What Current VDOT Interns Say
Summer work for Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) interns is exciting and varied. Interns are assigned real-world work and participate in unique developmental activities.
The 2015 VDOT Interns were placed throughout the state and held a variety of roles involving:
- Operations planning
- Traffic engineering
- Business administration
- Location and design
- Local assistance
This is what they had to say about their 2015 summer assignments:
Christopher Barnett, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech, who had a summer assignment in VDOT's Salem Traffic department
“This summer has been very rewarding and educational for me.
"I spent time learning about roads, speed limits, restrictions, crashes and guardrails, working both in the office and the field.
"I worked closely with my supervisor and other engineers to solve problems and analyze data.
"VDOT gave me the opportunity to experience engineering in a practical way, which was a refreshing break from the classroom.
"I was curious to sample civil engineering and the area of transportation, since my field of study is in mechanical engineering. I found similarities between the fields and was able to bring my own experiences to the table.
"It was an excellent way to gain engineering experience in a field whereI had little knowledge.
"The intern program was challenging, fun and interesting. I fully enjoyed being a part of the program and learning about transportation.”
Omid Mahban, a senior majoring in sociology at James Madison University, who had a summer assignment in VDOT's Central Office
“I worked as an intern for a private sector company in 2014. I really had no idea what to expect when making the transition to a government internship position.
I wasn’t sure if I’d receive the same experience I did in the previous experience..
"Though that internship had its own benefits, I can proudly say that my internship with the Operations Planning Division in VDOT’s Central Office has significantly enhanced my understanding of what it means to be a part of a team.
"From the first day of the internship, I was greeted by members of the OPD staff who worked selflessly to ensure I was up to task with my assignments, regardless of their own.
"What really made the OPD stand out was the astonishing degree of compassion and professionalism they exemplified in the workplace.
"It truly was a friendly environment, making it much easier for everyone to function efficiently.
"Having previous technical experience with computers, I was tasked with seeking ways to automate (previously) manual processes to promote a smoother, more practical template interface, while increasing overall simplicity.
"I spent the majority of my time working with Microsoft Excel, InfoPath, and SharePoint. I had proficiency in Excel due to previous experience. The challenges came when using InfoPath and SharePoint.
"Thankfully, I had highly qualified colleagues who assisted me in using the Microsoft software.
"Though the increased technical knowledge was one of the biggest take-a-ways from the internship, another skill i honed was the ability communicate and innovate.
"While I faced many challenges in creating and coding templates, I realized that just because I was doing the technical work did not mean my associates had less of a role than I did.
"The way we were able to attain success was through strong collaboration and innovative solutions. The presence of a ‘team’ environment was clearly evident throughout my experience with the OPD.
"I’m honored VDOT gave me this opportunity and I would like to give a sincere thank you to the Operations Planning Division for furthering my skills and critical thinking abilities. I’ve never been more privileged to work within a team who truly cared for my development.”
Sarah McPherson, a junior majoring in sociology at Christopher Newport University, who had a summer assignment in the Salem District Office
“Coming into my VDOT internship, I was really hoping to learn how a business of this size operates on a daily basis.
"As a business administration intern, I knew there were many different opportunities and was unsure of what I would learn specifically.
"I was given the opportunity to work on numerous projects using databases and spreadsheets. I was also able to meet a wide variety of people around the district while I was working on an inventory of all computers, monitors, and printers.
"I became accustomed to spending nine hours behind a computer screen, as well as nine hours driving from residency to residency.
"I enjoyed having a variety of experiences and the opportunity to meet many people who care so much about their jobs.
"Having the opportunity to work with databases and spreadsheets will be valuable because they are great tools for any job.
"VDOT does a wonderful job allowing interns to work on real projects that are put to use.
"I know the inventory list that I created will be a datasheet that will be accessed and used, which is a great feeling.
"It was also interesting hearing from engineering interns and how their projects were building off of each other.
"The internship program has allowed me to cultivate my relationships with other interns, as well as VDOT employees.
"The VDOT employees who invest time in the interns and scholars have been fabulous to work with and they have allowed us to see where we fit within VDOT’s structure now, and where we could fit in the future.”
Kourtney Woodard, a senior majoring in civil engineering at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, who had a summer assignment in VDOT's Lynchburg District's Chatham Area Headquarters
“With this summer being my first internship, I wasn't sure what to expect.
"I was excited about making money and learning new things but there were also worries about whether I would be accepted or how well I would fit it.
"With me having only one week left, I can honestly say that I had absolutely nothing to worry about.
"Everyone I've met has been wonderful to me and I fit in as if I’ve belonged with VDOT all along.
"As for the experience, on an educated level I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work with.
"My manager did a wonderful job of including me where he could and showing me the ropes.
"I've spent much time in the office as well as out on the field experiencing first-hand exactly how things are done. As a regular citizen, you never take the time to sit and think about how structures are constructed or fixed once broken; they just appear one day and you think to yourself "wow that looks nice."
