Federal Agencies Welcome More Than 500 Virtual Interns

A handful of agencies are participating in the expanding program.

More than 500 U.S. students are connecting virtually with select federal agencies this fall to work on special projects in areas like social media, big data and digital storytelling.

In September, 332 undergraduate and 179 graduate students accepted positions to serve eInternships through the State Department’s Virtual Student Foreign Service program, a growing effort by the department to leverage the younger generation’s technological skills and commitment to service to facilitate new forms of diplomacy.

Previously, the program was only available at State and the U.S. Agency for International Development, but this year, the program welcomed participation from three other foreign affairs agencies – the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the Agriculture and Commerce departments – as well as the Smithsonian Institution and Education and Interior departments.

This increased participation from federal agencies allowed for 276 unique projects to be available to students – an increase of 76 percent over last year. This strong demand made it a record year in the number of projects, applicants and eInterns, said Bridget Roddy, program manager for the VSFS program.

The 276 projects students will be working on this cycle include analyzing social media conversations, transforming data sets into visuals with an impact, bringing light to educational efforts through digital storytelling and leveraging technology to reach foreign audiences, Roddy said.

Students from 203 universities are from a variety of majors and areas of study, including mechanical engineering, geography, computer science, anthropology, music, graphic design, mathematics, education policy and library sciences.  

“This shows that the scope of VSFS is growing to attract not only students in political science and area or language studies,” Roddy said. “The department needs students to help with projects that are not part of the normal scope of operations necessarily but that enhance our capabilities.”

Students began working with their supervisors by the third week of September and will spend at least 10 hours per week contributing to projects for an office or section through April 2014.

Roddy said in June that this year’s VSFS program may also help move forward State’s microtasking platform initiative, which allows State employees to post unclassified, short tasks out to college students.