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Top 5 Reasons to Spend Your Summer as a NIRN Intern

September 26, 2022
Marie David

Ask any doctoral student and they would agree that their task list only grows and never ends. From that manuscript that’s long overdue to data coding that’s been put off due to hectic Fall & Spring semesters, we often associate summer as the season for trimming tasks off our task lists. The thought of adding more tasks to our task list and spending our precious summer days in an intense 8-week internship program may seem nothing but a daunting experience. However, I am here to convince you otherwise. 

Spending my summer with the University of North Carolina’s National Implementation Research Network (NIRN) team and their SISEP TA Center is one of the most enriching and precious experiences I’ve ever had as a doctoral candidate in Special Education at Purdue University.  

Here are my top 5 reasons to spend your summer as a NIRN Intern. 

# 1 Expand Your Professional Network 

Working with professionals outside your lab and university allows you to develop your personal professional network. Building a network that includes professionals from varying fields provides you with the opportunity to gain wide-ranging perspectives on topics that are meaningful to your career. For example, by virtually attending the SISEP Active States Forum this summer, I had the opportunity to speak with professionals from several states who support the implementation of evidence-based practices. I learned about the difficulties they faced and how the SISEP TA Center, a project of NIRN’s, provides them with implementation support. Additionally, I learned about career paths, such as implementation specialists, that can be helpful for the undergraduate students that I teach who are looking for career paths in education, outside of becoming a teacher. 

# 2 Develop and Refine Your Skills 

Participating in summer internships can lead to development of new tangible skills and refinement of current skills. For example, as part of the internship with NIRN, I was challenged to develop a tangible product using a video-making program that I was not familiar with. While the learning curve was huge in such a task, it proved to be meaningful as I obtained valuable mentorship in learning module and product development. Skills relating to product development are highly valuable but may not always be included in doctoral training programs in education. Additionally, participating in meetings with state-level education professionals allowed me to refine my interpersonal and communication skills as a professional in special education.

# 3 Boost Your CV

hand holding a resume

Working as an academic, your CV showcases your qualifications and experiences for future employers and grant agencies. Summer internships allow you to boost your CV by showing your willingness to diversify your experiences and increase your skills by working with industry-related professionals. As an academic, I find great value in gaining wide-ranging experiences outside of research-related work to broaden my perspectives and finesse my creative thinking skills in the face of complex research questions.

# 4 Gain Meaningful Mentorship 

A key aspect of this summer internship that I thoroughly enjoyed was mentorship. As an intern, I developed a close bond with my direct mentor and other members of NIRN. Through weekly meetings, my mentors provided me with insight regarding their job duties and how they supported implementation teams across states. My understanding of the applied work within implementation science grew because of the willingness of my mentors to answer my questions. The mentorship provided through this internship is one that I will carry throughout my career.  

# 5 Achieve Personal Growth 

From interpersonal skills to communication skills to self-efficacy, this summer internship with NIRN has led to personal growth in areas I least expected. Days filled with self-doubt are numerous even for the well-seasoned doctoral student. Through this summer internship, I was able to take a step back from my day to day as a researcher at Purdue. I took on the role of an intern and challenged myself to work outside my comfort zone. By doing such, I was able to learn more about myself and the world outside the bubble of my own research. I caught a glimpse of how an amazing team can accomplish several tasks within a short period of time despite the work overload among each team member and personal extenuating circumstances. I learned about the difficulties surrounding the scaling of evidence-based practices within school systems and the time it takes to build sustainable systems. I began to understand what factors influence practitioners’ decisions when riddled with the task of selecting evidence-based practices. Through these experiences, I gained a better understanding of myself and broadened my perspectives regarding how my work as an academic could play a role in supporting school-based practitioners and promoting positive school outcomes for individuals with disabilities. 


Summer internships provide opportunities for networking, skillset refinement and development, mentorship, and most importantly, personal growth. Although the increase in workload may seem formidable, the limitless gains to be had by participating in an intense summer internship counterbalances the experience, and before you know it, summer is over.