Friday, April 7, 2017
Chelsea Ortiz wants to be a doctor, which is why her upcoming internship seems a bit unorthodox. She will spend the summer working for the FBI.
“I feel like college is the one time you can try everything once,” Ortiz said. “The FBI has always been interesting to me and I felt like it would be a good fit to do for a summer and see what it takes.”
“I feel like college is the one time you can try everything once.”
Ortiz, a junior chemistry major and psychology minor in the College of Humanities and Sciences, knew she wanted to pursue a career in health services as early as the fifth grade. But she also wants to grow professionally in ways not directly tied to her career aspirations.
“I think it’s about character building,” she said of finding opportunities outside her job track. “You learn so much about yourself and you get confident in different areas that help build you as a person.”
Getting outside the hospital
When she was in middle school, Ortiz shadowed a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit of her local hospital in Woodbridge, Virginia.
“Candy-striping wasn’t a thing anymore and you had to be 16 to volunteer, so I said, ‘Alright, I’ll do nursing camp,’” Ortiz said. “I got to see a little of everything. We got to work with a nutritionist, a physical therapist. And the last day I shadowed a nurse in the NICU.”
The experience reaffirmed her desire to work in health care.
“When I first got [to VCU] I wanted to get into the hospital,” she said.
Ortiz is a member of Emerging Healthcare Leaders and the Pre-Med Society. She has shadowed health professionals at VCU Medical Center. But she also has discovered the value in having a diverse college experience. She took a Focused Inquiry class with Jamie Fueglein during her first semester, and Fueglein, an assistant professor at University College, recruited Ortiz to be a teaching assistant for his service-learning course. Through that course, Ortiz volunteers with Carver Promise, a program that links George Washington Carver Elementary School students with mentors from local colleges and universities.
“Volunteering and doing experiences outside of my health care interests has helped me build all these characteristics I didn’t see in myself before,” Ortiz said. “By being a service-learning TA, I learned leadership. By mentoring at Carver, I learned empathy.”
She saw the FBI internship as another opportunity to grow.
“I have some family friends who work for the FBI and they mentioned it to me,” Ortiz said. “I wasn’t sure it was something I was into. But then I thought about how I wanted to do an internship outside of volunteering at the hospital and I decided I would apply for it.”
‘You’re trying to get the interview’
Ortiz contacted the VCU Career Services office last fall. The FBI required she provide copies of her resume and her high school and college transcripts. An interview, a background check, a polygraph and a drug test would follow.
It is a time-consuming application process, said Nathan Wilson, a career counselor. He and Ortiz first met in September.
“She has a broad range of experiences and she is a superstar student,” Wilson said. “For the FBI application, obviously you have to be trustworthy for anything that requires a security clearance. So how do you demonstrate that? In Chelsea’s case, being able to demonstrate that she’s handled a lot of different responsibilities concurrently [was important].”
Ortiz’s resume was the first document she submitted.
“At the time, it was the only thing [the FBI] was going to look at,” she said. “[Nathan] was really great about making sure all the details were covered.”
Wilson likes to highlight personal qualities in a resume, especially for undergraduate students. It is unlikely anyone applying for an FBI internship has field experience, he said, so the resume is more about demonstrating potential.
“You’re not trying to get the job,” he said. “You’re trying to get the interview.”
Wilson encouraged Ortiz to emphasize her extracurricular work, even if it seemed not to connect directly to the internship.
“A lot of students think, ‘If it’s not directly related, why include it?’ I really try to get them out of that mindset,” Wilson said. “The big one I wanted to emphasize [with Chelsea] was volunteer work. It demonstrates initiative and it’s a virtuous thing to volunteer your time. A student that has participated in Carver Promise, for example, demonstrates maturity.
“They are looking for applicants for a position. But above all, they are hiring a person.”
Ortiz was accepted into the FBI internship program in late March. Her internship will run from June to August. Ortiz said she will move around among departments. She hopes to continue working with the FBI in the fall.
“They have a ‘next-step’ program where you can do about 16 hours a month during the school year and keep your clearance,” she said. “I can work in the Richmond location.”
Ortiz is interested in pursuing some type of undergraduate research in the fall and plans to continue working with Carver Promise. And, of course, she’ll be applying to medical school. She is exploring different specialties within pediatrics.
For now, she is most excited about the opportunity in front of her.
“I feel like it’s going to be an amazing experience,” she said of her internship. “I’m excited to start. I’m excited for all of it.”
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