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My internship at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Holly Hutton

My internship at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

October 17, 2019 at 9:02am

Name: Holly Hutton

Hometown: Palm Harbor, FL

What is your major? 

I am a Ph.D. candidate in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in International and Intercultural Education.

Where did you intern?

I worked on the K-12 Education Team at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


How did you get your internship? 

I first heard about the work of the Gates Foundation on a trip to Africa. Intrigued, I explored a little further and discovered a summer internship opportunity that was offered to graduate students from a select list of prestigious universities. I was delighted to see FIU on that list, so I didn’t hesitate to apply. 

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process?

Start looking at places that you think will help enhance your future work and don’t be intimidated by competitive internships. It never hurts to apply. Also, the most important thing I did was attend the internship information session held at FIU. I came prepared to engage with the discussion and met the recruiters to introduce myself. If these opportunities arise, take full advantage of them to show recruiters that you are interested and excited in the internship opportunity.  

What projects did you work on?

Over the summer, I worked on two projects. The first was with the Teachers, Leaders and Charters Team, researching the uses of school performance frameworks in accountability and school choice. That project took me to Stockton, Calif., where I presented my findings to school leaders in the district. The second project was working with the Gates Foundation’s social media network for teachers called Teacher2Teacher. With this project, I helped build out a searchable research hub where the many assessment documents on content engagement would be stored. I also participated in a content partner convening where I lent my teacher perspective to help strategize on best practices for educational content engagement.

How did your internship connect back to your coursework?

I think my coursework in qualitative research was the most useful for this internship. I was researching educational issues on a daily basis, and I also conducted a qualitative interview with parents for one of my projects. So, the methods I’ve learned in my qualitative classes definitely came in handy.

What was the coolest thing that happened during your internship? 

I was able to attend a talk with Bill Gates and Akilo Dangote, the wealthiest man in Africa, on their collaborative work in Africa over the last 25 years. I totally geeked out when I saw Bill!

What did you like most about your experience?

My internship experience was incredible in so many ways, so it’s difficult to choose one thing. I had unprecedented access to some of the smartest and most inspiring people in their respective fields and learned more about areas I was unfamiliar with (global health, nutrition, vaccinations, sanitation, grant-making, etc.). The work environment was also very supportive and flexible; you were trusted to do good work on your own terms. But I have to say it was the cohort of interns that I worked with that I valued the most. They are an inspiring group of grad students from all over the world that are doing incredible, mission-driven work, and whom I felt privileged to work alongside and develop relationships with this summer.

What did you learn about yourself?

I have to say, I was a little intimidated when I first started my internship. I was surrounded by hyper-intelligent experts strategizing to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues. It took a while to find my confidence to add to the conversation. But, my colleagues were very supportive and I learned how to lift my voice and add value to the work the Foundation is doing around education. 

How did the position increase your professional confidence? 

I realized that my experience as an educator is valuable in high-level strategy settings, where high-stakes investments are being made to help serve the kinds of communities I’ve worked in my whole career. So, I’m carrying much more confidence in the value of my previous work as an educator and the importance of my work going forward.  

How did you expand your professional network?

The Gates Foundation has an incredible alumni network from around the world that I intend on being an active member of. The network posts jobs, organizes events, and reaches out to members with professional opportunities of all kinds. Not to mention, work experience at The Gates Foundation is highly valuable, and will open up opportunities I could never imagine having without it. 

How did it help you prove yourself in the “real-world?”  

My internship at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was one of the greatest experiences of my life - both professionally and personally. It helped me refine my ideals, articulate my aspirations, and gain inspiration for my work in education. And, as I plug myself back into the “real world” and FIU life, I’m looking forward to utilizing my newfound skills and insights and continue my PhD research in teacher education and intercultural development.