MBA Student Flourishing in Virtual Federal Government Internships
Meet Christina Joseph, a Saint Leo University online MBA student gaining valuable practical experience in two virtual federal government internships.
Christina Joseph never hesitates to pursue a unique opportunity in her life. The motivated Saint Leo University online MBA student is wrapping up her graduate degree while also completing two virtual U.S. federal government internships.
Joseph, 37, is a native of Tallahassee, FL. She grew up in Tampa and now lives in Clearwater. The mother of three has an 18-year-old daughter, Hannah, a 16-year-old son, Ezekiel, and a 13-year-old daughter, Chloe. They have a rescue greyhound, Dean, and a rescue cat, Queen Ruby.
In 2019, Joseph earned a bachelor's degree in health services administration from St. Petersburg College. She knew she wanted to go on and earn a graduate degree. She recalls how she first discovered Saint Leo University.
"In general, I wanted to go somewhere with a good reputation but that was also relatively local," she explains. "I had heard good things about Saint Leo for a long time in the community. I also had observed several family members and people I know from different backgrounds who had gone there. They each were consistently saying positive things about the university, so all of this planted a seed in my mind."
She remembers her first advisor, Matt Randall, with whom she initially interacted through the Saint Leo website.
"I used the chat feature and started chatting with Matt on there," Joseph says. "He had a very good attitude and provided me with the exact info I was looking for. Plus, he had attended the university himself, so he could relay his own experience to me. It was nice that they had a live person operating this chat feature–something you don't always see out there."
In the fall of 2019, she enrolled in Saint Leo University's online MBA program with a specialization in social media marketing.
"I wanted a program that wouldn't bore me to tears," she says with a laugh. "I figured that if I was going to commit to the tuition and time involved, I wanted to pursue a degree with a nice balance of employability and enjoyment."
Two of her favorite professors in the online MBA program are Drs. Diane Monahan and Dene Williamson. They have both been stellar in her eyes.
"They set an excellent example of professionalism," she confides. "They are very relatable and accessible. For me, they truly demonstrate what it means to be a respected professional woman."
Whenever she has a question or concern about one of her classes, she says her professors are always more than happy to assist.
"They really do answer emails in a timely manner and are available for setting up phone calls. There is no trepidation about this. You can tell they enjoy the job and invest in their students beyond the courses they teach. It's like buying a Toyota versus a jalopy. You're going to get a high-quality education at Saint Leo."
For her, the Saint Leo University core values of responsible stewardship and integrity have been most evident as a Saint Leo online MBA student.
"Drs. Monahan and Williamson have exuded such a refreshing approach in their communication with me as a student. It's almost like an even playing field in terms of the student-to-instructor relationship. This was really inspiring to me."
She adds that Saint Leo proudly has a diverse student population.
"Even though it's a Catholic university, the school is very welcoming to students of all faiths. I'm not a practicing Catholic myself. I think it's more about the core values."
She is set to complete the online MBA program in June.
Joseph has held a variety of roles across multiple industries in her career. She previously worked as an assistant to the dean in the College of Paralegal, Ethics, and Public Policy at St. Petersburg College.
She was a paralegal for the Law Offices of Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Hayslett and the Law Offices of Tragos, Sartes & Tragos, both in Clearwater.
Later, she worked as an assistant staff accountant for Modern Business Associates in St. Petersburg.
For the last several months, Joseph has been balancing two virtual federal government internships on top of her online MBA coursework. It was through a presentation given at a symposium where she found out about the Virtual Student Federal Service program. The program is facilitated by the U.S. Department of State. Both are nine-month internships, and Joseph will receive official recommendations after completing each.
One internship has involved working with a colonel in the U.S. Army Cyber Command, a group that operates and defends the Army's electronic networks.
"I'm the lead researcher for this project," she says. "Basically, I'm providing expert advice on operations research analysis and evaluations of systems utilized in the Cyber Command. This will lead to recommendations and deliverables for this particular department based on my research and data analysis."
Some of her MBA courses have benefited her in this role, she explains.
"I've been able to use the data analytics side of the MBA curriculum."
Her other internship involves working with the U.S. Department of Defense. Specifically, she has collaborated with the U.S. embassy in Singapore. The work involves artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
"I'm also the lead researcher for this one. I'm part of the middle management group, so I have two levels above me and I'm over 12 interns who report to me. The neat thing is that these interns are from all over the country. I really enjoy the teamwork with them."
The first phase of this internship was focused on research. The second phase has revolved around using the popular programming language Python and Google Colab tools.
Much like the relationships with her Saint Leo professors, she has felt a similar welcoming vibe from her colleagues in these practical roles.
"I have at least one meeting per week with the internship leader," she explains. "I view every conversation as a short job interview, but the beauty is that this format provides opportunities for it to not sound like an interview. One of my managers told me early on that I have a seat at the table. For me, that was a big step. It has served me well to help me find my voice consistently."
While she notes that there is no monetary compensation for the work, it is well worth it for her resume.
"Being able to present to high-level government officials has a lot of inherent value. Taking concepts from a classroom setting to a federal government setting has been a great experience. I've picked up so many transferrable skills."
The internships have also opened her mind to new ideas she never would have been exposed to otherwise.
"These experiences have given me a perspective shift from the everyday established pattern of life to something that is different. It has broadened my perspective beyond the immediate horizon. I'm very fortunate to get in and work at the federal level, and I honestly can't think of another way to earn such a broad spectrum of opportunities."
Her advice to anyone pursuing an internship is to put forth an effort that will catch the eye of others.
"It's a talent-harvesting program. They are looking to see who wants to stand up and be counted on as capable and reliable. It's a question of whether you have the desire to do it, a positive attitude, and time management skills."
Along with the federal government internships, she is interning with Rotary International through the Rotary Club of Clearwater. She serves as chair of digital marketing and social media.
Plus, she is an ambassador for Island Innovation, an organization which connects local governments and people from islands around the world to identify and reach common goals on sustainability. Her ambassadorship focuses on the Faroe Islands in Europe.
She also served as an intern on the reelection campaign for Dr. Robert Cundiff, the former vice mayor of Clearwater, handling digital marketing and social media management.
This fall, Joseph plans to continue her higher education by embarking on a Ph.D. in leadership from Cumberland University.
In terms of her career, she could see herself working for an institution like Saint Leo University which she says has given her so much through her graduate degree program.
"I'd love to give back to Saint Leo. I would be honored to contribute to such a worthy organization to help students pursue their academic journeys."
No matter where her work may take her, she has a one-of-a-kind drive.
"When there are opportunities out there, it just takes some hunger and desire to pursue them," she says. "I always enjoy going for them."
Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog article was provided by Christina Joseph and is used with permission.