pursue a personal project of my own. I chose to explore driving impairment in tribal nations, researching the causes, challenges and potential solutions to this critical public health and safety issue. I had no idea how high the fatality rates for American Indian/Alaska Natives were on U.S roadways and was shocked that there were not more campaigns geared towards this issue. Through research and talking to my team members in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, I focused on driving impairment and explored ways to curb this issue. I had the opportunity to present my insight and potential solutions to NHSTA colleagues, other DOT members, and TWC.
I feel so fortunate to have participated in the DOT's STIPDG internship program. The opportunity to expand beyond my academic institution and experience the in-person programs that tackle critical issues of health and safety in the country was an unbelievable experience. I feel better informed to make decisions on my professional future. A large portion of that preparation I owe to the TWC team and their professional development sessions. I am now better equipped to complete my current academic pursuits and explore careers. The experiences working side-by-side with NHTSA and other government teams has given me greater confidence to work with others and pursue my passions.
Taking the leap of faith into the STIPDG program was important for me. For other students considering career-connected experiences and internships, like those with the Federal government, I offer you my takeaways and words of advice: Do what scares you, learn as much as you can, make connections and look for solutions!
Let The Washington Center Help
Internships are one of the best ways to learn more about your industry, make connections and build a well-rounded skill set. As part of the Summer Transportation Internship Program for Diverse Groups (STIPDG), you’ll gain experience in public service at the U.S. Department of Transportation while learning more about transportation challenges and advancements. This funded internship program is available to undergraduate and graduate students!
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