Gavin Small ’22

New York State Department of Education, Albany, NY

Thanks to the ’68 Center for Career Exploration and the Estate of George Mead I was able to intern this summer with the New York State Department of Education in the Office of School Governance, Policy, and Religious and Independent Schools. This was a valuable experience for me as I learned a lot and developed new skills.

With my dog Logan—a great companion this summer.

I was a policy intern tasked with two different engaging projects. The first project, and the one that I spent the majority of my time on, concerned state laws and regulations regarding the loan of instructional materials to students in both public and nonpublic schools. I was specifically tasked with making recommendations regarding how laws needed to be updated to reflect changes in technology, while simultaneously preserving elements of the current system to allow schools to transition smoothly and at their own pace. In order to make these recommendations, I researched current statutes and conducted interviews with affected parties including public school administrators, school boards, and textbooks companies. This project gave me useful experience thinking through legal questions and developing policy. I also learned how to better conduct informational interviews and make conclusions based on multiple perspectives.

My second project involved collecting data on Native American academic performance in New York in school districts that contain reservations within their boundaries. I also had to analyze the data to look for patterns and places for improvement. My main finding in this area was that Native Americans performed close to other students in terms of meeting minimal standards like graduating, but they had far lower rates of high achievement, like graduating with an Advanced Regents diploma. Based on this finding, I recommended programming aimed at improving excellence among Native Americans. This project gave me experience using Excel and working with data. It also led me to think more about the experience of Native American children and what they need to be successful and help their communities.

This internship helped confirm my interest in law as a career. I enjoyed thinking through legal issues and writing up ideas for laws. Additionally, I most enjoyed the opportunities to work with other people. The biggest downside of this internship was that my work will not have any immediate impact on policy right away, or possibly ever. I think I would prefer to work in places where my work would be more valued and useful to individuals. Nonetheless, I still learned a lot in this internship, and I enjoyed many aspects of the work. I will be sure to learn from both the positives and negatives of the experience.