Alum Tracy Virgil’s Internship Resulted in Expanded Professional Collaborations

Alumna Tracy Virgil completed an internship last summer at NASA Ames Research Center in California, where she gained valuable hands-on experience and built professional connections that resulted in ongoing collaborative projects.

During her internship, Virgil was part of a team focused on developing new sustainable business practices, including ways to collect and share information in a paperless environment. One of her responsibilities involved gathering data regarding how employees currently collect and distribute information. For example, she attended meetings and observed whether NASA scientists used printed or electronic handouts, and if they took notes on paper or used laptop computers, iPads, or other devices.

After completing her internship, Virgil enrolled in LIBR 282: Seminar in Library Management, with a focus on grant writing, during Fall 2010. The course required Virgil to choose a real-world library client and develop a grant proposal for that client to help garner funding. She decided to check in with the individuals she’d worked with at NASA, and they were eager to have her develop a grant proposal for their community education programs.

As her final assignment in her LIBR 282 course, Virgil developed a proposal requesting funding for a unique piece of equipment that will help NASA as it seeks to educate the community about our planet – a 3-D translucent acrylic globe and a system to project NASA data onto the globe. Visitors will be able to interact with the globe and learn more about the earth’s wind patterns, light patterns, and changes in atmospheric conditions.

“Working on the grant proposal with NASA Ames employees was a great experience,” said Virgil. “I learned how libraries and other organizations can seek external funding through grants, and I expanded my writing skills into a new arena.” She also expanded her professional network even further, meeting a variety of people at NASA who were part of the grant development team.

Virgil’s collaboration with NASA didn’t end there. Thanks to the connections she forged during her internship and LIBR 282 service learning project, she’s now collaborating with NASA employees on another project – an effort to secure grant funding to help get college students from underserved communities interested in careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Virgil is an instructor at Ohlone College in Fremont, California, where she teaches courses in English composition, literature, and reading. With seven years of teaching experience at this community college that serves individuals from diverse backgrounds, Virgil knows it’s often difficult to get young adults interested in pursuing careers in STEM fields.

Her current project with NASA Ames is an effort to garner funding for internships, where Ohlone students can gain hands-on experience with NASA projects and get excited about possibly working in a STEM field.

Virgil is also one of a handful of faculty members at Ohlone College who teach online. She found that being an online student in the MLIS program was an excellent way to learn how to make the online teaching and learning environment more engaging and effective. “My time as an online student in the MLIS program really helped me improve my own approach to online teaching,” said Virgil.

Virgil holds an undergraduate degree in English Literature and a master’s degree in Literature. She decided to pursue her MLIS degree to expand her professional opportunities, and she graduated in Fall 2010.

Virgil emphasized the value of her internship with NASA Ames, and said it was very easy to find the internship opportunity using the SLIS internship database. “Using the database, I was able to quickly scan opportunities, find one that interested me, and submit my application,” said Virgil.