Posted on July 18, 2014.
The following is an interview with Nancy Faget, Federal Librarian at the Army Research Laboratory, about the Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) eInternship. More information can be found at http://www.state.gov/vsfs/ Deadline for this year is July 22nd.
For more information, please read below.
1) What is the Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) eInternship? How did VSFS eInternships come about?
A few years ago, the State Department noticed that there were thousands of students volunteering to do projects. The students were quite talented and interested in contributing to State Department to convey their message around the world. Bridget Roddy now runs the VSFS program hundreds of projects available at multiple agencies. (See their video.)
From my perspective as a military librarian, I was interested in a large pool of candidates who might have language skills and interest in science research. VSFS seemed a good way to get the word out about our projects for academic credit.
There are more virtual jobs being offered in Federal government. For example: Take a look at the virtual teachers that DoD Education Activity are hiring
2) What kinds of projects have participants been responsible for? Are links to these past projects available online?
I’ve sponsored virtual internships for a number of years now by advertising them through the library schools. It was great to see that the VSFS program allowed me to advertise internships there, too.
Some projects were similar to the ones I was doing at my military library (Army Research Laboratory) like this one for the Buenos Aires embassy (“Increase awareness of U.S. initiatives in science, technology, and innovation by finding open source materials to highlight on the embassy’s Virtual Science Corner website”). It seemed like a good idea to post my project there so we’ll see who applies there and who emails me directly to apply.
A full list of projects from past students and available for future students can be found at http://www.state.gov/vsfs . Apply for one of the 2014-15 projects by July 22nd!
3) Who is eligible for the VSFS eInternship? How do students apply?
U.S. citizens who are enrolled undergrad, grad, or post grad student can apply. Students pick the projects they want to apply to by submitting application via USAJobs.gov at https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/373688600
4) Who do eInterns work with? How do they telecommute?
Each person with a project who seeks a student must define how the student will work with them. In our case, I provide access to commercial databases, web based training, collaboration via phone/email, and mentoring along the way as the work product develops. Additionally, I think it important to teach the student about Federal librarianship, help them network within the community, and promote their work. Sometimes I have one student in a semester, sometimes more working on a project as a team. The students finished that project with a webinar and a presentation at an annual conference on their work.
5) Have former eInterns found positions in government? What kinds of opportunities can a VSFS eIntership provide?
I can speak about my former virtual interns. One University of Maryland virtual intern entered Federal government as a contractor, and now she works as a Federal employee at the NIST library. One University of Washington virtual intern works at the U.S. GPO. One former VSFS student is coming to work for me in a few weeks in our new Library Fellows program. It looks great on a resume when you have completed a project for a Federal agency.
The student projects have provided great benefit to our library. One student project resulted in our getting an additional $187,000 in funding. One student project resulted in a better engagement strategy when our scientists met with the Italian delegation. If anyone wants to speak with me or a former intern, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
6) Is there any advice that you would give to someone applying for the VSFS eInternship, in terms of applying to be an eIntern and in terms of having a successful internship?
You’ll have to be a self-starter to be successful in a virtual internship. It’s an opportunity to help solve real world problems, so take it seriously. Have faith that the work you do enhances your resumes, increases your experiences, and helps the Federal government. All that while earning credit? What an opportunity!
If you were approaching someone to offer you a virtual internship (and yes, you can suggest one to a military librarian), please do so early enough that the paperwork can be properly filed with your school so that you do earn academic credit. All of the VSFS State Department opportunities can allow you to earn academic credit, so ASK. You are a professional working on behalf of the Federal government, so put your best foot forward.
You’re proactive, or you wouldn’t apply for such a program. Network, learn, and leverage the opportunity as much as you can.