Instruction (Texas Center for Education Policy)
Pre-Grad Intern Hilario
Big Office to Little Office
When I first set foot inside what was to be my work space I was a surprised by the office, or lack thereof. In previous internships they provided me with an elaborate desk, my own computer, and all the paper and ink cartridges I could ever dream of. I have been an intern on two separate occasions for the state of Texas. I intern currently for the Texas Center for Education Policy (TCEP), a small non-partisan education center. At TCEP there is no formal office or building, but rather a two small rooms and a big desk they share with an adjacent organization. However, it is here where some of the greatest educational minds in Texas meet. My first day I had grossly overestimated the importance of the environment and greatly underestimated the passion and will of highly educated individuals. These last few months have been instrumental in shaping my notion of what is possible.
Who I work with?
TCEP is directed by Angela Valenzuela and consists primarily of graduate researchers, graduate students, and professors. My graduate mentors are Patricia Lopez and Manny Garcia. Never have I felt more welcome at a place of work in my life. They made every attempt possible to let me know I was part of the TCEP family. The atmosphere at TCEP was always relaxed and I felt as though I could talk to my graduate mentors about anything. Often times I did. Our relationship formed more of a familial bond as opposed a stratified hierarchical bond. This allowed me to feel free to open up and ask questions that I was too ashamed to ask professors. Talking to Patricia and Manny was essential in my accumulation of knowledge regarding graduate school. Both formally and informally we talked about the necessities, hardships, ups, and downs that go along with attending graduate school. Through our many conversations I could sense the absolute devotion they had to improving the educational situation. Passion overflowed from everyone at TCEP. All members of TCEP where going beyond what was expected of them to ensure the onward push of the education movement. As a bystander observing the fierce, intelligent, and passionate dialogue, I could not help by feel the urge to learn and more importantly take action. Interning at TCEP inspired me to become a transformative intellectual.
Texas Center for Education Policy
TCEP primary goal is ensure all Texans have a quality education. Scholars and students from the University of Texas meet up on a bi-weekly basis to discuss legislation and propose new educational methodologies or policy. Essentially, TCEP is trying to bridge the gap between lawmakers and scholars. As a former state intern, I can speak from experience when I say that very little background research or data is used when developing policy. Dr. Valenzuela and her team are attempting to enable all lawmakers access to valid and sound educational research to ensure that laws and policy have a solid research foundation. TCEP however, struggles for funding and resources, forcing its members to take the initiative and develop partnerships with several governmental related organizations to garner the resources necessary to function. This bottom up approach that TCEP adheres to is a fascinating viewpoint. To think that a law could begin at the desk of a professor, go through TCEP, get into the hands of lawmaker, and then become a law for all Texas to follow is uplifting and inspirational. Working at TCEP taught me that you don't have to be a political hot shot, big time lobbyist, or millionaire to get policy in motion.
What I do at TCEP?
The list of work I was assigned ranged from the monotonous paper folding to the extremely challenging scholarly research. As the year progressed my assignments became more and more challenging. I amassed a wealth of knowledge about the Texas education system and my mentors used it to their advantage. All policy recommendations and programs proposed by TCEP are heavily grounded in scholarly research. They would have me learn about one public program, so that I could have the foundation necessary to move on the next educational program. All of scholarly articles, websites, power points, and reports I read became cumulative. I was expected to retain my knowledge and expand upon it. Most importantly I was asked to share my thoughts and feelings regarding the material I was assigned. Manny and Patricia wanted my input and I felt as though they generally took my comments to heart.
What I learned at my time at TCEP and the IE program
As a third year senior at the University of Texas I knew very little about graduate school. Most of knowledge consisted of bits and pieces I picked up from television shows and myths passed down from fellow undergraduates. Through my faculty mentors and the IE resources available I learned the essentials of graduate school. How to balance work and class, why go, what will you learn, how much will it cost, were questions that fully answered and explained. I learned the value of attaining a post graduate degree. Manny and Patricia clearly demonstrated the excitement and joy of changing the world around them. I didn't know it was possible to enjoy your job so much, but everyone at TCEP loved being involved and making a difference. Money, desks, fancy offices, or endless printer paper does not equate to passion and change. This TCEP/IE internship taught me that the only thing necessary to take action was the will to do so.