We spoke with Jennica Betsch, MAIDP’20, about her summer internship with Innovations for Poverty Action.

Tell us about the position and what you did.

I worked on the Francophone West Africa team to support the dissemination of COVID-19 related research and prepare proposals and work plans for upcoming projects for Burkina Faso, a small Francophone country, where I would have been based this summer if not for COVID-19.

How did your time at Harris guide you to this opportunity?

My advisor suggested I get more involved in my interests outside of classes, to build a stronger portfolio. Since I had served in the Peace Corps in Burkina Faso years ago and had always wanted to stay connected, I became a board member of a small nonprofit, Friends of Burkina Faso (FBF). With FBF, I support fundraising initiatives for community-driven development work. We're currently partnering with a local professor and soil expert for an agricultural project, and I hope to use the data analysis and grant-writing skills I gained at Harris to help scale the project. 

Harris also spurred my interest in Innovations for Poverty Action: I studied the work of multiple professors who have conducted research through IPA. In November, Abhijit Banerjee came to speak at UChicago with Dean Katherine Baicker. Banerjee is a recent Nobel Prize winner for economics and founded J-PAL, a complementary organization to IPA. Hearing him speak about the social impact of research solidified my interest in the two organizations. 

What Career Development resources did you utilize in your job search?

I was a frequent visitor to the Career Development Office (CDO) last year. The interview for this internship was my first ever in French. I was very nervous, so I had multiple practice interviews with CDO. I also met with Rich Delewsky and he advised me to research certain vocab words I might need—and even practiced French with me! I also spoke with my advisor and had my resume and cover letter reviewed.

How did you find funding for this internship?

I found out about the France Chicago Center Internship Scholarship through CDO. I've always been a Francophile, so the center really interested me. They typically fund internships in France, but they were willing to fund my internship in Burkina Faso after learning how closely it aligned with my career goals and interests. The France Chicago Center has been very supportive and they were just as excited as I was to get down to work. 

What skills and experiences from your degree are you bringing to the position?

My Economic Development and Conflict: Root Causes, Consequences, and Solutions courses have been the most useful so far. In Economic Development, we practiced finding and completing a grant proposal for a research project which was a great stepping stone to what I'm doing now. The Conflict course taught me how to consume research critically and to conduct lit reviews to verify claims with multiple sources. I also worked on some basic data visualizations which I could not have done before taking Data Analytics!

What tips do you have for incoming students thinking about internships?

Internships are the perfect opportunity to build your resume and set it in the direction you want it to go. And start your internship research early to explore your options! 


Want to hear about more students' internship opportunities this summer? Check out these posts: