News - Intern With Postal Inspection Service Offers Tips For A “First Class” Intern Experience

Intern With Postal Inspection Service Offers Tips For A “First Class” Intern Experience

By Rachel Heston-Davis

mailbox-webYou might expect to find a student majoring in criminal justice interning at a police station, an FBI office or perhaps riding shotgun in a squad car.

You might not expect to find that student serving with the U.S. Postal Service.

Psychology and criminal justice major Sam Barnhart walked the G.U. graduation stage in May 2018, and then completed her summer internship with the United States Postal Inspection Service. Her job? Shadowing Postal Inspectors.

“Postal Inspectors are the federal agents within the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS),” Sam explains. Tasked with maintaining the security of the mail and the safety of postal employees and customers, Postal Inspectors conduct investigations into possible safety threats and enforce the law just as dutifully as any police officer or undercover detective.

Sam shadowed a St. Louis Field Office Inspector and an Inspector who works out of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois, observing everything from day-to-day office work, to investigation interviews and reports, to active shooter training. Her supervisors supplied her with generous opportunities to meet agents from the FBI, Secret Service, FDA and other agencies, a real boon for a student like Sam hoping to work in a federal agency someday.

Sam (pictured below on graduation day) learned plenty about federal agencies, and just as important, learned how to make the most of an internship. She identifies key factors that set her up for success and will benefit student interns in any discipline.

Tips for Intern SuccessFilby-Barnhart

1. Expect to learn. An internship is not just a demonstration of what you already know. It delivers new, unfamiliar and sometimes unexpected experiences. Sam encourages new interns to ask questions and pay attention. Be ready to interact with people in various career fields and know how to ask different people relevant questions about their roles.

2. Hold future plans loosely. “Before my internship, I had completely convinced myself that I would enter into one specific federal agency without considering any others,” Sam recalls. “Fortunately, my internship has opened my eyes and expanded my understanding, and now I know that I have multiple options in the future.”

3. Prepare to be unprepared. In a classroom, Sam could prepare for activities ahead of time; at her internship, Sam was sometimes handed reading material on the fly or drawn into conversations on subjects she didn’t yet know well. She learned by doing. It mirrored the real life workforce more accurately.

4. Support the bigger picture. Sam reminds students that every task an intern performs has value. Don’t label mundane jobs—shredding papers, filing documents—as mere busy work. “Because you are taking the time to complete this task for someone else, how are they spending their time?” Sam asks. In Sam’s case, her completion of daily office duties freed her supervisors for more work on investigations and court case prep, both critical functions of their jobs.

The G.U. Difference: Experience and Mentoring

Sam holds fond memories of her studies in criminal justice at Greenville University. She recalls experiences such as touring the Federal Corrections Institute in Greenville, Illinois, and a visit to the Madison County Juvenile Correctional Facility as especially impactful.

Personal investment from professors also played a crucial role in her preparation for a real-world career.

Dr. Watterson and Dr. Beans took the time to explain and engage in psychological discussions,” Sam says. “Professor Shanks encouraged me to never settle for less than what I wanted and to keep pushing. Even though I never had him in a class, Dr. Dunkley took the time to explain forensics, and together, we created a crime scene for the Forensics Conference. Professor Laughlin hired me as his student assistant and gave me assignments that resembled those I’d see in graduate school to better prepare me. Reverend Erika Spring was my sounding board. The list goes on and on! So many people from Greenville University have impacted me.”

And the future? Sam hopes to serve as “a federal agent working to investigate and apprehend criminals.” She plans to pursue advanced studies after college.

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Forensics Conference Exceeds Expectations, Informs and Inspires
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To Protect and Serve: Criminal Justice and Life Calling
Not a Great Internship Experience? Not a Problem

The views and opinions expressed herein do not reflect the views or opinions of any United States Postal Inspection Service employee or the Inspection Service and these materials are not an endorsement of the school. The Inspection Service does not affirm the validity of any statements made or images used in these materials.

This story was published on January 21, 2019

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