"I was able to see the entire process of repairs and new builds on structures from bridges and potholes to guardrails and pipes.
"One thing I really appreciated about the people I worked with this summer was the willingness to let me tag along and answer my long list of questions. Everywhere I went I was curious how things worked and how they related to VDOT. There was so much I didn’t know and this was my first summer to finally be able to ask the professionals how it’s done step by step.
"There was a lot of office work I was able to learn. such as the different types of software the company provides for research and assistance as well as the system of communication VDOT has that allows workers to communicate in the most efficient way possible.
'I’ve been contacted by people I've never heard about just to give me a warm welcome to VDOT and wish me the best of luck. That means a lot to a first-time intern and that makes me feel even more at home here.
"Overall, my experience here has been one to remember and definitely one to tell others about, VDOT's a great place to work and an even better place to make a true difference.”
Cameron Kiddy, a third-year student majoring in civil engineering at the University of Virginia, who had a summer assignment in VDOT's Richmond District's Location and Design division.
“This past summer, I interned in VDOT’s Richmond District Location and Design division.
"Prior to this, I didn't have a complete understanding of what specifically the field of civil engineering entailed.
"Throughout the summer, I was able to gain insight into this world by visiting construction sites to witness the process by which two-dimensional concepts transform into three-dimensional projects. I saw the preservation of historical sites along the construction of the Route 5 bike trail from Richmond to Williamsburg, watched a team brainstorm innovative methods to preserve the historic significance of Lawrenceville’s 130-year-old Gholson Bridge, assisted in the formulation of an estimate of a roundabout design, and helped to review plan sets.
"The knowledge I've gained has certainly enlightened my thought process and has allowed me to supplement my technical education with a meaningful experience as a public servant.
"I'm much more aware of the real-world problems facing the citizens of this state regarding how they travel every day.
"I was provided an outlet to not only work in a professional environment but also to network with the dedicated individuals that VDOT employs.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity to have made small advancements in a community that I have called my home for more than 15 years, and I'm energized by the manner in which these men and women work to improve the very fundamentals that govern the way modern-day America moves.”
Josue Torrico, a senior majoring in electrical engineering at George Mason University, who had a summer assignment in VDOT's Northern Virginia District Traffic Field Operations Office
“Working at VDOT this past summer has really taken my mind set beyond that of the classroom.
"In the classroom, I learn theoretical models and concepts, but as a VDOT intern, I learned how that theory is applied on the field to test, troubleshoot, and fix electrical systems.
"Before interning at VDOT, I was afraid I would just be a shadow or a filing expert, but VDOT excels in providing interns an involved and hands-on experience.
"One thing that really stood out for me is the level of respect you receive from your coworkers.
"My mentors did not expect me to know the process of installing a pedestrian button as soon as I walked through the door, but after a few demonstrations, they trusted and respected me enough to let me do some installations on my own.
"I was able to learn and practice how to troubleshoot and fix issues with traffic signals, traffic signal controllers, RF communications, lighting and power systems on the interstate, and more.
"I'm very grateful to have had the experience as a VDOT intern, and I can gladly say that I was able to gain experience outside of classroom.
"I've grown as an engineer and as a student because of my experience at VDOT, and I'm forever grateful that I was given the opportunity.
"If you want a similar experience and really want to delve into your discipline, VDOT has many opportunities that can help you do it.”
Justin Liang, a second-year graduate student in finance at Virginia Commonwealth University, who had a summer assignment in the Central Office and the Learning Center.
“As John Lawson, the agency's chief financial officer, said, ‘even though VDOT is primarily an engineering focused organization, it will not function without the dedication of our business professionals’.
"This summer, I experienced first-hand the collaboration between business and engineering at the VDOT Central Office.
"Some of my assignments included creation of a budget template for all divisions and districts within the agency, preparation of budget reports, examination of budget estimates for completeness and accuracy in accordance with state and federal regulations, and making budget recommendations to senior executives.
"Not only did I have the opportunity to sharpen my Excel and Access skills, I also learned to use “Cardinal,” the statewide enterprise resources planning system.
"I also worked closely with management from other divisions, such as Structure and Bridge, Traffic Engineering, Environmental and Fiscal on analyzing and developing their departmental training budgets.
"It was fairly intimidating at first working with many senior executives. However, it provided a unique opportunity to learn from some of the most talented and experienced individuals in VDOT.
"The internship has broadened my understanding of the transportation industry and has given me a strong foundation and valuable experience for my future career in finance and business. I look forward to continue working at VDOT as I pursue my master’s and hope to someday assume a leadership role in the organization.”
Ryan Roop, a senior majoring in business administration with a concentration in international business at Liberty University, who had a summer assignment in Central Office’s Fiscal Division.
"I learned firsthand what the fiscal division is responsible for on a daily basis.
"I was placed in accounts receivable and worked with the collections team and assisted them in many ways.
