2007-08 Psi Chi/FBI Grant Winner’s Experience as a Spring Intern
The application process was a strenuous one, but I knew if I were successful, the efforts would be worthwhile. What I did not realize was how valuable the experience would prove to be. "Go to the brick building on the right; it will have no signs or indications that it is FBI. Walk to the small pathway between the two buildings and push the button on the wall. Someone will ask for your name, and you will then go through the glass door to be buzzed in.” That is how I was introduced to the place where I would work hand-in-hand with FBI Supervisory Special Agents (SSAs), Crime Analysts, and Research Analysts for 14 weeks. That was just the beginning. After making it through the interview and being given a conditional offer, I underwent a 9-month background investigation. During my polygraph, not only did I have to answer questions about national security, drug usage, alcohol abuse, and application information, but my friends and family were also contacted and interviewed about my integrity. Finally the day arrived when I obtained clearance, and the FBI extended an official internship offer to me.
The first day of the internship was reserved for introductions—to fellow interns, the unit to which I would be assigned, the agents with whom I would be working, and the FBI as an organization. After a morning full of presentations explaining the history of the NCAVC and the responsibilities of each unit, my adrenaline peeked as all the interns were issued official FBI badges and access codes (but only after an extensive amount of paperwork was completed). By the end of the week, I had begun collecting tasks assigned by the agents within my unit. Additionally, I found myself knee-deep in files from a well-known child abduction case as I identified and recorded specific details pertaining to the victim and offender as part as an inner-rater reliability exercise for one particular research study.
Due to my educational background and work experience, I was assigned to Behavioral Analysis Unit 2 (Crimes Against Adults). I was ecstatic to know that I was working in the same unit of the NCAVC that assisted in the capture of such notorious murderers as Gary Ridgway and Dennis Rader and that had interviewed Angel Resendiz and Maury Travis. Because the main role of the intern is to provide research support, my primary assignment was to ascertain which, of the over 60 serial killer cases on file, were incomplete and find the missing information. Specifically, I was to locate victims’ autopsy reports, which provided the opportunity for me to consult with medical examiners’ offices all over the country. According to the FBI, a serial killer is an offender who takes the lives of at least two victims, and that definition translated into a lot of files and folders to sift through! This detail-oriented task allowed me to play the role of a liaison for the FBI, authorized me to look into some of history’s highest profile cases, and permitted me access to case details that remain confidential today.
Even though the internship was voluntary, the values, experiences, and lessons that I learned are worth more than any remuneration. As my supervisors said, an intern’s true payment comes from the presentations given by SSAs pertaining to their area of expertise. By the end of the semester, the other interns and I had received classroom type training on over a dozen topics including statement analysis, adult homicide, and child abduction. Field trips to the FBI Academy, the Hoover Building, and the Baltimore Medical Examiner’s Office (which was fun for all of your senses!) were icing on the cake. My bonuses were when the interns were invited by SSAs to attend consultations about active cases brought to the FBI by law enforcement agencies nationwide. These consultation meetings gave fellow interns and me the opportunity to directly observe how the FBI uses behavioral evidence to create a profile for a possible suspect. This profile is then used to assist law enforcement agencies in the apprehension of the actual offender.
My semester spent at the FBI’s NCAVC was life changing. The experience solidified my love of the intersection where psychology and criminology meet. Although some of the information and sights I witnessed were graphic and violent in nature, I have developed a greater appreciation for the hard work that the FBI Agents and professional staff provide to combat threats to the United States and its citizens. The internship provided me with skills that are transferable to any professional setting. The Top Secret clearance that was required for the internship will be an invaluable asset at nearly any government agency that may employ me. Though I was only able to put a small dent into the long-term projects to which I was assigned, I left the NCAVC with a great sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that every small effort helps when faced with a mission as vast and complex as that of the FBI.