September 16, 2014
I sat behind a desk that seemed too tall for me, in a chair too soft and in an office too big. My unfamiliar chair could pivot and swivel. Through the door I saw the sign that read, “New Carolina: South Carolina’s Council on Competitiveness”. I remembered sitting in a classroom, just weeks ago, feeling the unyielding chair as I leaned over my last exam. That final electrolysis problem with copper (II) had me stumped. What was the difference between the cathode and anode?
On my first day as a research intern I met an entire staff who not only insisted on being called by first names but, evidently, respected my participation as a coworker. Sitting behind my own desk in my own office, I was left alone to work for several days at a time, with the sole expectation of a superb finished project.
With the liberty to pursue a relevant research topic that interested me, I suddenly found myself executing tasks with discipline I was unaware I possessed: poring over internet resources to educate myself about the dynamics of aerospace clusters, scrutinizing relevant articles on tax policy and summarizing them for my later use, building long spreadsheets comparing tax policies that my coworkers would use for their own research. Twenty-six cups of sugar-infused coffee, seven business luncheons, nine spreadsheets, countless state documents, and one research poster later, my time at New Carolina was complete.
However brief, the role of Research Intern taught me something about my own capacity as a Govie that reaches beyond Governor’s School. Safe behind the comfort of our small desks and practice problems on our white boards, the pressure for success is self-conceived. During my time spent researching at New Carolina this summer, however, I was plunged into an entirely new environment in which my coworkers relied on my ability to solve a real problem. Yet, before the end of the first day, I had begun to become comfortable with my office, chair and own ability to succeed as I delved into tax incentive policy and formulated a research question. Whether it is developing a Comparative Analysis of State Legislative Incentives for Aerospace Cluster Growth or identifying a cathode in a zinc and copper electrolytic cell, SPRI revealed that I, as well as other Govies, have been prepared for the challenge of identifying and solving real problems through confidence gained in the classroom.