Q&A: What I Learned During My Summer Internship

Cooper Cramer stands in front of an American flag

Summer internships are a staple of the college experience. And for good reason – students have opportunities to apply academic knowledge in actual job settings, get a feel for how a career in a chosen field might look, and establish connections that could pay off with more permanent jobs after graduating.

This summer, in-person internships began to flourish again after two years of pandemic disruption that pushed other internships into virtual configurations, according to the University of Virginia Career Center. The center coordinates multiple internship programs across Grounds, varying in length from a 10- to 20-hour “micro-internship” to internships spanning an entire academic year. 

Thursday is being observed as Virginia Intern Day, so UVA Today caught up by email with UVA student Cooper Cramer about his summer. Cramer, who grew up in Charlottesville, this week wraps up a 10-week internship in Virginia’s Office of the Governor, where he serves as a “transformation associate” in the newly formed Office of Transformation. The internship is supported by the UVA Parents Fund Internship Grant program.

Q. What’s your major and what year will you be in the fall at UVA? 

A. I am a rising fourth-year majoring in economics. This fall, along with my undergraduate studies, I am starting in the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy’s accelerated program for a Master of Public Policy.

Gov. Glen Youngkin sits at the end of a table, next to Cramer and several other men.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin, right, addresses office staff members. UVA student Cooper Cramer, seated to Youngkin’s right, interned in the Office of Transformation this summer. (Photo by Christian Martinez, Office of Gov. Glenn Youngkin)

Q. How is the internship going?

A. The time has flown by this summer, and I attribute that not just to full work weeks, but also to a fulfilling experience.

Honestly, the hardest time came in the first week. Walking into a completely new environment presents an abundance of challenges. Looking back, what initial discouragement I felt rose from struggling to see the “big picture” of the work we were doing. As I have gained perspective through engaging in a wide variety of projects and connecting with the superb people working around me, I felt the summer truly starting to hit its stride.

Q. How does the internship align with your personal or professional interests?

A. Coming into working in the governor’s office, my interest in the political realm primarily drove my expectations. Seeing and collaborating with many of the main decision-makers in the commonwealth has definitely expanded upon these political inclinations. Furthermore, the work has opened my eyes to new fields of interest to pursue.

The function of the Office of Transformation consists of assessing and driving change throughout the commonwealth to better serve Virginians. The nature of this work and the technical skills I have engaged with have led to a desire to pursue opportunities in consulting. I have enjoyed breaking down the scope of each problem and taking meaningful and detailed action toward improvement. The lessons I have learned this summer have given me a clearer picture of what the future may hold than ever before.

Q. What have you learned about government service through this experience?

A. Many of the people I have had the opportunity to connect with serve the commonwealth with a conviction that is truly remarkable. Their perspective comes from staying grounded in the mission to better the lives of all Virginians, one day at a time. I have seen this in everyone I have rubbed shoulders with, regardless of party affiliation or background.

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Q. What skills or knowledge has UVA provided that prepared you to do well in the internship?

A. The majority of the technical skills I have utilized during this experience have been learned on the job. Beyond the disciplines of hard work and accountability, I credit my time at UVA for providing me a framework for networking. Everyone I have encountered has been more than willing to provide advice and insight. The most difficult part is taking the step to reach out, which is strengthened only with practice.  

Q. Is this your first internship? 

A. This is not my first time interning. In the fall of 2020, I started my first internship through UVA’s Internship Placement Program. After going through the interview process, I ended up working for a local nonprofit called the Community Investment Collaborative for the entire academic year and into the following summer. Following that, I interned for a local accounting firm this past spring.

Q. Anything else you want to mention?

A. While this is certainly an abnormality for a first working experience, I spent this summer serving alongside a fellow fourth-year and close friend, Nathan Vendt. Processing each new obstacle that confronted us and pushing each other kept us grounded in our pursuits. Admittedly, many people may not be able to work somewhere where from the start they have a strong connection, let alone a good friend. But this speaks to the fact that community, even in a professional environment, carries much weight in determining your experience and achievement.

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McGregor McCance

Associate Vice President for Communications and Executive Editor, UVA Today Office of University Communications