"The collections team is responsible for collecting payments owed to VDOT because of property damage on the roads and highways of Virginia.
"I had the chance to help write letters to parties responsible for payments and sent them out as quickly as possible.
"This process showed me the importance of organization in VDOT and how the agency keeps track of payments, conversations with insurance companies, and information from other parties.
"I had a lot of direct experience within different areas of Cardinal, the state's financial system, that were vital to the fiscal division, such as updating conversations regarding cases. so everyone in the division could see up-to-date information regarding a certain case.
"My experience at VDOT was incredibly rewarding and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me here.”
Evan Charles, a senior majoring in math and minoring in business at the University of Mary Washington, who had a summer assignment in Fredericksburg District.
“I had the awesome experience of working for VDOT as an intern with their planning and programming divisions.
"I knew almost nothing about transportation and was unsure about what career path I wanted to take. VDOT’s internship program is a great opportunity because it gives you the chance to work in areas that interest you, but it also allows you to try new fields.
"During my internship, I developed important professional and leadership skills.
"I had the opportunity to attend regional transportation policy meetings, as well as help with public information meetings.
"I also worked with counties on their district grant and statewide House Bill 2 project applications.
"VDOT is a great place to work because they treat you as an essential part of the organization. They gave me meaningful assignments.
"I compiled data on all candidate projects in the Fredericksburg District and then created a database to track their progress.
"I also worked on expenditure certification to make sure current projects were charging the federal government the right amount of money and staying within budget.
"I'm very thankful to have had the opportunity to work for VDOT and I hope to work for them full-time after graduation.”
Maya Khoury, a rising junior majoring in Business Administration at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, who had a summer assignment in Central Office.
“This past summer I had a great experience in the Administrative Services Division. I learned first-hand about procurement, annual permits, records management, project status reports and Small, Women-owned, and Minority-owned businesses.
"I also started a marketing project to promote VDOT's document production and reproduction services.
"I attended a Commonwealth Transportation Board meeting, reviewed the Greater Richmond Transit Corp. bus rapid transit project plans, helped score for qualifications on many VDOT projects and attended a small-business vendor fair.
"I never imagined my experience at VDOT would help me grow professionally and personally as much as it did. I was lucky enough to network with so many people within the VDOT community and I'm very much looking forward to new projects I'll be working on”.
Justin Hogg, a senior majoring in Civil Engineering with an Environmental Engineering minor, with a summer assignment in the Materials Division in the Hampton Roads District.
“This past summer I had the opportunity to work in the Materials Division for the Hampton Roads District Office.
"I learned more than I had ever thought over the course of the summer and it was by far one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.
"Before coming to VDOT, I hadn’t had much engineering experience, so this summer was a big change for me. It was very rewarding to see the things that I did in the office get done in the real world.
"I had the opportunity to work alongside every employee in our division.
"I was able to do things like pavement designs, review and comment on geotechnical data reports, and compare and contrast old project plans versus the new plans and make note of any changes in the project process.
"I was also lucky enough to work on a few projects entirely on my own, where I was able to learn the entire process of a project.
"That is just a few of the things I was lucky enough to play a part in, but the list is never ending.
"I thank VDOT for allowing students like me this opportunity. This has been one of the greatest learning experiences and I now have the experience to move along with my career.”
Senam Torkornoo, a junior majoring in Civil and Infrastructure Engineering at George Mason University, with a summer assignment in Structure & Bridge Division in the Northern Virginia District.
“Coming into the internship position at VDOT I had limited knowledge of the life of a Civil Engineer.
"This summer, I was fortunate to work in the Structure and Bridge Department in the Northern Virginia District (NOVA).
"I worked with a diverse group of people from countries including Ghana, Pakistan, India, China and the Philippines; and with diverse knowledge in the fields of transportation, such as Structure and Bridge, Location and Design, Traffic Engineering, and Operations.
"Working in a diverse setting challenged me to learn to adapt to people’s styles of communication, personalities and values.
"Through their willingness to help, teach, and guide the interns, they created an inclusive environment in the workplace.
"During the internship, I helped a licensed engineer evaluate the load rating of culverts around NOVA to insure the public’s safety.
"I learned about the use of inception conducted on the culvert used to determine the load rating and I applied concepts learned in class to calculate for the load rating of a culvert.
"I went to different bridge projects around NOVA and saw the components it takes to constructor complete a bridge.
"Another valuable thing about interning with VDOT was the ability to meet great professionals who can open doors for me and recommend me to future work opportunities.
"I had a rewarding and impactful experience with VDOT. It has helped me grow as a leader within the engineering field.”
If you meet program requirements and want to be considered for both programs, you must apply to all.
Note: If you're majoring in civil engineering, VDOT offers a Civil Engineering Scholarship Program. You may also apply if you meet program requirements: Civil Engineering Scholarship Program.
Email questions or comments to PipelinePrograms@vdot.virginia.gov.