Virtual internship with U.S. Department of Commerce yields real results.

The for-benefit business sector represents a new U.S. economic trend where for-profit businesses also take on a social mission. What, if any, is the impact of this trend on government policy?

As part of her recent virtual internship with the International Trade Administration (ITA) within the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), Pooja Tripathi, a student in Florida International University’s (FIU) joint International MBA-Master of Science in Finance program, researched answers.

Pooja Tripathi, Student, IMBA-MSF“Tripathi’s research helped us gain a better understanding of the size and scope of this sector,” said Paul Thanos, director, Financial Services, DOC. “She did an excellent job identifying the companies doing this type of business as well as highlighting legal trends related to the sector’s development.”

Scott Schmith, Tripathi’s manager at the ITA, notes that she “analyzed, evaluated and synthesized a broad variety of materials from numerous resources into a concise, thoughtful and balanced report.”

Virtual internships represent another growing trend—and a perfect fit for the College of Business Administration.

According to Thanos, Tripathi was the tenth graduate student to participate in the virtual internship program developed jointly by the DOC and the business school. Other topics researched include climate change and financial services, Islamic finance and microfinance.

“The virtual model is working extremely well. So well in fact, that I believe other agencies are looking at adopting it,” Thanos said. “What’s more, the college’s international focus—with an emphasis on Latin American issues—is a nice fit for us.”

Schmith believes the program succeeds because it serves as a research bank for issues and programs that might not currently be in focus but have strong potential to form a nucleus for future action.

“The virtual research partnership also provides students with significant opportunities to learn about upcoming policy areas, gain experience in the federal government and network with government officials active in international trade projects,” he said.

Having played an instrumental role in the partnership’s launch, Ana Guevara, former deputy assistant secretary for services, DOC, adds that the virtual internships give students the ability to participate in activities that are usually only available to those studying in the Washington, D.C. area.

“They provide vital research the department needs, bringing a fresh, objective view to timely issues for our country,” Guevara said. “The research allows the DOC to think more proactively about key challenges facing U.S. economic competitiveness.”

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