Incoming MSDS Students Add Summer Internships to Their Syllabus

June 17, 2020
Student working together

Arshiya Ansari, Oretha Domfeh, Chirag Kulkarni, Ronak Rijhwani, and Surbhi Singh, five students in the incoming 2021 residential MSDS cohort, landed competitive internships this summer. 

Due to the rigor of the full-time residential program, which runs 11 months starting in July, it normally would not be possible to complete an internship in addition to the academic requirements.

This year, however, it is. 

Ansari graduated in May with a double major in computer science and mathematical statistics. She landed an internship this summer with Apple. After getting this internship, she presented the idea of being able to do an internship and begin the MSDS program to Patti Edson, the Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at the School of Data Science. 

Edson proposed to Arlyn Burgess, Chief of Staff at the School of Data Science, the creation of a pilot program where these five students could join the part-time online cohort in June and transfer to the full-time residential program in late August. This would allow these students to complete their internships while taking evening classes throughout the entire summer. After receiving approval from Burgess, Edson worked together with Cathy Anderson, Director of Executive and Continuing Education. Without the collaboration and support of Anderson, who brought the idea to faculty, the program wouldn't have happened.

The pilot program was approved, and Domfeh, Kulkarni, Rijhwani, Ansari, and Singh are the first five participants.

“The internship application process happened well before I applied to the Master's degree,” Ansari said. “I only dreamed of working for a company like Apple, so it is completely surreal being able to work there for the summer. The pilot program is going really well. I feel like even though the cohort is virtual, I have gotten to know a lot of the people through group activities and live class sessions. It has been a challenge, balancing school work and an internship, but I can see the direct impact my education is going to have on my future via the things I'm doing at my internship. That keeps me extremely motivated.” 

Kulkarni found himself in a similar situation. He graduated in May 2020, completing two undergraduate majors in computer science and math in only three years. 

After taking the Practice of Data Science, an undergraduate course offered by the School of Data Science, Kulkarni realized the MSDS program was something he wanted to pursue. However, he also was interested in completing an internship this summer yet knew it would conflict with the MSDS residential program’s summer start date.

When Kulkarni landed an internship this summer with McKinsey & Company, a Global Management Consulting firm, he wanted to figure out a way to do this internship and begin the MSDS program. 

“The recruiting process started in the fall,” Kulkarni explained. “By October I found out that I'd gotten the internship at McKinsey. I really wanted to do that. I went to Patti, and I explained the situation. And then we started getting the ball rolling with discussions [about how to make it work.]”

Kulkarni noted that he was thrilled when he heard from Edson that it was going to be possible to both intern at McKinsey and begin the MSDS program. 

“I am in a business analyst role and working in a consultant capacity,” Kulkarni said. “Right now I'm working with the state government related to corporate response so it's been pretty awesome, cool work.”

Kulkarni has already received a full-time job offer from McKinsey, and he will move to San Francisco to work there after he graduates with his MSDS in 2021.

“I've always wanted to go out west and go to the San Francisco Bay Area,” Kulkarni said. 

He began the MSDS part-time online classes a few weeks ago and is enjoying the combination of this class once a week with his internship at McKinsey.

Soon two became three. Rijhwani graduated from UVA in May 2020 with a major in math and a minor in entrepreneurship. He finished his undergraduate degree in only two years, and during this time, he realized that he wanted to pursue data science after graduation.

“I've always been interested in math and engineering, and data science is a very relevant application of those two tools,” Rijhwani said. “I figured that it [the MSDS program] would be a good program, especially since it has a lot of resources.”

Rijhwani’s internship this summer is with Alpine Investors, a private equity firm in San Francisco that focuses on services and software. 

“I learned about the firm through talking to a few other upperclassmen through the Jefferson scholars community,” Rijhwani explained. “We have a lot of alum who are out in finance and so there are a couple who are at Alpine Investors.”

Rijhwani explained that he landed this internship in early September 2019. He knew he wanted to pursue both the internship and the MSDS program. 

He also went to Edson to discuss his internship and possibilities to combine the two. 

“Eventually I found out that I would be able to do a data science program through the pilot program over the summer with the online cohort, and then come back in the fall and continue with the on-Grounds cohort,” Rijhwani said.  

Singh, who graduated in May with a major in computer science and minor in applied mathematics, landed an internship this summer with Capital One

“I have always had an interest in data science, but it was not offered as a major or minor when I was an undergrad,” Singh noted. “As soon as I heard about the MSDS program I knew it was something I would be interested in. Data science has always been my goal, bringing together my background in computer science and math while gaining knowledge on statistics.”

Singh began interning with Capital One in early June, and though she is busy, she noted that she has enjoyed refining her computer science skills in the first MSDS class.

“The internship is going well, not too hard but still learning a lot of new things,” Singh said. “Some days can be very busy if we have an assignment or class during the weekdays, but if I start my work early I can usually finish it on weekends and relax after interning. It’s actually pretty nice to be busy during these times and just work on developing my skills. I would have probably been overwhelmed with classes if I didn’t already have a background in computer science, but the classes are a nice refresher.”  

Singh also noted that she has enjoyed getting to know the online students. 

“The program also allows us to meet a lot of the online cohort through group projects and breakout sessions during class, but I hope to meet my cohort in person this fall,” Singh said. 

Domfeh is interested in the intersection of business analytics and data science. She graduated from the McIntire School of Commerce in May of 2020. 

“I would like to apply my MS Data Science and BS Commerce degree to areas of management consulting, product development, and/or marketing,” Domfeh said.

In addition to finishing her undergraduate degree in the McIntire School of Commerce, she is a Bill Gates Millenium Scholar, a highly selective academic scholarship for exceptional students. 

“I decided to pursue the MS Data Science program at UVA because I wanted to increase my background in the topics and courses I came to love at McIntire, which were essentially data science fundamentals,” Domfeh explained. “Courses I enjoyed were Quantitative Analysis and Data Visualization, and Database Management. In addition, I completed a course called Business Analytics with Python this past Spring semester, which sparked my interest in applying predictive analytics to business decisions. I would say predictive analytics and multivariate analysis are among my specific interests in data science.” 

Edson recalled Domfeh’s excitement when she told her about the pilot program. 

“The opportunity to participate in the pilot program was pivotal in making the decision to apply to the MSDS, otherwise, I would not have been able to pursue internship opportunities for the summer,” Domfeh said.

Now, these five students are interning five days a week and taking an evening class to begin their MSDS credits. 

Edson is excited to see how this inaugural year of the program goes with these five students and hopes it can continue to grow and be a possibility for students in future years.


Communications Associate